Judge Yvette Diamond on her experiences in law, film and environmentalism

Judge Yvette N. Diamond receives a “trunk hug” from a foster elephant at Tsavo National Park, Kenya, 2021
Judge Yvette N. Diamond receives a “trunk hug” from a foster elephant at Tsavo National Park, Kenya, 2021 (Courtesy of Judge Yvette N. Diamond)

Between her service as a judge for both the state of Maryland and the federal government, her globe-trotting voyages to see exotic wildlife and winning an Emmy award, Judge Yvette N. Diamond, 61, has quite the list of accomplishments to go along with her eventful life.

Diamond, currently an administrative law judge with the Social Security Administration, is a resident of Owings Mills and member of Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation. She lives with her beagle named Coco, and she regularly visits her parents, Alvin and Myrian, at the North Oaks retirement community, often taking them to synagogue.

Diamond grew up in the Baltimore area in a traditional kosher home. She attended Hebrew school and had a bat mitzvah at Moses Montefiore Woodmoor Hebrew, she said. She graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in political science before attending University of Maryland School of Law.

Diamond’s parents instilled in her a strong sense of justice and fairness, which nurtured her interest in the law.

After receiving her law degree, Diamond spent 13 years as a private practice attorney. Afterward, she spent 10 years as an administrative law judge for the state of Maryland. She commonly presided over cases dealing in licenses, and whether the state was right to suspend or revoke a person’s license, including professional or driver’s licenses. She also oversaw cases involving involuntary commitment to psychiatric facilities.

During her time as an administrative law judge, Diamond produced — in conjunction with the Maryland State Bar Association, the Maryland Judiciary and others — a documentary on the consequences of underage drinking and driving, she said. Titled “Branded DUI,” it featured the stories of 11 young people who had been arrested for drunk driving. The teens described their experiences going to jail, losing their licenses, missing out on school activities, losing college scholarships and in two cases living with the knowledge that their actions had resulted in the loss of human life.

At the time, the Administrative Law Section Council of the Maryland State Bar Association, of which Diamond was a member, was looking to do a public education project, she explained.

“I was constantly having these cases with teens that were just clueless about how [drinking and driving] was going to impact their lives,” Diamond said. “So, I thought we could do a public education project that would explore the consequences as they would view them.”

Diamond said she had no prior filmmaking experience when she made the picture. She learned how to conduct interviews from watching programs like “60 Minutes” and “Dateline,” while her film crew came from the Maryland judiciary. The documentary premiered at the National Aquarium, where Diamond’s mother had worked as a volunteer. Maryland Public Television, which had helped edit the film, later asked her if they could submit “Branded DUI” to the Emmy Awards. In 2007, Diamond received an Emmy as a producer in the category of “outstanding program achievement teen (13 and up) program/special.”

Also during her time as a state judge, starting in 2001, Diamond began going on nature trips and eco tours to all seven continents, she said.

“I’ve always loved domestic animals, as well as wild animals, and it was my dream to go on a safari,” Diamond said. “And so, at this point, I’ve already been on five different African safaris, as well as to places like Borneo to see the orangutans; Antarctica to see penguins; Churchill, Canada, to see polar bears; the Amazon to see the wildlife there [and] Sri Lanka to see leopards and elephants.”

Diamond’s passion for the environment led her to a position as an assistant attorney general for the Maryland Department of the Environment. Her work centered around coal ash litigation, and she commonly squared off against utility companies dumping coal into landfills in improper ways.

After that position, she started her current role at SSA, where she hears cases involving people whose disability claims are being denied by SSA.

To anyone with an interest in pursuing a life in law, environmentalism or filmmaking, Diamond had a few words of wisdom to share.

“I would advise them to maintain good relationships with the people that have mentored them in their lives, and to pursue their dreams,” Diamond said.

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