Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera has named Judge S. James Sarbanes as circuit administrative judge for the First Judicial Circuit (Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties). The designation was effective on Aug. 16.
“As he prepares to retire this fall, I thank Judge Wilson, on behalf of the Maryland Judiciary, for his more than 20 years of exemplary public service as a judge and full-time magistrate on behalf of the people of Maryland,” Chief Judge Barbera said in a prepared statement. “Judge Sarbanes is an exceptional jurist and I am pleased to designate him to the leadership role of circuit administrative judge. He is an excellent leader and will work with his fellow judicial colleagues and Judiciary staff to continue to provide access to justice to all those whose matters come before the circuit courts of the First Judicial Circuit.”
Judge Sarbanes will succeed Circuit Administrative Judge Brett W. Wilson, who has served in that capacity since Jan. 1, 2017. In anticipation of his retirement, effective Nov. 1, Judge Wilson will continue to serve as the county administrative judge for the Circuit Court for Dorchester County through Oct. 31.
Judge Wilson began his tenure on the Circuit Court for Dorchester County on June 30, 2004, and previously served as a part-time, then full-time magistrate in the First Judicial Circuit from 1996 through June 2004. He is also a former assistant state’s attorney for Wicomico County and former senior assistant state’s attorney for Caroline County. Judge Wilson also previously served in private practice for more than 20 years.
“I have worked alongside Judge Sarbanes since his appointment to the bench and I am confident that he will be an excellent steward in his new position,” said Judge Wilson. “The First Circuit will be in good hands. My service as a judge to the people of Maryland is the highlight of my career. As I prepare for retirement later this year, I will be working with Judge Sarbanes to ensure a smooth and seamless transition and look forward to continued service to the public as a senior judge.”
County and circuit administrative judges oversee the administration of the court, budget and procurement functions. They also manage trial calendars to ensure the expeditious disposition of cases.
Judge Wilson has served as the designated judge for Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center Program since 2005 and was named an inaugural ASTAR Fellow in October 2006. In addition to his service on many committees and workgroups over the years, he has most recently completed terms as a member of the Judicial Council, chair of the Court Operations Committee and Courthouse Equity Subcommittee, co-chair of the Judicial Needs Workgroup, and as a member of the Conference of Circuit Judges.
“I am honored and humbled to be selected by Chief Judge Barbera for this new responsibility,” said Judge Sarbanes. “I am excited about the new opportunity to lead and to serve each of the four counties of Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester. It is a privilege to have worked with Judge Wilson over the years, as well as the excellent team of local judges and court staff who work hard each day to serve the people of Maryland. Although Judge Wilson’s leadership will be missed, I am grateful to have his, and Chief Judge Barbera’s, support as I step up to this new role.”
Judge Sarbanes was appointed to the Circuit Court for Wicomico County on Feb. 24, 2014, and was sworn in on March 21, 2014. He has served as county administrative judge since Oct. 1, 2015. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Salisbury University in 1993, and a Juris Doctorate from Widener University School of Law in 1999.
He was admitted to the Maryland state bar in 1999. Prior to his judicial appointment, Judge Sarbanes served as a law clerk to Judge Daniel M. Long (retired), Circuit Court for Somerset County, and Judge Dale R. Cathell (retired) of the Court of Appeals from 1999-2002. He also served as an associate at Adkins, Potts and Smethurst, LLP, from 2002 to 2005, and as a partner at Laws & Sarbanes, P.A., from 2008 to 2014.
Judge Sarbanes is a member of the Wicomico County Bar Association. Since 2016, Judge Sarbanes has been a member of the Major Projects Committee and, from 2016 to 2020, served on the Legislative Committee of the Maryland Judiciary’s Judicial Council.