SUPREME COURT OF MARYLAND

HISTORICAL EVOLUTION


[photo, Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland] Origins of the Supreme Court of Maryland trace to the seventeenth century. During the early years of the settlement of Maryland, the General Assembly sat as a court of law, as well as a legislature. In 1650, when the Assembly divided into two houses, the upper house, which consisted of the Governor and Council, became the Court of Appeals.

At the time of the American Revolution, the Court of Appeals was reformed by the Maryland Constitution of 1776 (sec. 56). Judges were appointed by the Governor with advice and consent of the Council (sec. 48), and the Court sat on the Western Shore in Annapolis.


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


[photo, Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland] By 1805, chief justices of the six judicial districts of the State constituted the Court of Appeals (Chapter 55, Acts of 1804). From 1805 to 1851, the Court sat at Easton on the Eastern Shore, as well as at Annapolis. Judges held their commissions upon good behavior, but could be removed by the Governor with the concurrence of two thirds of the members of each house of the General Assembly.


Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland, November 2002. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


The Constitution of 1851 provided for a single Court of Appeals, which sat at Annapolis. Judges were chosen by the electorate. The Court consisted of four judges, each of whom was elected from one of four judicial districts. From the elected judges, the Chief Judge was designated by the Governor with advice and consent of the Senate. Judges served a ten-year term, which was renewable (Constitution of 1851, Art. 4, sec. 4).

The 1864 Constitution increased both the number of judges and the number of judicial districts from four to five (Constitution of 1864, Art. 4, sec. 17). Judges served fifteen-year terms. By the Constitution of 1867 the number of judicial districts and judges each increased from five to eight (Constitution of 1867, Art. 4, sec. 14).

A reorganization of the Court, in 1944, reduced the number of judges to five (Chapter 772, Acts of 1943). One judge was elected from each of three appellate circuits, and two were elected from the fourth appellate circuit (Baltimore City).

In 1960, Court of Appeals membership increased to seven judges (Chapter 11, Acts of 1960).


[photo, Court of Appeals, Annapolis, Maryland, 2013] 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).

Court of Appeals Judges, Annapolis, Maryland, August 2013. Photo courtesy of Court of Appeals Office of Communications & Public Affairs.

From left to right: Robert N. McDonald; Clayton Greene, Jr.; Glenn T. Harrell, Jr.; Mary Ellen Barbera (Chief Judge); Lynne A. Battaglia; Sally D. Adkins; Shirley M. Watts.


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