The Honorable Robert M. Bell
Robert M. Bell was appointed Chief Judge, Court of Appeals, by Gov. Parris Glendening, on October 23, 1996 (having served as a judge on the Court of Appeals' 6th Appellate Circuit in Baltimore City, since May 16, 1991). He was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on July 6, 1943. Chief Judge Bell attended Morgan State College, receiving his A.B. in history & political science in 1966. He went on to Harvard University Law School where he received his J.D. in 1969 and was admitted to Maryland Bar later that year.
In the decades that followed, Chief Judge Bell has a been a member of the National and American Bar Associations, the Maryland State Bar Association's judicial administration section, the Baltimore City and Monumental City Bar Associations, and the Legal Aid Society (1973-75).
Throughout his career of service to the public, Chief Judge Bell has placed particular emphasis on helping self-represented litigants navigate the Maryland court system, in addition to increasing access to justice through policy initiatives for persons encountering barriers Maryland's civil justice system. In 2005, he created the Judiciary ombudsman position to promote the courts' position and programs concerning racial, ethnic, and economic fairness in the court system. The ombudsman serves as an advocate for fairness, answering individuals' questions, helping resolve individuals' concerns and issues, and working to make the courts more user-friendly.
He has also earned several distinctions throughout the years including the Legal Excellence Award for Advancement of Public Service Responsibility (Maryland Bar Foundation, 1999), the Rosalyn B. Bell Award (Women's Law Center of Maryland, 1999), the Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access (American Bar Association, 2000), the Access to Justice Tribute Award (Pro Bono Resource Center, 2001), the Maryland Top Leadership in Law Award (Daily Record, 2001), the Freedom Fighter Award (Frederick County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and countless others.
Especially important among Chief Judge Bell's accomplishments was being named in 2006 as one of The Lawdragon's 500 Leading Judges in America. The Lawdragon 500 is the ultimate guide to the best lawyers in the nation, representing far less than 1 percent of the legal profession. That year Chief Judge Bell also received the University System of Maryland's Frederick Douglass Award, an annual achievement award designated for the single individual who best exemplifies the principles, values, and goals to which Douglass dedicated his life.
He was also inducted into the Warren E. Burger Society, which honors individuals who have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to improving the administration of justice through extraordinary contributions of service and support to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).
In honor of Chief Judge Bell's commitments to civil rights, education, and community empowerment, Morgan State University dedicated the Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education to him in 2010.