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Diana Gribbon Motz

photo of Diana Gribbon Motz

Diana Gribbon Motz was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit by President William Jefferson Clinton on June 16, 1994. She was the first Maryland woman appointed to that court, and only the second woman in the court’s 150-year history.

Diana Motz received a B.A. from Vassar College and a J.D. from the University of Virginia Law School, where she served on the law review and the moot court board. She was one of two women in her 250-person law school class.

Immediately after admission to the bar, Motz practiced law in Baltimore with the law firm now known as DLA Piper; she was the only woman lawyer at the firm. Upon the birth of her first child, she left private practice to become an assistant attorney general and ultimately Chief of Litigation in the Office of the Attorney General of Maryland.

Motz has argued many cases before the state and federal courts. Among those cases, was one defending the constitutionality of a Maryland statute in the Supreme Court of the United States, one seeking to remove a tax break from a golf club that refused to admit women members, and one defending the 1980 state redistricting plan. Perhaps her most well-known case was Maryland’s civil suit against Spiro Agnew. On behalf of the State, she and other lawyers recovered from him the thousands of dollars in bribes that he had received while Governor of the State.

In 1991, Governor William Donald Schaefer appointed Judge Motz to the Court of Special Appeals. She was the third woman to serve on a Maryland appellate court and the first lawyer in private practice (rather than a trial judge) that Governor Schaefer appointed to an appellate court. She continued service on the state court until her appointment, three years later, to the federal appellate court.

In her years as a state and federal judge, Judge Motz has faced a number of difficult constitutional questions. Early in her service on the federal court, she dissented when her colleagues held that, even though a university refused to admit women, it could obtain substantial government monetary aid without violating the Constitution. The Supreme Court of the United States reversed, expressly noting its agreement with Judge Motz’ reasoning. Later in her career, Judge Motz wrote a number of opinions involving the rights of enemy combatants; although those cases ultimately became moot, the Supreme Court’s preliminary rulings indicated agreement with her views. Most recently, Judge Motz issued two opinions rejecting constitutional challenges to President Obama’s health care legislation; the Supreme Court is now considering those issues.

Diana Motz has served on the Advisory Committee of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and as a trustee of the Johns Hopkins University, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the Berman Bioethics Institute. She is a member of the American Law Institute, the American Bar Association, the American Bar Foundation, the Maryland Bar Association, and the Maryland Bar Foundation. The Girl Scouts of Central Maryland has honored her with the Distinguished Woman Award and the Women’s Bar Association has honored her with the Rita C. Davidson Award.

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2012.

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