Saying she wanted to quit on her own terms, Maryland Court of Appeals Judge Sally D. Adkins announced Monday she will step down from the bench Oct. 31, well before the state constitution would have mandated her retirement at age 70 in January 2020.
“In a year and four months, they’re going to kick me out,” said Adkins, 68, who has served on the state’s top court since June 25, 2008. “No reason to wait until I get kicked out.”
Adkins, who said she had been thinking of retirement for a couple of years, added she told the court in November and Gov. Larry Hogan two weeks ago of her pending retirement.
Adkins’ departure will leave a vacancy on the seven-member court that must be filled by an attorney or judge residing on the Eastern Shore, as the Salisbury native holds the seat reserved for the 1st Appellate Judicial Circuit. Judicial candidates must be at least 30 years old, have resided in Maryland for at least five years and in the 1st Appellate Judicial Circuit for at least six months prior to appointment.
The Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission has advertised for the vacancy and will be accepting applicants for the seat until 4:30 p.m. Aug. 22. The panel will meet Oct. 11 and 12 before sending its list of recommended candidates to Gov. Larry Hogan for his consideration, according to the upcoming-vacancy announcement.
Hogan is not required to select a nominee from that list but selection from the list has been gubernatorial practice for the past 45 years.
Hogan’s nomination will be subject to Senate confirmation when the General Assembly returns in January, though the nominee would be permitted to take his or her seat on the bench before the legislature meets.
Adkins attached no significance to the date of her planned departure – Halloween – other than it will give her law clerk, who starts with the new term in September, two months of service for a sitting Court of Appeals judge.
“I never thought of that,” Adkins said of her retirement’s connection to ghouls and trick or treaters.
Adkins said the clerk will remain on the job through August 2019, as she plans to accept special assignment to hear cases as a retired judge on the Court of Appeals and the intermediate Court of Special Appeals, on which she sat from 1998 until then-Gov. Martin O’Malley elevated her to the high court in 2008.
Adkins graduated from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law in 1975 and then clerked at the Court of Appeals under the late Judge Marvin H. Smith. Adkins worked in private practice for 20 years before being appointed to the Wicomico County Circuit Court bench in 1996.
In retirement, Adkins said she plans “to try my hands” at being a mediator, having recently completed the training.
Adkins added she hopes to “travel to faraway places,” perhaps a rafting trip in Pyuthan, Nepal, with her husband; to learn a musical instrument, such as the clarinet or saxophone; and to do charitable work.
But Adkins said she will miss being a judge, particularly “being a part of the discussion and the debate and writing about the cutting-edge legal issues” that come before the high court.
“What a joy that is,” she added. “I always considered myself lucky to be a judge.”