Maryland appellate courts likely getting new names, maybe new building

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

As Steve Lash reported at The Daily Record on Wednesday, the 2022 general election ballot will include a proposed constitutional amendment under which the Court of Appeals of Maryland would become the Supreme Court of Maryland, its members would be called “Chief Justice” and “Justice,” and the Court of Special Appeals would become the Appellate Court of Maryland.

Although the election is 19 months away, the amendment is overwhelmingly likely to win approval on November 8, 2022. By my count, 29 constitutional amendments have gone before Maryland voters since 1994, and voters have approved all but two. Nearly all have received at least two-thirds (67%) support. The only amendments to fail were controversial proposals to raise the judicial retirement age to 75 in 1994 (which came close to passage with 48% of the vote), and to allow “quick take” condemnation of property for redevelopment in Prince George’s County in 2000 (which garnered only 38% support). Only one other amendment came close to rejection—a 2002 amendment relating to emergency legislative powers won 50.6% approval.

There is nothing in the name-change amendment likely to draw the kind of opposition that would make approval even close. The drafters were so careful to avoid any financial burdens that, under the proposal, “letterhead, business cards, and other documents reflecting the renaming … may not be used until all letterhead, business cards, and other documents already in print and reflecting the” existing names “have been used.”

Those courts may also have a new home in the coming years. Also on Wednesday, the Maryland Board of Public Works approved an $8.5 million contract for the design of a new building for the appellate courts, through the creation of construction bid documents. Holden Wilen reports at the Baltimore Business Journal that the new building would be on Rowe Boulevard and replace the “functionally obsolete” Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, constructed in 1970. The contract term is 10 years, reflecting that the the process will take a while.

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