Sheila R. Tillerson Adams
Prince George’s County
As a judge, Sheila R. Tillerson Adams seeks to solve problems. Two big problems were apparent to her in her Prince George’s County Circuit Court courtroom – the lack of resources for returning veterans charged with a crime and a comprehensive re-entry program to transition offenders back into society after serving sentences.
Working with the community she served, Adams aggressively pursued the creation of two courts – the first a veteran’s court that joins Prince George’s County, the Veterans’ Administration and the community to assist veterans in the criminal justice system. As part of the program, veterans are partnered with mentors who will assist them in working through red tape to receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
The second court, a re-entry court, is the first of its kind in the state and helps offenders find jobs and housing, assisting them as they reintegrate into society and their families.
“These courts serve the basic needs of the citizens we serve and change lives while reducing recidivism and restoring family units and communities,” Adams said. “Each life touched by these courts is transformed and the ripple effect of that transformation changes our communities positively, one life at a time.”
The groundwork for these two important courts actually started with a renovation project and what Adams feels is her most significant professional accomplishment – shepherding the renovation, restoration and construction of the courthouse complex in Upper Marlboro.
“I have been fortunate enough to lead this project through a very dark period before and after a devastating fire that completely destroyed the historic structure to the reopening of a beautifully restored courthouse that today services an average of five thousand visitors a day,” Adams said.
It was important to her that the courthouse meet the needs of “all of the citizens of the county from the severely disabled to the vulnerable children in our system,” which required quite a bit of cooperation from state and local officials. In all, the renovation effort took 15 years.
Adams first served as associate judge in district court in 1988 and later as associate judge in circuit court from 1996 to 2010, when she began her current role as administrative judge.
Adams has served on the Board of Governors for the Prince George’s County Bar Association, the Maryland State Bar Association and as a regional director for the National Bar Association. She also is a past president of the J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association.
Adams chairs the county bar’s Law Links Committee, which provides paid summer internships for high school students interested in law.
“I have seen young people transform during this eight week summer journey, become confident in their oratorical skills and make life changing decisions about their educational goals,” she said.
Adams holds a bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University and law degree from Howard University School of Law. She also received an LLM in taxation from Georgetown University Law Center.