Surprising absolutely no one, Governor Martin O’Malley appointed Maryland Court of Special Appeals Judge Sally D. Adkins to the state’s highest court, filling the vacancy created by Judge Dale R. Cathell’s mandatory retirement. Judge Adkins will represent the First Appellate Circuit on the court, which includes Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester counties.
I have not followed Judge Adkins’s career closely enough to know what impact she might have on the Maryland Court of Appeals. William Reynolds, a law professor at Maryland, was quoted as saying he expected she would be “right in the middle” of the current court and should not be expected to change the court’s balance. Still, there are only 7 judges on the Court of Appeals. In some of these close decisions. Her vote will be crucial. Clearly, we know where Judge Cathell stood on most issues as perhaps the leading and most consistent conservative judge on the court. Where Judge Adkins will fall on some of these close calls is anyone’s guess. The word on Judge Adkins is that she keeps an open mind, so maybe she does not even know how she will vote on some of these critical issues.
Governor O’Malley has moved at a snail’s pace in naming Maryland Court of Appeals judges. This surprises me because keeping Judge Wilner and Judge Cathell on the court does not further the Governor’s political agenda, specifically on the death penalty, an issue for which he has a great deal of personal conviction. But he has gotten high marks on almost all of his judicial selections and has seemingly picked judges based on merit, not politics. As he gears up for a challenge in 2010 against Bob Ehrlich (I’ll bet ya), Governor O’Malley can use all the high marks he can get.