Maryland Orphan's Court Judges in Baltimore, Question 3 (2010)
The Orphan's Court was created in 1777, where according to reports, the name derives from London's Court for Widows and Orphans. The Orphan's Court in Baltimore, and in all Maryland counties except of two, did not require its judges to be lawyers, therefore judges did not have to be member of the bar. The amendment required that judges in the court be members of the bar.
During the general election, Maryland voters elected Ramona Moore Baker for the position of judge in the Orphans' Court. Ramona Moore Baker is not a lawyer, according to reports, and the Maryland Attorney General's office issued an opinion stating that the amendment should prevent Baker from taking that office. Baker stated on November 3 that she will sue on the grounds that the measure is unclear. She stated that the proposal did not define "Orphans' Court" on the ballot. She argued that voters believed that the court only deals with children who have lost their parents, and not with estate and probate problems.
According to Baker, "You don’t win and lose. You either win or lose. There’s no loss here.”
- See also: 2010 ballot measure election results
Official results of the measure follow:
|Maryland Question 3 (Orphan's Court Judges)|
Results via Maryland State Board of Elections
Text of measure
The ballot language that voters saw on their ballot read:
Requires judges of the Orphans’ Court in Baltimore City to be members in good standing of the Maryland Bar who are admitted to practice law in Maryland.
(Amending Article IV, Section 40 of the Maryland Constitution)
Under the Maryland Constitution, the voters of each county and Baltimore City elect three judges to the Orphans’ Court of their respective jurisdictions, with the exception of Montgomery and Harford counties, where circuit court judges sit as the Orphans’ Court. The judges must be citizens of the State and residents, for the preceding 12 months, in the city or county in which they are elected. The constitutional amendment would add an additional eligibility requirement for judges of the Orphans’ Court in Baltimore City, requiring them to be members in good standing of the Maryland Bar who are admitted to practice law in Maryland.
For the Constitutional Amendment
Against the Constitutional Amendment
The summary of the measure read:
Proposing an amendment to the Maryland Constitution to prescribe different qualifications for judges of the Orphans' Court for Baltimore City; requiring judges of the Orphans' Court for Baltimore City to have been admitted to practice law in Maryland and be members in good standing of the Maryland Bar; and submitting this amendment to the qualified voters of the State of Maryland for their adoption or rejection.
If approved by the General Assembly, this constitutional amendment will be submitted to the voters at the 2010 general election. It should not result in additional costs for the local boards of election.
There was no known supporting campaign for Question 3.
- On November 2, 2010, voters had the option to vote for Ramona Moore Baker, who was up for the position of judge in the Orphans' Court. However, she was not a lawyer, according to reports, which spelled controversy since she was successful in her bid and the amendment was passed at the same time.
- The Baltimore Sun called for the passage of the measure, stating, "That requirement is not only appropriate, but it's about two centuries overdue. Having people serve as judges who have no legal background is roughly equivalent to staffing emergency rooms with physicians who haven't been to medical school. Sometimes, knowledge counts."
Path to the ballot
The measure was first read and introduced to the Maryland House of Representatives on January 29, 2010. The measure was then passed by the chamber with a vote of 134-5 on March 23, 2010, sending the measure to the Maryland State Senate. The measure was introduced to the Senate on March 26, 2010. The Senate then approved the measure with a vote of 45-2 on April 1, 2010, sending the measure to the general election ballot. Placing a proposed amendment on the ballot must be approved by a 60% vote of each chamber of the Maryland State Legislature. Maryland is one of nine states that allow a referred amendment to go on the ballot after this process.
- Maryland 2010 General Election Ballot Questions, prepared by the Maryland State Board of Elections
- Maryland General Assembly
- 2010 General Election Ballot Questions, "Statewide Ballot Questions", Retrieved August 31, 2010
- Baltimore Sun, "Orphans' Court judges: A question for voters", October 6, 2010
- Maryland Daily Record, "Baltimore Orphans’ Court judge denied seat", November 3, 2010
- Maryland State Board of Elections, "2010 General Election Ballot Questions", Retrieved August 31, 2010
- Baltimore Sun, "Orphans' Court judges: A question for voters (Page 2)", October 6, 2010
- Baltimore Sun, "Our view: Voters statewide should approve Question 3 requiring Baltimore City's Orphans' Court judges to be qualified for office", October 18, 2010
- Maryland Legislature, "Bill Info-HB 417"
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