Big Fish Q&A with First Lady of Maryland Katie O’Malley

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Katie O’Malley can legitimately claim to be a former real housewife of Beverly Hills, just not that Beverly Hills. In January 2007, with a heartfelt sniff-sniff, she swapped the four bedroom/two and one-half bath Tudor home in Northeast Baltimore’s Beverly Hills neighborhood that she shared with her husband, Martin — freshly minted Maryland’s governor — and their four children for a 54-room Annapolis mansion known as Government House. The family was not so much trading up as assenting to tradition and to the dictates of Maryland’s Constitution, which notes that the governor must live in the state capital. Since then, Katie O’Malley has commuted from Annapolis to her Baltimore job as a District Court associate judge. The governor has it easier: He works where he lives. 

Katie O’Malley also can legitimately claim deep Baltimore bona fides. Born Catherine Curran into an established Baltimore political family — her father, J. Joseph Curran Jr., served as the state’s longtime attorney general, as well as its lieutenant governor and as a delegate and state senator in the General Assembly; her Uncle Martin “Mike” Curran was a member of the Baltimore City Council, while her Uncle Robert Curran now sits on that same council – she grew up in Homeland, graduated from Notre Dame Prep, then earned an undergrad degree in international studies at Towson University in 1985 and a law degree from the University of Baltimore in 1991. She married Martin O’Malley in 1990.

After passing the bar exam, Katie O’Malley worked as an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore County from 1991 to 2001, prosecuting child abuse, domestic violence, homicide, and white-collar/economic crimes, among other cases. In August 2001, Governor Parris Glendening appointed her an associate judge in Maryland’s First District Court, a post she stills holds.   

As Maryland’s First Lady and First Mom, O’Malley, now 49, has taken on two notable child-related hobbyhorses, advocating vigorously to increase reading and to decrease bullying. The O’Malleys’ two daughters, Grace and Tara, attend college – the former is a junior, the latter a sophomore — while their sons, William and Jack, live at home with their parents. Momentarily casting aside her judicial impartiality, Katie O’Malley describes all four kids as being “beautiful, kind, and smart.”

Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence.  

Surround yourself with kind people and ignore mean people.

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they?

Having children was the most defining moment of my life. My singular goal as a mother is to make sure I raise them with love and support, unconditionally.

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed?

The best advice I got was when I was 16 years old from a longtime family friend; she told me that when you have children, love and support them unconditionally.
 
The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it?

I’m sure somewhere along my life I’ve received bad advice, but I’m quite sure I ignored it.

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime?

1) Children grow up so quickly.
2) My parents are right about everything.
3) Sometimes people don’t tell the truth.

What is the best moment of the day? 

Mornings at the beach.
 
What is on your bedside table?

Right now, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian [by Sherman Alexie], a wonderful novel that deals with poverty, dysfunction, and childhood trauma, while at the same time is hysterically funny.

What is your favorite local charity?

The House of Ruth.

What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing?

I would tell anyone who aspires to be a judge to be empathetic. So many of the people we see every day have tremendous obstacles that they are trying to overcome. To be a good judge requires a certain degree of empathy.

Why are you successful?

That’s sort of hard to answer. I guess it depends on one’s definition of success. My definition of success is ongoing. To me, success has to do with how happy and content my family is.

In your years on the bench, which case has been the most difficult to adjudicate? Why? And what did you learn from that experience?

I can’t say it is any one case that has been the most difficult. I would say it is difficult whenever I have to impose a jail sentence. I’m very much aware of how painful a jail sentence is — the impact it can have on a family, particularly if children are involved. At the same time, I am also aware of how the public’s safety may be impacted if I don’t impose jail. So it is the balancing of these two objectives that is the most difficult for me.

What do you miss the most about living in Baltimore? What do you miss the least?

I’m in Baltimore every day for my job, so I feel very connected to the city. I do miss my old neighborhood and running at Lake Montebello. Baltimore will always be home to me. It is where I was born and raised, where I went to law school, and where I decided to get married and start a family. There really isn’t anything I miss the least. Baltimore is a great city. I think it’s the “Greatest City in America” …. not sure who I heard that from (ha-ha).
 
At this point, are you accustomed to having your family, especially your children, live in the public eye, or is that something to which one never grows accustomed? 

No, I’m not comfortable with the children living in the public eye. We really don’t expose them to the public aspects of our jobs very often. They are wonderful people who are proud of their father, but at the same time just want to be like everyone else.



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