Shirley M. Watts will become the second black woman to serve on Maryland’s intermediate appellate court, following her appointment by the governor on Wednesday.
The selection comes less than six months after Michele D. Hotten’s appointment to the Court of Special Appeals in July.
Watts will fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Judge Arrie W. Davis in the sixth district, which serves Baltimore City. Davis served as a judge for 19 years at the district, circuit and appellate levels.
Gov. Martin O’Malley said Watts will bring broad experience to the bench. She has served as a prosecutor, public defender, federal administrative law judge and Baltimore City Circuit Court judge.
“Judge Watts is widely respected for her intelligence, high ethical standards, and commitment to the rule of law,” O’Malley said in a news release. “These qualities will serve her well on our state’s intermediate appellate court.”
Watts did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
O’Malley also appointed two other judges Wednesday. Attorney Keith Baynes will serve on the Circuit Court for Cecil County and Brian Shockley, also an attorney, will serve on the Circuit Court for Worcester County.
Baynes will fill the vacancy left by the death of Judge Richard E. Jackson. Shockley will replace Judge Theodore R. Eschenburg, who has retired. Baynes and Shockley could not be reached Wednesday afternoon.
Watts earned her law degree from Rutgers University School of Law.
She has served as an associate judge in Baltimore City Circuit Court since 2002. Her legal career began with a stint practicing criminal law. She also spent four years as an assistant state’s attorney for Baltimore City and nine years in the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland. In that role she represented indigent criminal defendants.
In 1997, she went on to serve as a federal administrative law judge. From 1999 to 2002, she served as chief administrative law judge for the Office of Hearings and Appeals in Maryland.
Court of Special Appeals Judge Ellen L. Hollander said O’Malley had “three outstanding candidates” to choose from. The pool also included Baltimore City Circuit Court Judges Audrey J.S. Carrion and Pamela Janice White.
“In my capacity as a member of the Court of Special Appeals, I had occasion to review cases where she was the trial judge, and it was clear that she was a very bright and capable judge,” Hollander said of Watts.
Watts’ colleague of many years, Circuit Judge Evelyn Omega Cannon, said she was unaware of the appointment until she received a call from The Daily Record. Cannon said she was pleased for Watts, whom she called thoughtful and careful.
“It was a kind of situation I thought no matter which was appointed, it was going to be a great choice and a loss to this bench,” she said.
Watts was appointed from nominees selected by the Appellate Courts Judicial Nominating Commission. Baynes and Shockley were appointed from nominees selected by the Trial Courts Judicial Nominating Commissions.