First Orthodox Jewish Female Sworn In as Judge of District Court of Maryland


baltimore-jewish-judgeJudge Karen Chaya Friedman was sworn in yesterday afternoon as Associate Judge of The District Court of Maryland in the First District, Baltimore City. The event was a moving kiddush Hashem as notable political leaders, lawyers, and judicial officials paid tribute to Judge Friedman for her display of integrity and intelligence in her past roles, and wished her well at her future post.

Representatives of several bar associations, including the Bar Association of Baltimore City, the Middle States Bar Association, and the Alliance of Black Women Attorneys, celebrated her appointment to the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City. Several noted the path that she was paving for future women in the field, and others praised her contributions as Orphans’ Court judge, counselor at CHANA (Counseling Helpline & Aid Network for Abused Women), and adjunct professor at The University of Maryland School of Law, among others.

Several political figures also delivered remarks. Senator Barbara Mikulski spoke on behalf of senators Ben Cardin and Paul Sarbanes as enthusiastic sponsors of Judge Friedman.

With Judge Friedman’s appointment, she said, “These are happy days not just for the Friedmans, but for Maryland and Baltimore.”

The senator praised Judge Friedman’s “personal integrity, judicial competence and temperament, and commitment to core constitutional principles” and how she understood that “this is not a job of legal scholarship. This is a job of legal sensitivity.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer agreed that Judge Friedman has not only “intellect and scholarship, but also compassion, common sense, and understanding.”

Congressman Elijah Cummings simply expressed his thanks to Judge Friedman for being herself. He appreciated that she was not merely content with the system she worked in as Orphan’s Court judge but sought to improve it as well.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake expressed with warmth her happiness and pride in the appointment of her colleague and friend.

“I am so pleased to stand here on behalf of all your friends to say ‘it couldn’t have been a better person’,” the mayor said.

District Court Judge Christopher L. Panos welcomed Judge Friedman to the bench, with a reference to a familiar Jewish adage. He expressed his full faith in her adherence to the passuk, “tzedek, tzedek, tirdof,” “which, as you know,” he explained, “means justice, justice thou shall pursue.”

The final speaker was Israel Patoka, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, as representative for Governor Martin O’Malley; the administration of the oath to Judge Friedman followed his remarks.

Judge Friedman expressed her gratitude to all parties involved in her appointment. She explained that the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, fixing the world, relates strongly to the role of a judge.

“This is what judges try to do every day-repair the world, right the wrong,” she said. “I look forward to serving with you (those currently on the bench) and learning from you.”

Judge Friedman also spoke about her grandparents, one set who are Holocaust survivors, and the other who struggled to remain religious in America.

“My grandparents experienced hardship for their religion. How incredible it is today that their granddaughter is the first Orthodox [Jewish] woman to serve as judge.”

Read more at Baltimore Jewish Life.

{Baltimore Jewish Life/}


  1. I was wondering, what kind of a “Kiddush hashem” it is for an Orthodox Jew to take an oath to try and decide cases in accordance with the rules of civl law rather than in accordance with Halacha.

  2. In my opinion, a bais Yaakov girl who is a Tznuuah is even a greater Kiddush HaShem. Then again, thats one persons opinion.

  3. judge friedman is married to the wonderful howard tzvi who works tirelessly and quietly on behalf of klall yisroel. hashem should bench both of the them with continued hatzlacha!

  4. Are all of you crazy or did you just grow up in the “four corners of Brooklyn”? First of all, there is the concept of dina d’malchusa dina which we are MECHUYAV to follow. Second of all, For a yid to have a “voice” that is understanding to our needs is a tremendous opportunity. Unfortunately we live in galus. That being the case we all have to do things that help other yidden even if it means going out of our “comfort zones.” Yes, I agree it would be better for the Bais Yaakov girl to sit at home and do nothing. For thousands of years “Bais Yaakov” girls worked outside the home to support their husbands who learned in kollel (i.e. the Chofetz Chaim’s wife working in a store the entire day so that he can sit and learn). I do not personally know what the husband does for a living nor do I care. As long as his wife makes us proud and does the right things that in itself is a tremendous kiddush Hashem. Kol Hacavod to her for trying to be our “voice” against those who might see us as “different” and “unusual”.

  5. Don’t forget that one of the sheva mitzvos bnei noach is to have a system of laws and a court system. It is NOT their mitzva to have the exact same dinnim as yidden. So “to try and decide cases in accordance with the rules of civl law rather than in accordance with Halacha” should be absolutely no problem if the people involved in the case are not Jews.

  6. Hatzlachah rabbah to her.
    For those of you who don’t like that a fine frum lady is a judge in a non-Jewish court – this is America. If you don’t like it, try somewhere else.

  7. The bnei noach have to have a court, but it is assur for a jew to use their courts as either a litigant against another jew or as a judge of another jew.

    The chofetz chaims grocery was in his house.

  8. To #7
    Inasmuch as federal, state, & municipal law permit arbitration through a Bais Din, the concept of “dina dmalchusa dina” does not apply here.

  9. This is #7. In response to some of you I have the following to say: No one is telling one jew to take another jew to her court instead of beis din. Of course going to beis din first is the halacha. No one argues with that. That is the halacha. What does this have to do with this frum lady becoming a judge?? First of all if there is a time that two jews are nebach in conflict with each other in her courtroom she is at that point making a kiddush Hashem by upholding the courts that have been established in our galus.

    To #12: True the Chofetz Chaim’s store was in his house but the fact is that his wife did the selling. I am not cetain if that falls into the category of kol k’vuda bas melech p’nima. People came to the store (a.k.a. her house) and she was there selling people products. She was not in her “home” the entire day.Sorry, it doesn’t make a difference where her store was but the fact that she had a store that people came to is the main point.