- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Two new faces will join the bench in Charles County’s district and circuit courts.
Waldorf lawyer Hayward James “Jay” West is the newest addition to the circuit court bench, and Andrea R.S. Watkins will move from her position as master for domestic relations and juvenile causes to the district court judgeship.
The appointments by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) were announced Monday morning.
West is the first African-American appointee to the county’s circuit court, and Watkins is the first woman to take the bench in the county’s district court.
West’s appointment fills the spot left by the retirement of Judge Robert C. Nalley, who had to retire in September as Maryland law does not allow judges to serve past age 70. Nalley previously had served as the county’s state’s attorney and was appointed to the circuit bench first in 1980 and then again in 1988.
Both new judges earned their law degrees from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, according to a press release from O’Malley’s office.
West has been with law firm Alpert Schreyer since 2005, and Watkins has served as the master since 2007. Watkins is a former assistant county attorney. West, an Army veteran, has experience in civil and criminal proceedings, and Watkins has a background in family law.
West and Watkins are Charles County natives.
Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony B. Covington (D) said Monday he was pleased with the governor’s newest judicial appointees for the county.
“Mr. West obviously has a great demeanor, which is very important for every judge,” Covington said. “He brings a familiarity with personal injury and court claims … so that’s a plus for the bench. I think he’s going to do a fine job. He’s hardworking, has life experience. He’s a guy who right out of high school went into the military and then got his college education and went to law school. That’s a hard worker. He’s going to do the job.”
Of Watkins, Covington said, “She’s one of those folks who considers everything. … She’ll hear both sides of the argument. I think the governor has done fine by Charles County as far as I’m concerned.”
La Plata attorney Sue Greer, who worked alongside Watkins in the county attorney’s office some years ago, said Watkins has a standout work ethic.
“I think she’s proven herself as a master,” Greer said. “She’s an absolutely excellent selection. She’s very even-keel, very even-handed. She’s always well-prepared for court, and that’s the key, and when you work with her she expects you to be equally prepared. That’s all you can ask for in a judge.”
“It’s a big responsibility and a big honor,” West said of his appointment. “I look forward to doing the best I can for the people of Charles County.”
“I’m very honored and humbled,” Watkins said. “I’m pleased and hoping to do my very best. I’m looking forward to serving the citizens.”
A bill to add an additional judicial seat in circuit court is pending in the Maryland legislature.
Douglas Cooley, Patrick Devine, Makeba Gibbs, Shara Hendler, John Keller, Kenneth Prien, Thomas Simpson, Elizabeth Theobalds, Watkins and West all applied for the district court spot. Ultimately, Cooley, Devine, Keller, Simpson, Watkins and West were considered for the spot.
For the circuit court spot, Cooley, Gibbs, Hendler, Prien, West, Devine, Simpson and Theobalds applied. Cooley, Gibbs, West, Devine, Simpson and Theobalds were the final candidates considered. Theobalds, Devine and Simpson also were considered as circuit judge candidates after the retirement of Judge Steven G. Chappelle, which was filled in March 2012 by Jerome R. Spencer, a former county prosecutor.