The Honorable Sheila R. Tillerson Adams was the first Black woman, appointed by former Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, to serve as Chief and Administrative Judge of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County and Seventh Judicial Circuit of Maryland. (Photo by

By The Circuit Court for Prince,
George’s County

The Honorable Sheila R. Tillerson Adams recently retired on Dec. 31, 2022, as the Chief and Administrative Judge of the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County and Seventh Judicial Circuit of Maryland. Judge Adams has served as the Administrative Judge for 12 years.

Judge Adams was the first Black woman appointed by then Gov. William Donald Schaefer to the District Court of Maryland in Prince George’s County in June 1993. She served in that capacity for three years before she was elevated to the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County by then Governor Parris Glendening in 1996. On Sept. 4, 2010, following the Retirement of Judge William D. Missouri, then Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell appointed her as Administrative Judge of the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County and the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Maryland. Judge Adams began her legal career in 1982 and in 1984 became only the second Black female State’s Attorney in Prince George’s County, after being hired by then State’s Attorney, Arthur M. “Bud” Marshall.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed serving as Chief and Administrative judge in Prince George’s County, and I hope, during my tenure, the residents in the County have benefitted from having a fair forum for justice that provides efficient and innovative services,” said Judge Adams. “I have led the Court through floods and fires that damaged Court facilities and even through a pandemic, and I am proud to say that we always overcame, persevered and thrived together.”

While serving as Chief and Administrative Judge, Judge Adams created a vision statement to exemplify the Court’s goals when providing judicial services: “The Circuit Court Welcomes All – A Forum for Justice.” The statement has undergirded every initiative, program and goal throughout the Court.

Under Judge Adams’ leadership, the Problem-Solving Courts were expanded to further assist youth and adults facing a myriad of challenges. The Veterans, Re-Entry, Truancy Reduction, Juvenile Diversion and Back on Track Courts were established to help people who have served in the military, people who struggle with substance issues, students with truancy struggles and the formerly incarcerated succeed in life. Through counseling, rehabilitation services and intense monitoring, these programs are changing lives for the better daily. 

Judge Adams also focused on providing resources and assistance to survivors of elder abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence and sex trafficking with the creation of the Prince George’s County Family Justice Center (PGCFJC), an initiative of the Circuit Court. The Center has served County residents in need of assistance even throughout the global pandemic. With more than 21 on-site partners, the PGCFJC provides a full array of co-located services through a coordinated, collaborative and hope-centered advocacy model. Local government and private community-based organizations work together and efficiently meet survivors’ needs.

As the pandemic continued for nearly three years, Judge Adams led the way in enhancing the Court’s technological advancements and accessibility to the public. More hearings and trials were held virtually, and litigants were even able to access Zoom links via a website that provided all the information they needed to attend judicial proceedings. Health and safety protocols were maintained in the Courthouse for the protection of the staff and public that we serve.

Security is also Judge Adams’ priority. She led the way for the design and construction of a security checkpoint near the Courthouse. Delivery vehicles are now required to go through an extensive search at the checkpoint by the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Team to determine if there are any hazardous or explosive materials inside any of the vehicles.

Another security measure that Judge Adams developed was to create a Security Command Center complete with IT workers who monitor hundreds of security cameras throughout the Courthouse Complex. The Center has the capability of being monitored by designated Court officials 24/7. This is a state-of-the-art Center that provides the Court with maximum security and thorough observation capabilities of the entire Courthouse Complex. This initiative was extremely important to enhance security measures, which is one of Judge Adam’s primary goals.

Once the pandemic restrictions were lifted, Judge Adams moved on to her next focus, which was the implementation of a new case management system called Maryland Electronic Courts (MDEC). Her goal was to transition Court operations to an electronic system that is nearly paperless.

With MDEC, attorneys are required to utilize electronic filing when representing clients in civil and criminal cases. Electronic filing is optional for self-represented litigants. Employees also can access files virtually via the online system instead of having to hunt down paper files. After years of planning and training sessions, MDEC went live successfully in Prince George’s County on Oct. 17, 2022. 

Overall, Judge Adams has made tenacity her mantra. She has utilized technology to modernize the Court’s capital improvement to make it a dignified space to resolve disputes and collaborated with many justice partners throughout the County to provide enhanced judicial services. A fearless and bold leader, Judge Adams’ tenure and leadership will continue to impact Prince George’s County and the legal system for years to come.

Judge Adams was born in Washington, D.C. She graduated cum laude from Morgan State University in May 1979 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology. She received her Juris Doctor Degree from Howard University School of Law in May 1982 and in May 1987, she received a Master of Laws in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center. She was admitted to the Maryland Bar in June 1983, the Federal Bar in July 1983 and the Supreme Court in May 1992.

Judge Adams is a member of the J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association, and she served as President in 1991. She is also a member of the Maryland State Bar Association, the Prince George’s County Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the Women’s Bar Association of Maryland, the American Bar Association, the Maryland Circuit Judge’s Association, and the National Association of Women Judges.

Judge Adams co-chairs the Law Links Committee of the Prince George’s County Bar Association and has done so since 1993. Law Links is a paid summer internship program with local law firms and legal departments in the County that is committed to broadening the possibilities of young people. It combines work experience with a law and leadership institute. All participants in the program are Prince George’s County high school students.

Throughout her career, Judge Adams has received many awards and honors. Most recently, the J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association presented Judge Adams with the Wayne K. Curry Spirit of Excellence Award for her trailblazing leadership. In May 2022, she was awarded the 2022 Gladys Noon Spellman Public Service Award at the 37th Annual Prince George’s County Women’s History Month Celebration. Also, in April 2022, the Prince George’s County Commission for Women presented Judge Adams with the 2022 Trailblazing Woman Award for her extraordinary legal career and achievements.

Judge Adams is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and the Mount Rose Chapter of the Links, Inc. She has two surviving children that are away in college and is married to Mayor Timothy J. Adams, and they reside in Bowie, Md.