‘Long Overdue’: Meet Worcester County’s First Female Circuit Court Judge

Judge Kent

Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Mary “Peggy” Kent sits at the bench during her investiture on Jan. 19, 2018. 

One of Worcester County’s newest circuit court judges is making history as the first woman ever to be appointed to the position.

In December, Gov. Larry Hogan announced the appointment of Mary “Peggy” Kent and Beau Oglesby to Worcester County Circuit Court to fill vacancies created by two retiring judges.

Kent, the first woman in the county’s history to hold the position was sworn in on Friday, Jan. 19. Here’s what she had to say about her historic appointment:

What is your background and experience in law leading up to this appointment?

I graduated from law school in 1980, from the University of Richmond T.C. Williams School of Law. I went to work as a staff attorney for the Environmental Protection Agency on capitol hill for a while. I married and moved out to Chicago and proceeded over the next couple of years to take bar exams in various states. When I divorced, I moved back to Maryland, but Towson is home, and I spent my summers at the beach so I moved to the beach. Took the Maryland bar and got a job practicing with a small firm, Paul Ewell’s firm on 34th Street, which is over the old Peninsula Bank, and did real estate, whatever they wanted me to do.

But increasingly started hearing more and more about family law. Got married, had my first child, and decided I wanted a little bit more flexibility so I left Paul Ewell’s firm and began to share office space with Rich Parolski, who’s a criminal defense attorney in town. That was really when I began to get more and more court-appointed work as child counsel representing folks who are disabled, a lot of family law. In 1996, Judge Eschenberg appointed me as Worcester County’s first master and along with me, Judge Kathleen Beckstead and Judge Brett Wilson were both appointed. So Brett was from Somerset and Judge Beckstead, obviously from Wicomico, and the three of us covered the first circuit as masters, part-time, contractual, making no money, but really great opportunity to set policy.

This was sort of around the time that the Maryland rules were being promoted by Chief Judge Bell at the time for family services divisions to begin to be established in each county. So I really came in at an opportune time. Our family services division was not just established but was starting to grow. Our family services coordinator, who continues to be Ann Turner and I, started such things as our pro se family clinic. We now have pro se mediation, settlement conferences being conducted, and alternative dispute resolution being ordered, and it’s been a great ride for 21 years.

How have those experiences prepared you for this new position?

I think I’m extremely prepared for it. No. 1, I’ve been managing a courtroom for 21 years, and that includes dealing with some of the most volatile cases that come through our courts. I hear child abuse and neglect cases. I hear domestic cases, such as divorce and alimony, child custody cases, and modifications of child custody. I preside over juvenile drug court and truancy cases. And so I feel as if that experience and dealing with the courtroom in those types of cases, has given me a pretty good feel for handling a courtroom outside of just this family court environment.

What was your initial reaction to the appointment from Gov. Hogan?

I was thrilled. I really was. He called two days after Christmas, and both my daughters were there, which was wonderful to be able to have them there to celebrate. So I was thrilled and I was very honored.

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