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Supreme Court of Maryland

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The Court of Appeals originated in 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. When the assembly divided into two houses in 1650, the upper house, or governor and council, became the Court of Appeals.

During the Revolution, the Court of Appeals was reformed by the Maryland Constitution of 1776 (sec. 56). Judges were appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the council (sec. 48). The court sat on the Western Shore in Annapolis.

By 1805, the chief judges of the six judicial districts of the state constituted the Court of Appeals (Acts of 1804, ch. 55). 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.

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 the advice and consent of the Senate. Judges served a ten-year term, which was renewable (Md. Const. 1851, Art. 4, sec. 4).

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

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

Court membership increased in 1960 to seven judges (Acts of 1960, ch. 11).

The name of the Court of Appeals was changed in December 2022 to the Supreme Court of Maryland. (Acts of 2021, ch. 82). The law also established that the judges were to now be referred to as justices.

Source: Edward C. Papenfuse, et al., The Archives of Maryland, new series, An Historical List of Public Officials of Maryland, Vol. I. (Annapolis, MD: Maryland State Archives, 1990).

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