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Before her husband and daughter helped her put on her robe for the first time, Judge Andrea R.S. Watkins took her oath of office Friday afternoon, swearing that she would “to the best of my skill and judgment, diligently and faithfully without partiality or prejudice execute the office of associate judge of the District Court of Maryland for Charles County.”

Watkins is the first female to take the bench in the county’s district court.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) appointed Watkins last month.

Watkins has served as a master for domestic relations and juvenile causes in the Circuit Court for Charles County since 2007. Prior to her service as a master, she served as an assistant county attorney for Charles County and practiced family law. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and Mount St. Mary’s College.

During an investiture ceremony at the county government building in La Plata, Judge Robert B. Riddle gave Watkins a heads-up on all of the things she would learn while sitting on the bench aside from law. He said she would need to learn about mental health and substance abuse, and the more she learned about it the better she would be at handling related cases — which make up a large portion of the caseload in Charles County.

Riddle welcomed Watkins to the bench, assuring her that five years from now, from her experience hearing cases on the bench she would have a better understanding of such things as how to properly install a roof, lay hardwood floor and mold, “where it is, what it looks like and how you deal with it,” he said earning a laugh from the audience.

In a room filled with family, friends and colleagues, including retired judges, three people spoke about Watkins.

Attorney John F. Mudd spoke of her history including growing up in a family of six children, her education and her career in the legal community. He said she got her start as a clerk for Circuit Judge George W. Bowling, where she served for two years. Mudd said Watkins has acknowledged Bowling as the one who ingrained in her not only a respect for the law and rules and procedure, but the value of integrity, honesty and professional responsibility.

Mudd said people who know her well and people of the Charles County legal community point to her “integrity, her intelligence, her compassion and her demeanor.” He said she has a foundation of trust and respect within the legal community.

He said citizens of the county will find that Watkins exhibits “a great deal of energy for the job,” and she will not shy away from challenges. He said her “reputation for civility, courtesy and respect for others exhibited in her service as a master will be reflected in her service as a district court judge.”

Longtime friend and law school classmate Katherine L. Taylor said Watkins’ only flaw was not giving herself enough credit. It would be that ability to not take herself too seriously that would allow Watkins to “serve the people and not herself,” Taylor said. She said Watkins would put in her best effort with her heart and soul in every situation.

“As a judge in the district court, Andrea will be fair and impartial, but she will be more than that. Following in the footsteps of Judge Bowling and the lessons that her parents taught her, she will be respectful and patient of those appearing before her,” La Plata attorney Sue Greer said.

Watkins thanked all those who came out to support her and those who helped her to get where she is today, especially her parents, John and Joan Sine; her husband, George; and daughter, Clara.

“A good judge strives to control his or her own emotions and opinions, ignore politics and to instead rely on fact, law and logic when taking the bench. I will also do my best to be patient, listen and to start on time,” Watkins said.

gphillips@somdnews.com