Stories about Maryland

Maryland voters will decide whether to rename the Maryland Court of Appeals and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in 2022

On April 6, the Maryland State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the November 2022 ballot that would rename the Maryland Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Maryland and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to the Appellate Court of Maryland. It would also change the name of a Judge of the Court of Appeals to a Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland and the name of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland. The measure would also amend the gendered language to be gender-neutral in the articles of the Maryland Constitution that would be amended.

In a hearing on the bill, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Mary Ellen Barbera said, “There is confusion from beyond the borders of our state as lawyers, law students and litigants research, contact and even file papers with the wrong court. That same confusion persists among Marylanders.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a 60% vote is required in both the Maryland State Senate and the Maryland House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 885 (HB 885) on January 29, 2021, by Delegate Ron Watson (D). It was approved in the state House by a vote of 125-10 on March 21, 2021. On April 6, 2021, the Maryland State Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 40-7.

The Maryland Court of Appeals is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in Maryland. Judges are appointed to serve 10-year terms with confirmation from the Maryland State Senate. The seven judges of the Maryland Court of Appeals are appointed by the governor from a list submitted by a judicial nominating commission and are subject to state Senate confirmation. After serving for at least one year, judges must stand in yes-no retention elections to determine whether they will remain on the court. Maryland has a mandatory retirement age for all judges of 70 years.

From 1996 through 2020, 33 of 36 (92%) statewide measures in Maryland were approved, and three of 36 (8%) were defeated.

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In four states, no state or federal officials have tested positive for COVID-19

Between the start of the coronavirus pandemic and March 18, 2021, no elected or appointed state or federal officials announced positive COVID-19 test results in four states—Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont. In the 46 other states, Ballotpedia has identified at least one COVID-19 positive state or federal official within our coverage scope. State and federal officials include members of Congress, state legislators, and state executive officeholders.

The first COVID-19 positive state officials identified by Ballotpedia were New York state Reps. Helene Weinstein (D) and Charles Barron (D), who announced positive test results on March 14, 2020. The first members of Congress to test positive were Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fl.), who made their announcements March 18.

Since then, Ballotpedia has identified 215 candidates and officials diagnosed with COVID-19 at the state level, and 69 candidates and officials with COVID-19 at the federal level.

The state with the highest number of publicly identified COVID-19 state and federal officials is Pennsylvania, where two U.S. House members, the governor, and 17 members of the state legislature have tested positive since March 2020.

To read more about federal, state, and local officials and candidates affected by COVID-19, click the link below.

Gov. Hogan appoints Marlon Amprey to Maryland House of Delegates

On Dec. 29, 2020, the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee nominated Marlon Amprey (D) to the Maryland House of Delegates to represent District 40. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) approved the nomination and formally appointed Amprey to the seat on Jan. 6, effective Jan. 13.  

Amprey will succeed Nick Mosby (D), who resigned in December 2020 when he was sworn in as Baltimore City Council president.

The Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee nominated Amprey on Dec. 29 by a 4-3 vote. Amprey was one of 15 to apply for the position. Prior to his appointment, Amprey worked as an associate with the law firm Cole Schotz P.C. He has also worked as a teacher.

According to Maryland law, the governor has 30 days after a vacancy to make an appointment based on the recommendations of the political party committee that holds the vacant seat. The political party committee has up to 30 days after the vacancy to submit a list of recommended candidates to the governor. If the party committee fails to act within the 30 day deadline, the governor has 15 days to appoint a person from the political party that last held the seat.

In 2020, there were 142 state legislative vacancies in 41 states. As of Jan. 13, 121 of those vacancies have been filled. Amprey is one of 59 Democrats to fill state legislative vacancies from 2020. 

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Longtime Maryland state Senator Miller resigns

Maryland State Senator Thomas Miller Jr. (D) resigned on Dec. 23 due to health reasons. He had announced in Jan. 2019 that he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Miller had represented District 27 since 1975. He served as Senate president for 33 years—from 1987 to 2020—the longest anyone has served as Maryland Senate president, according to The Washington Post. Prior to joining the state Senate, Miller served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1971 to 1975.  

