Apropos for a jurist who sits on Maryland's second-highest appellate court and who will be sworn in Friday as the newest member of the state's Court of Appeals, Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr.'s judicial chamber in the Upper Marlboro courthouse is a road map to a career full of accomplishment.
One wall features a signed photograph of then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer swearing in Harrell as an associate judge on the Court of Special Appeals; another wall displays framed bachelor of arts and law school diplomas from the University of Maryland, an honorary police badge and a framed certificate of appreciation from the United Way.
There also are some items a visitor may not expect to find in the chamber of a 54-year-old appellate judge who is about to be elevated to the state's highest court.
On the wall directly behind Harrell's desk is a brightly colored judicial "wheel of fortune," which can spin to "Reverse, Affirm, and Dismiss." The complete Monty Python CD collection sits atop his CD console. On his desk sits a square gadget bearing the bald-headed image of Dr. Evil, the villain from the "Austin Powers" movies. Squeeze his head and Evil declares, "Silence! I will not tolerate your insolence!" or "Why must I be surrounded by idiots?"
"Think of that Jimmy Buffett lyric: 'If we couldn't laugh, we'd all go insane,' " Harrell said in a recent interview. "It has to do with my outlook on life. Humor is an essential part of living day to day."
During more than a quarter-century of practicing law, primarily in Prince George's, Harrell has earned a reputation as a hard-working, top-notch legal mind whose published opinions--of which there are more than 900--are consistently clear and well-written.
Harrell's sense of humor is an endearing part of his appeal, according to friends; they said Harrell takes the law seriously but never takes himself too seriously. His even-tempered demeanor is perfectly suited for an appellate judge, according to friends and associates who work in the county as judges or lawyers.
"He has the ability to obtain consensus where others with the same idea could be divisive," said Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge Thomas P. Smith, a longtime friend of Harrell's. "When we were both attorneys, we had some memorable disagreements [on issues], but he never lost his composure or left the room angry."
"I don't see his opinions going one way or the other," said Robert Bonsib, a prominent Greenbelt criminal defense lawyer. "He has clearly shown that he calls them straight down the middle as he sees them. I think he's a straight arrow."
In announcing his appointment of Harrell to the state's highest court last month, Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) said, "Judge Harrell brings three decades of judicial experience, legal knowledge and superb judgment to the Maryland Court of Appeals."
The governor appointed Harrell to replace Judge Howard S. Chasanow, who retired Aug. 15 from the seven-member panel.
Glendening chose Harrell over two other highly regarded jurists whose names were forwarded to the governor by a nominating commission: Court of Special Appeals Judge James P. Salmon and Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge Sherrie L. Krauser.
A lawyer knowledgeable about state Democratic politics said the choice was difficult for Glendening. For one thing, each of the judges is well-liked and respected in legal circles, the lawyer said.
In addition, Glendening and Harrell are friends. Glendening was a member of the Prince George's County Council in the 1980s and later was county executive. Glendening, along with other council members, often worked with Harrell on land-use issues, Harrell's area of expertise.
To further complicate Glendening's choice, Krauser's husband is Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Peter Krauser, "who's done as much as anyone to keep the party going in Maryland," the source said.
"This was one of those situations where [Glendening] could not have gone wrong with any of the candidates," the source said.
Harrell, who was born in Ashland, Ky., has lived in Prince George's for more than 30 years. He lives in Upper Marlboro with his wife of 31 years, Pamela; they have two adult sons.
Harrell was appointed to the Court of Special Appeals in May 1991 and elected for a 10-year term that began in 1992. The Court of Special Appeals considers all cases in which someone feels aggrieved, about 2,000 cases annually. The Court of Appeals chooses which cases it hears, about 200 a year.
Prior to his appointment to the Court of Special Appeals, Harrell was deputy managing partner in the high-powered, politically connected Upper Marlboro firm of O'Malley, Miles & Harrell, which he joined in 1973. (The firm is now O'Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore.) Before joining the firm, Harrell served as associate county attorney for Prince George's for two years.
Along the way, Harrell's approach to life has unfolded to many of his closest friends, who themselves display their affection with good-natured barbs.
A few years ago, Susan Matlick, executive vice president of the Maryland National Capital Building Association, saw a postcard in Greenwich Village showing a cartoon man wearing a Hawaiian shirt. The card bore the legend, "Speak Softly and Wear a Loud Shirt." Matlick bought it for Harrell, in honor of his collection of gruesome Hawaiian shirts.
"He's not a very good tennis player," said Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge William B. Spellbring Jr., Harrell's frequent tennis partner. "His footwork leaves a lot to be desired."
"He has absolutely no taste in wine," added mega-attorney Peter O'Malley, lead partner in the firm in which Harrell was once a partner.
"When we'd go out to dinner, he'd agree to pick the wine and take the grief that comes with choosing," O'Malley said.
CAPTION: Glenn T. Harrell Jr. will join the Maryland Court of Appeals.