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New Md. administrative judge looks to technology

Ruben Castaneda

Since early September, Circuit Court Judge Sheila R. Tillerson Adams has spent most of her Saturdays at the Upper Marlboro courthouse where she has served on the bench since 1993.

Tillerson Adams has been gearing up for her new post as chief administrative judge for Maryland's 7th Circuit, which includes Prince George's, Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary's counties.


Judge Sheila R. Tillerson Adams. (Maryland Courts)

Tillerson Adams is succeeding William D. Missouri, who served as chief administrative judge for the 7th Circuit for more than 13 years. Missouri stepped down because he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

In her new job, Tillerson Adams will be responsible for the administration of all the courts in her judicial circuit. That involves supervising the judges in the judicial circuit.

Tillerson Adams, who turns 53 in December, is the first woman to serve as chief administrative judge for the 7th Circuit.

In an interview in hernew chamber in the Upper Marlboro courthouse, Tillerson Adams said she has three priorities: improving the use of technology, maximizing the efficiency of courthouse workers, and providing opportunities, such as conferences and seminars, for judges to further their professional development.

"The court must keep up with the latest technologies, in order to communicate with the public, and for judges and attorneys and other courthouse staff people to communicate with each other," Tillerson Adams said.

One immediate improvement Tillerson Adams hopes to bring to the Upper Marlboro courthouse is wireless capability, which would allow attorneys and courthouse observers to get online with their laptops.

At times, some reporters on tight deadlines have taken their laptops to the public library across the street from the courthouse or a nearby coffee shop to file stories. Tillerson Adams said she hopes to have the courthouse wireless-capable by December. The ability to go online quickly will help attorneys and others keep in touch with their offices and conduct legal research, Tillerson Adams said.

The decor in Tillerson Adams's chamber, and the outer office, reflects her interests. A number of African-themed artworks -- including a depiction of a young child, a gift from her brother, who picked up the piece in Kenya -- grace the space.

Also prominently displayed is a framed jersey of former Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams, a gift from her husband, businessman Timothy Adams. "I'm a big Redskins fan," Tillerson Adams said.

She is also, in her words, a soccer mom. Tillerson Adams is mother to 9-year-old twins, Timothy and Kayla. She also has a 19-year-old stepdaughter, Tiara Adams.

The children help her keep things in perspective, Tillerson Adams said. "When you go home, they don't care what you did during the day," she said. "You're not a judge or 'your honor,' you're a mom."

Tillerson Adams was appointed to the District Court bench in 1993, and to the Circuit Court in 1996. She earned her law degree from the Howard University School of Law and, before becoming a judge, worked as a staff attorney for the domestic law unit of the Legal Aid Bureau Inc., and as an assistant state's attorney in Prince George's, where she became chief of the sexual assault unit.

As a judge, Tillerson Adams has presided over a number of high-profile cases, such as one in which a man was convicted earlier this year of a grisly double-murder in a home in an upper-middle class neighborhood near Upper Marlboro.

Tillerson Adams, who was born in the District, was the first African-American woman to be appointed to the District Court bench in Prince George's, and was also the first African-American woman to have served as deputy county attorney.

-- Ruben Castaneda

By Ruben Castaneda  | October 25, 2010; 3:10 PM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse, Ruben Castaneda  | Tags:  Prince George's crime, Prince George's justice  
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