Thomas J. Curley Jr., the dean of Maryland's District Court bench and perhaps the most colorful judge in Anne Arundel County, said yesterday he is stepping down.

Curley, 67, who in 1964 was named chief judge of the newly created People's Court, the forerunner to the District Court, said he was retiring so he could spend more time traveling.


An Irishman whose passion for Italian culture is well-known in county legal circles, Curley said thoughts of retirement entered his mind during a trip last spring to northern Italy, which left him "mesmerized."

The Annapolis resident said he decided to retire over the Labor Day weekend, and made it official in a letter mailed yesterday to Chief Judge Robert F. Sweeney of the District Court. Curley said he will work through the end of February 1991.


"I will walk off on the 28th of February and just sort of relax and goof off in March, getting ready for my return to the north of Italy next April," Curley said yesterday. "Besides, it's about time I got out of the way and gave someone else a chance."

Curley, the last of the original People's Court judges still sitting on the District Court bench, is also the administrative judge for the district courts in Anne Arundel County. He presides at Annapolis District Court, but he is sitting this week at Glen Burnie District Court.

Curley, a 1944 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, served in the Pacific theater during World War II. After being discharged from the Navy, he attended law school at the University of Maryland, graduating and passing the bar exam in 1949. After 15 years of practicing law, he was appointed to the People's Court.

In 1970, the state General Assembly created the District Court system to replace the existing system of trial magistrates, municipal courts and the People's Court. When the District Court began operation in July 1971, Curley became an administrative district court judge.

He said he applied a couple of times to be a Circuit Court judge, and made the list of finalists once, but after failing to be selected, "I said the heck with it."

A 13-member Judicial Nominating Commission will interview applicants for the job and choose finalists. The governor will then appoint a successor to a 10-year term, subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

Chief Judge Sweeney will appoint a new administrative judge to oversee operations at the Glen Burnie and Annapolis District Courts.