Governor Appoints Adkins To High Court

BERLIN – Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley on Tuesday announced the appointment of Judge Sally Denison Adkins to a seat on the state’s highest court, officially ending a bid by local attorney Joe Moore to replace Dale Cathell.

Moore in December officially filed an application to replace Cathell as the Maryland Court of Appeals judge for the state’s First Appellate Circuit, which includes the nine counties of the Eastern Shore. Cathell officially retired last July having reached the mandatory retirement age of 70, but continues to sit on the bench pending the installation of the newly appointed Adkins.

Moore, 65, was joined on the short list of applicants by Adkins, a sitting Court of Special Appeals judge, and Easton attorney Christopher Burlee Kehoe. All three candidates were interviewed by members of the Judicial Nominating Committee in January and the panel ultimately forwarded all three names to the governor for final approval.

After a battery of interviews with each of the candidates over the last few months, O’Malley this week officially appointed Adkins to the vacant seat.

“Judge Adkins represents the highest standards of excellence in the legal profession and I am honored to appoint her to the Court of Appeals,” said O’Malley this week. “Judge Adkins is highly regarded for her keen intelligence, her meticulous preparation, her genuine concern for the parties who appear before her, and her willingness to keep an open mind. She will be an asset to the state’s highest court.”

For his part, Moore this week said he anticipated Adkins’ appointment. Like Moore, Adkins is a University of Maryland School of Law graduate and the two have crossed paths professionally and personally for the last three decades or so. Moore admitted the governor’s decision was somewhat of a letdown, but praised his colleague for her appointment to the state’s highest court.

“It is a disappointment, but the outcome is not terribly surprising,” he said. “Judge Sally Adkins is an experienced and talented appellate judge and has been for several years. If it was not meant to be for me, than I am happy for Sally because she has earned this and deserves it. She and I have been friends for 35 years.”

Throughout the extensive nomination and interview process, it became more and more apparent Adkins was emerging as the favorite. In fact, the Judicial Nominating Committee at first forwarded just Adkins’ name to the governor, but O’Malley responded he wanted at least two candidates to consider. Moore said this week he was happy to be among the three finalists.

“I knew from the outset she was a formidable candidate,” he said. “If I were a betting man, I would have predicted this outcome. I was just very pleased to be considered.”

Of course, Adkins’ nomination to the Court of Appeals creates a new vacancy on the Court of Special Appeals where she served for the last decade, meaning a new nomination process will begin including another pool of eligible candidates. However, it appears unlikely Moore will be among them. He said on Wednesday he is officially undecided, although it is not likely he will throw his hat in the ring.

Adkins has served on the Court of Special Appeals since 1998, during which time she has written over 140 published opinions and roughly 750 unpublished opinions. From 1999 to 2006, in addition to serving on the Court of Special Appeals, Adkins was chair of the Maryland Commission on Disabilities. From 1996 to 1998, she was an associate judge for the Circuit Court of Wicomico County, where she initiated and developed a child custody mediation program.