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U.S. Judge Titus to take senior status in 2014

Judge Roger W. Titus will step down from active service in the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt next January, giving President Barack Obama — with the advice of both Maryland U.S. senators — two coming vacancies to fill in the state’s federal courthouses.

Titus’ planned departure is the second in as many months from the court’s southern division. Judge Alexander Williams Jr. said in December that he intends to take senior status in May.

The status permits retiring federal judges to remain on the bench with a lighter case load until a successor is confirmed and takes their place.

Titus, 71, sent letters to Obama and Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin on Tuesday, notifying them of his intention to take senior status on Jan. 17, 2014.

“I’m giving them a full year’s notice and seeing if they can get it done,” Titus said Wednesday, alluding to the common delays between presidential nomination and Senate confirmation of judicial appointees. “I want to give them all the reasonable amount of time I can give them so a replacement can be ready to take over.”

Titus said he does not regard himself as retiring.

“I’m simply slowing down a bit,” Titus said of senior status. “Doing this gives me an opportunity to keep my mind active and also gives my wife a breather from me.”

Williams said he will take senior status on May 8, his 65th birthday.

“That’s what happens when we grey,” Williams said Wednesday of senior status. “I am going to continue with a pretty solid docket.”

Mikulski and Cardin said they plan to send Obama in due course names of individuals they believe the president, a fellow Democrat, should pick to succeed Titus and Williams.

“I look forward to working closely with Senator Cardin in a fair and open application process that involves public notification, questioning and interviews with judicial experts to fill” these seats, Mikulski said in an email.

Cardin spokeswoman Susan Sullam said in an email that the two senators “will be working closely to establish a thoughtful and deliberative review process” to help fill the vacancies.

Titus, an appointee of President George W. Bush, took his District Court seat on Nov. 17, 2003, succeeding Judge Marvin J. Garbis.

In May 2011, Titus acquitted a former GlaxoSmithKline lawyer accused of lying to the government about the off-label marketing of the drug company’s anti-depressant Wellbutrin SR as a weight-loss drug. Titus found insufficient evidence in the case against Lauren Stevens to submit it to the jury.

Titus has also ruled against applying federal cyberstalking laws to Twitter posts, and presides over the “burn pit” litigation against government contractors in Iraq.

A 1966 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, Titus was a solo practitioner from 1967 to 1972, then formed the partnership Titus & Glasgow. He also served as Rockville city attorney from 1970 to 1982.

In 1988, his practice merged with Venable, Baetjer & Howard, where he was a partner until joining the bench nearly 10 years ago.

His future plans include travel to Australia.

“I’m enjoying slowing down from all matters legal,” he said. “It’s been an honor to serve and I look forward to continuing to serve, albeit at a slightly slower pace.”

Williams was Prince George’s County state’s attorney when President Bill Clinton chose him to succeed Judge Norman P. Ramsey. Williams, who took his seat on Aug. 18, 1994, had been the county’s chief prosecutor since 1987.

In November 2011, Williams awarded $1 to a contractor whose subcontractor had bid against it on a construction contract. Williams said subcontractor Premium Construction Services Corp. had breached a non-compete clause in its contract with Hearn Insulation & Improvement Company Inc. but concluded that Hearn would not have won the competed-for construction job anyway.

Before becoming a prosecutor, Williams was municipal attorney for Fairmount Heights and Glenarden from 1980 to 1987.

The 1973 Howard University School of Law graduate said he has not decided what he will do after leaving the bench.

“I just want to enjoy senior for a while,” he said.

During Obama’s first term, U.S. District Court nominees waited an average of 225 days between their presidential nomination and Senate confirmation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Last year, Obama filled two vacancies on the U.S. District Court for Maryland. George L. Russell III succeeded Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt on May 24, and Paul W. Grimm succeeded Benson E. Legg in Baltimore on Dec. 10.

Russell’s nomination was pending before the Senate for six months before his confirmation. Grimm waited nearly 10 months.