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Maryland Manual, 1996-97
Volume 187, Page 26   View pdf image
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tive Reference assists in the preparation of legisla-
tion and maintains information services essential for
legislators and the public. The Department of Fiscal
Services prepares financial impact statements and
monitors fiscal functions for the General Assembly.

One of the single most important tasks of the
General Assembly, and one that requires close co-
ordination and consultation with the Executive
Branch, is adoption of the annual budget for Mary-
land State government. The Constitution specifies
that it is the responsibility of the Governor to
present the annual budget to the General Assembly
within five days of the beginning of each legislative
session. The budget of Maryland must be balanced
—it must not exceed anticipated revenues. This
requirement prevents deficit spending and accounts
in large part for the excellent bond rating enjoyed
by the State. Reflecting the principle of separation
of powers within State government, the Governor
must incorporate into the budget unchanged re-
quests from the legislative and judicial departments,
as well as the estimated expenses required for oper-
ating the public schools. Beyond these items and
other obligations for certain State debts and the
salaries of officials specified in the Constitution, the
Governor has considerable discretion in determin-
ing what programs and agencies to fund in the
budget. The budget process thus is a major policy-
shaping tool for the Governor. Supplemental budg-
ets may be submitted by the Governor after
adoption of the annual budget, but all requests for
such funds must be matched by additional antici-
pated revenues.

JUDICIAL BRANCH

The Judicial Branch is responsible for the resolu-
tion of all matters involving civil and criminal law in
the State of Maryland. Judges base their decisions on
statutory law, common law, or equity. Maryland has a
four-tiered court system consisting of the District
Court of Maryland, Circuit Courts, the Court of
Special Appeals, and the Court of Appeals.

The District Court of Maryland was created in
1971 on a statewide basis in each county and Balti-
more City. As a court of limited jurisdiction, it replaced
local justices of the peace and county trial magistrates.
District Courts have jurisdiction in minor civil and
criminal matters and in virtually all violations of the
Motor Vehicle Law. District Court judges are ap-
pointed by the Governor for ten-year terms.

In each county and in Baltimore City is a Circuit
Court. The Circuit Court has original jurisdiction

over more serious criminal and civil cases and also
hears appeals from decisions in the District Court.
Circuit Court judges are nominated by special ju-
dicial selection commissions and appointed by the
Governor, or they may be elected by the voters. At
the first statewide election occurring at least one
year after their appointment, Circuit Court judges
must successfully stand for election to continue in
office for a term of fifteen years.

The Court of Special Appeals is the second
highest court in Maryland. Like the State's highest
court, the Court of Special Appeals is an appellate
court. It was established in 1966 to ease the
caseload of the Court of Appeals and to facilitate
resolution of cases requiring appellate adjudication.
The thirteen judges of the Court of Special Appeals
are appointed by the Governor with Senate consent
for ten-year terms, subject to approval of the voters
at the next election after their appointment. The
Court of Special Appeals has exclusive initial appel-
late jurisdiction over any reviewable judgment, de-
cree, order, or other action of a circuit court, except
for appeals in criminal cases in which the death
penalty is imposed.

The Court of Appeals has a long history in
Maryland, dating from the seventeenth century and
reformed by the first State constitution of 1776. As
Maryland's highest court, the Court of Appeals
reviews cases of major importance where the deci-
sions rendered are based on constitutional interpre-
tation of the law. The seven judges of the Court of
Appeals are appointed by the Governor with Senate
consent. They serve ten-year terms. Like judges of
the Court of Special Appeals, Judges of the Court
of Appeals must win approval of the electorate at
the first election occurring at least one year after
their appointment.

Various units, boards, and commissions exist
within the judiciary to facilitate the judicial process
and assist judges of the different courts. The Admin-
istrative Office of the Courts, for example, assists the
Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals in carrying out
administrative duties. The Judicial Nominating
Commissions present names to the Governor when
vacancies occur on any of the appellate or circuit
courts. The State Law Library is the principal law
reference library in the State. Also within the Judi-
cial Branch are the State Board of Law Examiners,
which conducts examinations for prospective mem-
bers of the State Bar, and the Attorney Grievance
Commission, charged with supervising and admin-
istering the discipline of attorneys.

 

 



 
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Maryland Manual, 1996-97
Volume 187, Page 26   View pdf image
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