The Maryland Constitution will force Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Peter B. Krauser from the bench Friday, but the head of the state’s intermediate appellate court said he bears no ill-will toward the document and has no plans to go fishing.
“It’s time for somebody else to be appointed chief judge,” Krauser said days before he reaches the mandatory judicial retirement age of 70. “The court will benefit by new ideas and new approaches. But am I ready to retire? No.”
Krauser said he has not looked beyond his next order of business, which he said will be assisting in the court’s transition to incoming Chief Judge Patrick L. Woodward, a current Court of Special Appeals jurist whom Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed to the top spot effective Saturday.
“I’m focused on the transition to ensure I leave the court in the best possible condition for my successor,” Krauser said. “That’s what I’m concentrating on.”
Hogan has the opportunity to fill the seat Krauser will leave vacant on the 15-member court. Twenty-seven judges and lawyers have applied for the at-large seat.
Krauser’s advice to Woodward is “just to take a fresh look at things.”
Krauser said he has “enjoyed every minute” of being chief since his appointment to the top spot in December 2007 by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley. Krauser had been on the intermediate court since January 2000, having been named to the bench by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
Prior to joining the bench, the Prince George’s County resident managed his own law firm, Krauser & Taub PC in Largo, and served as a public defender in Philadelphia. He was chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party from 1997 to 2000.
“It was a perfect job for me,” Krauser said of leading the intermediate court. “I love research and writing. I like to run things and try to improve them in the process.”
The retiring judge, however, was reticent to divulge any opinions he is most proud of or any he might wish to take back, saying that reaching decisions is a collaborative process on an appellate court.
Looking back on his administration of the court, Krauser said he takes pride in initiating appellate mediation, in which parties are encouraged to settle cases even after winning at trial; fostering a more efficient clerk’s office, due in part to electronic filing; and convincing the General Assembly to increase the court from 13 to 15 judges in 2013 so it could reduce a swelling backlog of cases.
But Krauser reiterated these achievements were “collaborative efforts and not the result of my efforts alone.”
He added that he leaves with no regrets.
“I’ve pretty much met my goals,” Krauser said. “We’ve eliminated any backlog we had.”
As for mandatory judicial retirement, Krauser said he believes the age should be raised to 72 or 73, but not so he can stay on the bench a few more years. Rather, he said, raising the age would encourage older, more experienced attorneys to apply for judgeships.
With the current retirement age of 70, attorneys in their mid-50s and older are discouraged from seeking the bench because one must be a judge for 16 years to be fully vested in the retirement benefits, Krauser said.
“It would be in the best interest of the Judiciary to have the age of retirement extended at least a couple of years,” Krauser said.
However, he declined to say whether he would stay on past 70 if the retirement age were greater.
“I’d rather not get into that,” Krauser said. “It’s not an option I have and therefore one I have not fully explored.”
Krauser did say he expects to spend more time with his family. (His wife, Sherrie, was a Prince George’s County judge from 1989 until her retirement in 2013.) But the husband, father and grandfather added he will never be a homebody.
“You are looking at a man who has few hobbies but his work, as my family and colleagues can attest,” Krauser said.
“I hope to be involved in the issues of today in some fashion,” he added. “It (retirement) gives me an opportunity to write a whole new chapter.”