EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Impact of Judge Adkins's Early Retirement on the Adnan Syed Case

It has been announced that Court of Appeals of Maryland Judge Sally Adkins will step down from the bench of October 31, 2018, a year and change before her mandated retirement age of 70 in January 2020. This could have some interesting ramifications for the Adnan Syed case. Let's look at the current seven judge lineup on the Court of Appeals of Maryland:

Honorable Mary Ellen Barbera, Chief Judge: In July 2013, Governor Martin O'Malley appointed Judge Barbera to the Court of Appeals of Maryland. 

Honorable Clayton Greene Jr., Judge: In January 2004, Governor Robert Ehrlich appointed Judge Greene to the Court of Appeals of Maryland

Honorable Robert N. McDonald, Judge: In January 2012, Governor Martin O'Malley appointed Judge McDonald to the Court of Appeals of Maryland

Honorable Shirley M. Watts, Judge: In July 2013, Governor Martin O'Malley appointed Judge Watts to the Court of Appeals of Maryland

Honorable Michele D. Hotten, Judge: In December 2015, Governor Larry Hogan appointed Judge Hotten to the Court of Appeals of Maryland

Honorable Joseph M. Getty, Judge: In June 2016, Governor Larry Hogan appointed Judge Getty to the Court of Appeals of Maryland.

*Honorable Sally D. Adkins, Judge: In May 2008, Governor Martin O'Malley appointed Judge Adkins to the Court of Appeals of Maryland

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Before Judge Adkins announced her retirement, this would have been the seven judge lineup that would have heard the oral arguments in the Adnan Syed case in late November/early December of this year and issued an opinion on or before August 31st of next year. And it still might be the lineup that hears oral arguments and issued an opinion. Here is a Twitter exchange I had with Steve Klepper:

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 9.44.25 AM

So, Adnan's case might be heard and decided by (1) the seven current judges; (2) the six current judges other than Judge Adkins plus some seventh judge sitting by designation; or (2) the six current judges other than Judge Adkins plus a new seventh judge who is appointed to the Court of Appeals in time to hear the case.

In terms of direct impact, scenarios 2 & 3 matter in two circumstances: (1) Judge Adkins would have been the 4th judge in a 4-3 vote to grant Adnan a new trial, and the new judge becomes the 4th judge in a 4-3 vote to deny Adnan a new trial; or (2) Judge Adkins would have been the 4th judge in a 4-3 vote to deny Adnan a new trial, and the new judge becomes the 4th judge in a 4-3 vote to grant Adnan a new trial.

In terms of indirect impact, it's possible that Adkins would have asked a question or questions during oral argument or made statements to other judges that could have swayed their opinions one way with the new judge asking/saying nothing or asking/saying things that sway judges the other way.

In the end, it's tough to say what impact Judge Adkins early retirement will have on Adnan's case, but the question of who will be the seventh judge deciding his case now definitely looms large.

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2018/07/honorable-mary-ellen-barbera-chief-judge-in-july-2013-governor-martin-omalley-appointed-judge-barbera-to-the-court-of-appe.html

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Comments

Do we know anything about the past tendencies of these justices as far as how they lean? In other words, are there any these-are-words-in-sentences-and-here-is-my-conclusion-just-one-doesn't-need-to-actually-justify-the-other types?

Posted by: Paul | Aug 10, 2018 2:28:06 AM

(cough) Judge Graeff types, that is

Posted by: Paul | Aug 10, 2018 2:28:41 AM

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