The Courts They Are a-Changin’
By John Grimm
Tuesday was an election night full of historic firsts for Maryland—including the first Black governor and attorney general, the first South Asian woman lieutenant governor, and the first woman to win statewide state office independently. It also marked the fruition of the seemingly quixotic legislative project of giving Maryland’s appellate courts names that make sense. By a margin of 73% to 27%, voters approved a constitutional amendment changing the name of the state’s highest court from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Maryland (and the title of its jurists from judge to justice), and the state’s intermediate appellate court from the Court of Special Appeals to the Appellate Court of Maryland.
The name change has been years in the making. I wrote about it, and why it made a lot of sense, back in 2019, and it was not a newfangled idea even then. Now that it’s a reality, there are a number of fascinating practical questions. When will the courts’ names officially change? Is it more or less complicated than changing all the highway signs with the governor’s name? If you have a brief due soon, how do you caption it? Has anyone alerted the Bluebook?
I think the new change is exciting, and even though the courts’ names don’t really affect people’s lives, taking the names seriously enough to update them is an important way to recognize how much the courts do matter in people’s lives. I am sure that some people—362,685 of them, apparently—will miss the old names, and regret the loss of something that made Maryland’s high court stand out (but it’s not like the red robes are going anywhere). That’s understandable, and changing traditions is hard, but I think this change is a good one. I guess you could say that, for me at least, the new names hold a certain…special appeal.