The Judiciary in Maryland:  Appointment and Retirement

The Court system in Maryland mirrors the three tiered federal system.  That is, there are three levels of courts, viz., the District Courts, the Circuit Courts and the Appellate Courts in Annapolis.  The federal system has District Courts, Circuit Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court in Washington, DC.  All of the federal judges are appointed by the President and must be confirmed by majority vote of the US Senate.  All state District Court judges are appointed by the Governor and are confirmed by a majority vote of the state senate.  The Circuit Court and Appellate judges are confirmed by the electorate. Any attorney in good standing may file against the Governor’s Circuit Court appointments.   Appellate judges need only be confirmed by majority vote, with no interlopers allowed to file against them.

No Appellate judge in Maryland, that is judges from the both the Court of Appeals as well as the Court of Special Appeals, has ever been turned out by the electorate.  Several of the Governors Circuit Court appointments have been defeated in recent years in Baltimore City and in the surrounding counties, particularly Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel Counties.  There exist state wide hearing officers and local hearing officers who are sometimes referred to as judges.  The state employs a system of Administrative Law judges to hear cases from state agencies, especially the motor vehicle administration.  These hearing officers are hired by the chief ALJ and not by the Governor.  Appeals from the decisions go the state Circuit Courts. Counties employ hearing officers to render decisions in regard to local agencies like the zoning offices.  These appeals eventually reach the Circuit Courts.  These hearing officers are usually appointed by the County Executive.

As to retirement, all of the aforementioned judicial positions are not constrained by age limitations except for the State of Maryland judges. Most judges may serve until they are rendered ineffective by incompetence, political whim or death.  But State of Maryland judges are required by the state constitution to retire at the age of seventy.  Meanwhile Justices such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the US Supreme Court, who appears to be well into her 80s, just keep churning out their opinions, between naps.

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