By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
Julius Terrell is a practicing attorney in Prince George’s County and like many in his profession, he would like to become a judge. Unlike many of his colleagues, he wants to handle seemingly unsexy and arcane matters such as probate, wills and estates.
“After serving as a lawyer for 24 years counseling families, individuals, and business owners with trust and estate issues and with protecting and transferring property and assets, I am committed to using my legal skills to adjudicate matters that arise in the Orphans’ Court,” Terrell said.
The Orphans’ Court is one of the oldest legal institutions in Maryland, dating back to 1777 when the Maryland General Assembly created the court for all of the state’s counties and Baltimore City. The Orphans’ Court is the probate court in Maryland and it also deals with some issues of guardianship of minors.
There are three judges on the Orphans’ Court in Prince George’s County. To be a judge, one must be an attorney licensed to practice law in Maryland. The judges are elected countywide every four years and the judge with the longest tenure serves as the chief judge.
The judges who are presently on the court, Wendy A. Cartwright, Athena Malloy Groves, and Vicki L. Ivory-Orem, are running for re-election. The Democratic primary is June 26 and the general election is Nov. 6.
Terrell told the AFRO it is time for change. “Even though I think the current judges are effective, I would bring to the court more compassion, balance, and a better judicial temperament,” he said. “They have been on the bench so long; they don’t seem to really want to hear the stories of the people who come to them. They seem interested in ‘cutting to the chase’ instead of trying to understand the situation people are in.”
Terrell is a native of Oakland, Calif., holds a bachelor’s degree from Pitzer College, and got his juris doctorate from the University of Iowa School Of Law in 1992. He moved to Washington and worked for then U.S. Rep. Peter Stark (D-Calif.) as a staffer on the House Committee on the District of Columbia.
When the Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1995, Terrell worked for the U.S. Department of Labor and then for the District of Columbia government in matters dealing with pensions and retirement. In 2004, he set up his private practice in the county and wants to utilize those skills to be a good judge.
“I want to use my strengths as a lawyer to educate citizens on how to protect their assets and their legacy,” he said. “Over 80 percent of families that I deal with don’t have estate plans and that puts families in crisis.”
As a judge, Terrell said he wants to educate residents on probate and guardianship laws and processes through workshops and forums as well as modernize the judicial process in the pre-trial and trial stages by using state-of-the-art technology.