On July 26, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appointed Donnaka Lewis, along with Bryon Bereano and Ada Clark-Edwards, to the Prince George’s County District Court. The appointment of Lewis, chief of the District Court Division of the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, to the District Court by Hogan drew praise from the county’s legal and political leaders. The appointment is for 10 years.

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Donnaka Lewis, a lifelong Prince George’s County resident, was appointed by Maryland Gov. Hogan as a district judge. (Courtesy Photo-Donnaka Lewis)

Glenn Ivey, who hired Lewis as a prosecutor while he served as Prince George’s County State’s Attorney from 2002-2011, was elated by the appointment. “Donnaka Lewis was an outstanding prosecutor,” Ivey told the AFRO. “I have no doubt that she will be an equally outstanding judge.”

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III (D) said Lewis, along with her two colleagues, “will be excellent judges and I am confident that they will bring a high-level of integrity and fairness to the District Court of Prince George’s County.”

Lewis, a resident of Upper Marlboro, Md., has worked in the State’s Attorney Office for 12 years. Before becoming a prosecutor, she clerked for Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Melanie Shaw Geter from 2003-2004. She earned her juris doctorate from the University of Maryland School of Law, a master’s degree from American University, and a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University.

Lewis told the AFRO that her interest in the law developed early in her life because of a legal situation her older sister faced. It was during that time she developed an appreciation for what prosecutors did and how they conducted themselves. “I have spent my career as a litigator and I want an opportunity to continue to serve the community,” she said. “I am a lifelong resident of Prince George’s County and as a judge; I will have a greater impact on the daily lives of people.”

Lewis understands that many Prince George’s residents think judges have a “lock-em up” mentality but she does not. “Being a judge is like being a prosecutor,” Lewis said. “With both jobs, you look at the facts and make a decision based on what is the best interest of the community. As a prosecutor and now a judge, I want to protect the community and incarceration isn’t always the answer to people’s problems.”

She said diversion programs like those that deal with mental health problems or substance or behavioral addictions are the best remedies to problems sometimes. “As a judge, I will look at matters on a case-by-case basis and at the nature of the incident,” she said.

In addition to being a prosecutor, Lewis has drawn praise for her work as a member of the Prince George’s County Bar Association (PGCBA). Jeffrey L. Harding, president of the county’s bar association, said he is an avid fan of Lewis’s. “As a member of the Board of Directors for the past three years, I found it necessary to appoint Donnaka for a fourth term,” Harding said in a statement to the AFRO. “She has helped to shape programs and policies to make the PGCBA one of the most vibrant and well recognized in the State of Maryland today. As a lawyer, Donnaka proved to be a skilled advocate.

“She is fair, reasonable and has a fantastic temperament, all valuable traits of a successful judge. I know that she will be a great asset to Maryland’s judiciary and the District Court for Prince George’s County.”

“Donnaka is one of the first attorneys to share with me her desire to become a District Court judge when I began this job almost three years ago,” Robin Hadden, executive director of the bar association, said in a statement to the AFRO. “She has a deep passion for the law and a strong desire in the bar association’s programs, meetings, and community service events. And from our encounters, I personally noted her zeal to pursue her career goals; I noted her dedication to the profession, and her willingness to want to support her colleagues in the law. I believe that Donnaka is poised to be a great judge.”