[Seal, Supreme Court of Maryland] Functions of the Supreme Court of Maryland began in the colonial period. Then, the Upper House of Maryland's Assembly consisted of the Governor and Council, who, in 1664, first reviewed writs of error appealing judgments of the Provincial Court. In 1694, the Governor and Council were authorized by statute to consider appeals from the Provincial Court (Chapter 18, Acts of 1694). The four-member court of Governor and Council first sat in May 1695 in Annapolis.

[photo, Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland] As the highest tribunal in Maryland, the Court of Appeals was created by the Constitution of 1776 (Art. 56). The Court was to be "composed of persons of integrity and sound judgment in the law, whose judgment shall be final and conclusive in all cases of appeal, from the general court, court of chancery, and court of admiralty . . ." With Council advice and consent, the Governor appointed all judges (Art. 48). Five judges were commissioned in 1778, and that number reduced to three in 1801.

Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland, June 2006. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

The Court was restructured in 1806 by dividing the State into six judicial districts (Chapter 55, Acts of 1804, confirmed by Chapter 16, Acts of 1805). For each judicial district, the Governor and Council appointed a chief judge and two associate judges. Together, these six chief judges constituted the Court of Appeals which began to sit on the Western Shore in Annapolis, as well as on the Eastern Shore at Easton.

By the Constitution of 1851, the State was reorganized into four judicial districts. Voters of each district elected a judge to the Court of Appeals for a ten-year term. The Court became responsible solely for appellate duties and sat only at Annapolis (Art. IV, secs. 2, 4). Thereafter, five judges, each elected from one of five judicial districts, were prescribed by the Constitution of 1864 (Art. IV, sec. 17).

[photo, Skylight, Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland] The Constitution of 1867 returned to the older form of requiring Court of Appeals judges to assume trial court and appellate duties. In seven judicial circuits, the Governor, with Senate advice and consent, designated a chief judge. In the eighth judicial circuit (Baltimore City), the voters elected the chief judge. These eight chief judges then constituted the Court of Appeals (Art. IV, sec. 14).

Skylight,, Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland, April 2017. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

Judicial reorganization in 1943 provided for a five-member Court of Appeals elected for terms of fifteen years (Chapter 772, Acts of 1943, ratified Nov. 1944). The five judges included two from Baltimore City and one each from three appellate judicial circuits. The 1st Appellate Judicial Circuit covered the Eastern Shore - Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne's, Caroline, Talbot, Dorchester, Wicomico, Worcester and Somerset counties. The 2nd Appellate Judicial Circuit included central and southern Maryland - Harford, Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Prince George's, Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties. The 3rd Appellate Judicial Circuit encompassed northern and western Maryland - Carroll, Howard, Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties.

In 1960, the number of judges was increased to the present-day seven (Chapter 11, Acts of 1960, ratified Nov. 1960).

The Court of Appeals was renamed the Supreme Court of Maryland on December 14, 2022 by constitutional amendment ratified by the voters, November 8, 2022 (Chapter 82, Acts of 2021).

[photo, Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland] Cases are heard by the Supreme Court of Maryland almost exclusively by way of certiorari (i.e., on review), a process which gives the Court the ability to decide which cases to hear. The Court may review a case decided by the Appellate Court of Maryland or may bring up for review cases filed in that court before they are decided there. Moreover, the Supreme Court of Maryland may review certain decisions rendered by the Circuit Court if that court acted in an appellate capacity on an appeal from the District Court. The Supreme Court of Maryland, however, is required by law to hear cases involving the death penalty, legislative redistricting, removal of certain State officials, and the certifications of questions of law.

Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland, November 2000. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

The Supreme Court of Maryland may adopt rules of judicial administration, practice, and procedure which have the force of law. It also reviews recommendations of the State Board of Law Examiners and conducts disciplinary proceedings involving members of the bench and bar.

Throughout the year, the Supreme Court of Maryland holds hearings on the adoption or amendment of rules of practice and procedure. It also supervises the Attorney Grievance Commission and admits persons to the practice of law (Code Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, secs. 12-301 through 12-307). The term of the Court begins the second Monday of September.

The Supreme Court of Maryland is composed of seven justices, one from each of the seven Appellate Judicial Circuits. After initial appointment by the Governor and confirmation by the Senate, members of the Court run for office on their records without opposition. If the voters reject the retention in office of a judge, or the vote is tied, the office becomes vacant. Otherwise, the incumbent judge is retained in office for a ten-year term. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland, designated by the Governor, is the constitutional administrative head of the Maryland judicial system (Const., Art. IV, secs. 5A, 18(b)).

[photo, Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland] APPELLATE JUDICIAL CIRCUITS
  • Map of Appellate Circuits
  • 1st Appellate Judicial Circuit: Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico & Worcester counties
    2nd Appellate Judicial Circuit: Baltimore County & Harford County
    3rd Appellate Judicial Circuit: Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Howard & Washington counties
    4th Appellate Judicial Circuit: Prince George's County
    5th Appellate Judicial Circuit: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles & St. Mary's counties
    6th Appellate Judicial Circuit: Baltimore City
    7th Appellate Judicial Circuit: Montgomery County

    Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland, April 2015. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


    For the Supreme Court of Maryland, the Clerk maintains the docket, receives briefs and transcripts of cases filed with the Court, and maintains official custody of Court decisions, Acts of the General Assembly, and other records required to be filed with the Court.

    The Clerk is appointed by the Supreme Court of Maryland (Const., Art. IV, sec. 17).

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