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Eyler will step down from Court of Special Appeals

“[T]he personal nature of a message on a vanity plate makes clear that the vehicle owner, not the state, is speaking,” Judge Deborah S. Eyler wrote for the court, deciding that a Maryland driver could not have the Spanish word "Mierda" on his license plate. (File)

Court of Special Appeals Judge Deborah S. Eyler. (File)

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Judge Deborah S. Eyler will step down from the bench Sept. 1, nearly four years before the state constitution would have mandated her retirement at age 70.

“There’s more to life than work,” said Eyler, who has served on the state’s second-highest court since June 17, 1997. “I’ll have the opportunity to travel and enjoy life.”

But Eyler, 65, will not be making a total break with the court. She said she plans to join the list of retired judges willing to sit by special assignment on Court of Special Appeals’ panels.

Eyler’s retirement is expected to spur a slew of applicants for her at-large seat, as occurred last year when 27 lawyers and judges applied for the at-large seat vacated by now-retired Judge Peter B. Krauser, who served as chief judge. Gov. Larry Hogan appointed Matthew J. Fader to fill the seat.

The Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission has advertised for Eyler’s vacancy and will be accepting applications for the seat until 4:30 p.m. Aug. 22. The panel will meet Oct. 11 before sending its list of recommended candidate to Hogan for his consideration.

Hogan is not required to select a nominee from that list but such a selection 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.

Eyler, a New York native, graduated from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law in 1981. She then spent 15 years at Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP, the last seven as a partner, before joining the appellate court.

Eyler said she chose to step down before the Constitution would force her to in August 2022 because “it’s nice to have control over what you want to do.” Nevertheless, she said she favors the mandatory retirement age.

“It brings newer people into the judiciary,” she said Tuesday. “Older judges get to sit as retired judges, so you don’t lose their wisdom.”

Among those retired judges who continue to serve by special assignment is her husband, James R. Eyler, who stepped down from the Court of Special Appeals in May 2012, two months shy of turning 70. Like many retired judges, he also works as a private mediator — a job that does not interest his wife.

“It’s not my thing,” Deborah Eyler said.

She added the couple will take a trip to Italy this fall and more travel is being planned.

“I’m a big fan of art museums,” she said.

Eyler also said she hopes to finally convince her husband by next summer that they should adopt a dachshund. The couple’s two prior pet dogs died in 2014.

“I’ve been wearing him down for four years,” she said. “He says I’ve been wearing him down longer than that.”

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