Brandon Wharton ’17 makes history at UM Law School

TU alumnus named first black editor-in-chief of Maryland Law Review

By Kyle Hobstetter on June 14, 2020

Brandon Wharton '17 inside the courtroom

As Brandon Wharton ’17 entered his second year at The University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law, he couldn’t help but think of Thurgood Marshall.

Marshall, the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, grew up in downtown Baltimore, just blocks from the University of Maryland School of Law. He wanted to study there, but he didn’t apply because of the school's segregation policy. 

Almost 90 years since Marshall started his journey into law, Wharton is starting his with a piece of history. He was chosen as the first black editor of the Maryland Law Review and will oversee the publication’s 80th volume.

“You know, the phrase is often said, ‘It's good to be the first, but you hope you're not the last,’” the Frederick, Maryland, native says. “And I certainly hope that's the case here. There were a number of moments where I kind of just sat back and thought, ‘wow, this is crazy!’ But to be the first black editor-in-chief, it's incredible.”

Wharton takes over as editor-in-chief after serving as a staff editor the year before. That first year helped him realize he really liked learning about law through good writing. When the opportunity to move up presented itself, he was happy to throw his hat into the ring.

Starting in February, Wharton and a staff of about 55 started accepting manuscripts of legal scholarship from law schools across the country. One of his main tasks as editor-in-chief is working with the executive committee to select the very best pieces, make offers to those authors and get them to publish in the Maryland Law Review.

After those selected accept entry, Wharton and his staff read each manuscript several times, making corrections, edits and suggestions to the authors.

“It’s a pretty intensive process,” Wharton says. “We go through maybe 10 to 12 full-length manuscripts per week that are about 55 pages or so. We read them and try and figure out which would make sense for us and which would be a really good contribution to existing scholarship.

“I wind up taking a look at the full manuscript at least three times and consider the edits that other editors have submitted.”

Along with serving as editor-in-chief, Wharton is taking a full slate of classes as well as working part time at the Gallagher, Evelius & Jones Law Firm in downtown Baltimore.

While that may seem busy for most, its par for the course for Wharton. While getting his undergraduate degree in political science, he also kept a similar schedule.

This included being involved in the Student Government Association and The University System of Maryland Student Council; working for The Towerlight student newspaper, the Division of Marketing and Communications and the Maryland Youth Advisory Council; and even served as a student representative on the Presidential Search and Screening Committee for President Kim Schatzel.

“I’m a firm believer in being involved in your community,” Wharton says. “So, when I was at TU, my community was Towson, and I wanted to get involved however I could and hopefully leave the place a little bit better. I wanted to be open to trying new things and seeing what worked.”

It was one of his classes at TU that turned him onto law school. Wharton was always interested in law, government and how decisions are made that govern people’s lives. But he didn’t really know if he wanted to go through three more years of school.

A pivotal moment came for him in professor Jack Fruchtman’s Constitutional Law and Politics class. After two or three weeks of reading Supreme Court cases and examining the reasoning behind the decisions, he knew he wanted to become a lawyer.

“It was kind of like a light bulb went off, and I knew this is what I want to do,” Wharton says. “I like this kind of research. I like this kind of reading. I like writing about these things. And if this is what I'd be doing for another three years, I think I can do it.”

After he graduates, Wharton will be clerking for a year with the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Then he plans to stay in Baltimore and do commercial litigation while working in the education and health law spaces.

While he got his law degree from the University of Maryland, Wharton says he wouldn’t be where he is without Towson University.

“I always tell people that I am a very proud Towson University alumnus,” Wharton says. “It was just an incredible time, I just loved going to college there and I loved the people I met there. I had so many good mentors, professors and administrators who really made a difference.”

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland.