Ada Clark-Edwards, a veteran prosecutor for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, was one of two Black attorneys appointed to start a new phase in her legal career as a judge.
On July 26, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appointed Clark-Edwards to the Prince George’s County District Court. Hogan made the Clark-Edwards appointment with new judges, Bryon Bereano and Donnaka Lewis, and said all three are qualified to serve Prince Georgians after a “thorough vetting process.”
Clark-Edwards said she is excited about being selected to serve on the bench. “I am a member of the community and I have the interests of the citizens and residents to administer justice,” Clark-Edwards, a Bowie, Md. resident, told the AFRO.
The District Court’s jurisdiction includes all landlord and tenant cases, replevin actions –returning personal property – motor vehicle violations, misdemeanors, and certain felonies. In civil cases, the court has exclusive jurisdiction in claims of $5,000 or less, and concurrent jurisdiction with the Prince George’s County circuit courts in claims for amounts above $5,000 but less than $30,000. The court is concurrent with the circuit courts in criminal cases where the penalty may be confinement for three years or a fine of $2,500 or more. The court doesn’t conduct jury trials. The appointment is for 10 years and a judge, no matter where they are in their tenure, must retire at the age of 70.
Clark-Edwards grew up in the county and received her bachelor’s degree from Towson State University and her Juris doctorate at the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law in D.C. It was at Towson where she developed an interest in the law. “My plan was to become a broadcast journalist,” she said. “I was going to be the next Oprah Winfrey. One day, I went to a meeting of the Pre-Law Society and was mentored by the faculty advisor. I took some independent study courses and my interest in broadcasting waned.”
After graduating from law school and passing the bar, Clark-Edwards worked as a general practitioner for three years, practiced criminal defense law as a specialty, and landed in the State’s Attorney’s Office as the chief of the domestic violence unit and chief of the special victims and family violence unit.
She said she decided to take the next step in her legal career by applying for a court vacancy with the county’s Judicial Nomination Commission. “I didn’t just submit my application,” she said. “I interviewed with the bar associations such as the Women’s Bar and the J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association as well as with the Judicial Nominating Commission. I also spoke with Governor Hogan and explained to him my judicial philosophy.”
“As a judge, I want to help make sure that my community is safe,” she said she told Hogan.
Clark-Edwards does not favor the instant “lock em up” approach but instead believes in being a problem solver. “In my work in the domestic violence and sexual assault unit, I worked with individual families,” she said. “In many cases, the family didn’t want the abuser to be locked up, just for the abuse to stop so that people can be safe in their homes. The abuser may be the primary breadwinner in a family so that person may need to be involved in the family.
“That is what I will do as a judge; I will determine the merits of the case individually.”
According to Mahasin S. El-Amin, president of the J. Franklyn Bourne Association, an organization for Black legal professionals in Prince George’s County, Clark-Edwards’ appointment is a progressive move for the achievement of Black women.
“Anytime an African-American female is appointed to the bench whether it is in Prince George’s County or anywhere else, it is phenomenal,” he told the AFRO. “She is knowledgeable, fair and will exercise good judgment. She is a great addition to the bench.”