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In January 1998, the judges of the Court of Appeals of Maryland signed Rule 16-204 and formally launched the process of family justice system reform in Maryland. During the ensuing fifteen years, Maryland became a national model in this area. These changes and improvements occurred largely because of the inspirational leadership of Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, a man owed a debt of gratitude by everyone involved in family law proceedings, including families, children, attorneys, judges, court personnel, and services providers, among others.

This Tribute honors Chief Judge Bell by contextualizing the enormity of the process and outcomes resulting from his guidance and oversight. It will begin in Part I by identifying the causes underlying the impetus and need for family justice system reform in Maryland. Part II will explain what Maryland Rule 16-204 does, the process surrounding implementation of the rule, and the mechanism for continued oversight of the state's family justice system. Part III will then describe the impact of the reform effort. The Tribute will conclude with a glimpse into the future and likely evolutions affecting Maryland's family justice system.



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