Marielsa Bernard is an Associate Judge of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, the first judge of Hispanic descent in the history of Montgomery County and one of two Hispanic judges in the State of Maryland. She was appointed to the District Court in September 1998 and elevated to the Circuit Court in March 2002 by Governor Glendening. She has presided over criminal misdemeanors, felonies, traffic cases, civil cases, domestic violence cases, juvenile and family matters. Prior to becoming a Judge, she was in general practice over 17 years focusing on criminal, civil, immigration, and family law. Judge Bernard is one of the founders of the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association and served as its second President. During her tenure, she initiated and organized a program of pro bono fairs that won the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) People’s Pro Bono Award as well as the MSBA Best Service to the Public Award.
In 2003, Judge Bernard received the Daily Record Leadership in the Law Award and was also recognized as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women. She has been honored by the Montgomery County Commission for Women as one of 30 women in its Women in History Quilt and Archives Project, as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women, and a Leadership in the Law Award. has committed her career to public service. She has been recognized by several groups for her work benefiting the community, in particular the Hispanic-Latino population. From 1995 to 1998, she was a member of the Hispanic/Latino Advisory Group to the Montgomery County Executive, and received a Citation in 1994 from the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs. She was honored for her community service by a County Executive Citation in 1983 and 1998. She is past Vice-President of the Hispanic Alliance, and was a member of its board for many years. Judge Bernard served on the Montgomery County East Advisory Board from 1994 through 1996. She did extensive pro bono work for the East Takoma Park Silver Spring Community Center, the Spanish Catholic Center, and St. Camillus Parish. In addition, Judge Bernard initiated the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) Storybook Project in the Jessup, Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, assisting incarcerated mothers in reading and recording stories for their children, which are later sent to the children along with the book and a tape recorder so that the bond between mother and child can be maintained.
Judge Bernard is a member of the Maryland State Bar Association where she has held a variety of leadership positions, serving as Chair of the Hispanic-Latino Lawyers Committee that initiated and organized open houses of the Montgomery County District Court in 1996. She is also a member of the Montgomery County Bar Association, the National Association of Women Judges, and the Women’s Bar Association of Montgomery County, where she initiated the Take-Your-Daughter-to-Work-Day Program, as well as the Latina Youth Empowerment Conference. She is a Fellow of both the Maryland State Bar and the Montgomery County Bar Foundations. Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Bell appointed Judge Bernard to the Public Trust and Confidence in the Maryland Judicial System Committee in 1999, to the Business and Technology Task Force in 2000, and to the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Bias in 2002.
A native of Montgomery County, Maryland, she is the daughter of a Peruvian mother and the granddaughter of a Portuguese immigrant from Bermuda. She attended Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville; earned a B.A. in Political Science/English from Loyola College in 1977, and graduated from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law in 1980. She has 2 daughters.