Judicial selection in Maryland

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Maryland
Seal of Maryland.png
Maryland Court of Appeals
Method:   Assisted appointment, senate confirmation
Term:   10 years
Maryland Court of Special Appeals
Method:   Assisted appointment, senate confirmation
Term:   10 years
Maryland Circuit Court
Method:   Assisted appointment followed by partisan elections
Term:   15 years
Maryland District Court
Method:   Assisted appointment, senate confirmation
Term:   10 years
Maryland Orphans' Court
Method:   Partisan elections
Term:   4 years

Selection of state court judges in Maryland occurs largely through the assisted appointment method with confirmation from the Maryland Senate. After serving for at least one year, judges must run in yes-no retention elections to determine whether they will continue serving.[1]

Two courts employ different selection methods: the circuit court, which uses partisan elections to retain its judges, and the orphans' court, which selects most of its judges in partisan elections.[1]

Under the Maryland Constitution, elected and retained judges' terms begin on January 1 after the general election.

Appellate courts

See also: Assisted appointment

The seven justices of the Maryland Court of Appeals and the 13 justices of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals are selected in an identical manner, each serving 10-year terms. They are appointed by the governor from a list submitted by a judicial nominating commission and are subject to state senate confirmation.[1]

After serving for one year, judges must run for retention in the next general election if they wish to continue serving.[1]

Selection of the chief judge or justice

The chief justices of the appellate courts are designated by the governor to serve indefinite terms.[1]


To join either of these courts, a judge must be:

  • a U.S. and state citizen;
  • a registered state voter;
  • a state resident for at least five years;
  • a circuit resident for at least six months;
  • a state bar member;
  • at least 30 years old; and
  • under the age of 70 (retirement at 70 is mandatory).[1]


If a vacancy on the court occurs, the same process is used to fill it. A new judge must then face retention, according to the Section 5A of the Maryland Constitution, "at the next general election following the expiration of one year from the date of the occurrence of the vacancy which he was appointed to fill."[1][2]

Circuit Court

See also: Assisted appointment

The 152 judges of the eight Maryland circuits are chosen by the governor with help from a nominating commission. (Unlike the appellate court judges, circuit court judges do not need to be confirmed by the senate).[1][3]

Circuit judges serve for one year, after which they must run in partisan elections if they wish to continue serving.[4] If re-elected, they serve for fifteen years.[1][3]

The chief judge of each circuit court is chosen by seniority. All policies on judicial qualifications and the filling of interim vacancies are the same as those of the appellate courts.[1][1]

District Court

See also: Assisted appointment

Judges of the Maryland District Courts, like those of the appellate courts, are appointed by the governor from a list of names submitted by a nominating commission. They are also subject to confirmation from the state senate.[5]

Judges serve 10-year terms.[6]

Orphans' Court

See also: Partisan election of judges

Judges of the Maryland Orphans' Court are selected in partisan elections (except in the counties of Harford and Montgomery, where circuit judges are assigned to serve on the orphans' court). They run for re-election every four years.[5]

Vacancies are filled by the governor, subject to confirmation by the state senate. The appointee serves for the remainder of the unexpired term.[7][8]


Judicial selection in Maryland has undergone significant changes in the last two and a half centuries. Below is a timeline of the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest:

  • 1976: Appellate judges began competing in uncontested retention elections rather than contested elections in order to retain their seats, and their term lengths were reduced from 15 to 10 years.
  • 1971: The Maryland District Court was created through the consolidation of magistrate, people's courts and municipal courts.
  • 1970: Per gubernatorial order, judicial nominating commissions were established to aid in appointing state judges. Every governor since has issued a similar order.
  • 1966: The Maryland Court of Special Appeals was created.
  • 1941: Established that judicial elections were to be nonpartisan elections.
  • 1864: Established that judges' tenures were to be increased from 10 to 15 yeas.
  • 1851: Established that judges' tenures were to be reduced from life to 10 years, and they are now to be elected by popular vote.
  • 1837: The executive council was abolished, and judicial appointments began requiring senate confirmation.
  • 1776: Established that all judges were to be appointed for life by the governor with consent of an executive council.


Senate moves to increase mandatory retirement age to 73

On March 24, 2015, the Maryland Senate voted unanimously to increase the judicial mandatory retirement age from 70 to 73. If the bill is approved by the House of Delegates, voters will have a chance to weigh in on the issue during the next election.[9]

All circuit, district and appellate court judges in the state must retire upon reaching the retirement age prescribed in the constitution. However, retired judges older than 70 may be appointed on a temporary basis to any court except the orphans' court.[9]

Selection of federal judges

United States district court judges, who are selected from each state, go through a different selection process than that of state judges.

The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior." They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America nominates judges, who must then be confirmed by the United States Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.[10]

Step ApprovedA Candidacy Proceeds DefeatedD Candidacy Halts
1. Recommendation made by Congress member to the President President nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee President declines nomination
2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews candidate Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to committee
3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation Candidate becomes federal judge Candidate does not receive judgeship

See also

External links


MarylandMaryland Court of AppealsMaryland Court of Special AppealsMaryland District CourtsMaryland Circuit CourtsMaryland Orphans' CourtUnited States District Court for the District of MarylandUnited States bankruptcy court, District of MarylandUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fourth CircuitMaryland countiesMaryland judicial newsMaryland judicial electionsJudicial selection in MarylandMarylandTemplate.jpg