According to Maryland law, the governor has 30 days after the vacancy to make an appointment based on the recommendations of the political party committee that holds the vacant seat. The political party committee has up to 30 days after the vacancy to submit a list of recommended candidates to the governor. If the party committee fails to act within the 30-day deadline, the governor has 15 days to appoint a person from the political party that last held the seat.   

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Three Maryland Court of Appeals justices seek retention in November

Maryland Court of Appeals Justices Brynja McDivitt Booth, Jonathan Biran, and Mary Ellen Barbera are all seeking retention on November 3, 2020. Booth and Biran were appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) while Barbera was appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

Currently, three of the seven justices on the court were appointed by a Democratic governor while four were appointed by a Republican governor.

The governor appoints the seven justices of the appellate court with the assistance of a judicial nominating commission. The Maryland Appellate Courts Judicial Nominating Commission is made up of 17 members, all appointed by the governor. Five of these members are first nominated by the Maryland State Bar Association. After the governor appoints a justice, the Maryland Senate must then confirm the appointment.

New justices must face a retention election during the next general election after they serve at least one year on the bench. Justices then stand for retention every ten years with a mandatory retirement age of 70. Since 2008, justices facing retention elections have won 98% of the time. In Maryland, there has not been a single justice that lost retention during this same time frame.

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Serafini resigns from Maryland State Senate

Maryland Sen. Andrew Serafini (R) resigned from the state legislature on August 1, citing the demands of his more than decade-long tenure in state government as a motivating factor. Serafini represented District 2A in the Maryland House of Delegates from 2009 to 2015, assuming office in the Maryland State Senate in February 2015.

Serafini wrote in a letter to his senate colleagues that “leaving my family on a Monday and not returning home until Friday late afternoon” took a toll on him. He also wrote, “Frankly, being a Republican from a rural area has also worn on me.” Before he resigned, Serafini was one of 15 Republican senators in the 47-seat chamber. Democrats have held a majority in the chamber since at least 1990.

Governor Larry Hogan (R) will appoint Serafini’s replacement from a list of candidates recommended by Republican committee officials in the district. The appointee will serve the remainder of Serafini’s unexpired term, which is set to end on January 10, 2023.

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Maryland and Florida see leadership changes in ALJ corps

Leadership changes occurred this week in Maryland and Florida’s administrative law judge (ALJ) corps. The governor’s power to appoint head ALJs in these and similar states helps the executive direct and oversee state administrative activity.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) on June 9 appointed Chung Ki Pak to serve as the state’s new chief ALJ. Pak will manage the roughly 60 ALJs employed by the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings, which provides Maryland state agencies with ALJs to hold hearings and adjudicate disputes.

In Florida, Chief ALJ John MacIver, an appointee of Governor Ron DeSantis (R), resigned on June 9 to transition to a new role as counsel for the state’s chief financial officer. DeSantis must gain approval from his cabinet to appoint MacIver’s replacement. Florida’s chief ALJ also serves as the director of the state Division of Administrative Hearings, which provides ALJs to state agencies, cities, counties, and independent government entities to adjudicate disputes.

Maryland and Florida are examples of states with centralized ALJ panels. Unlike federal ALJs, who are appointed by agency heads to hold administrative hearings at specific agencies, 27 states centralize their ALJ corps and provide ALJs to state agencies on request. The goal of the centralized ALJ structure is to protect procedural rights for citizens in administrative adjudication by ensuring that the presiding judge is independent of the agency that is a party to the case.

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New Maryland Commissioner of Insurance takes office

Newest Maryland Commissioner of Insurance Kathleen Birrane assumed office May 18. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appointed Birrane May 1 to replace former commissioner Alfred Redmer Jr. Redmer left the Maryland Insurance Administration to become executive director of the Maryland Auto Insurance Fund starting May 18. He had served as commissioner since 2015 after previously holding the position from 2003 to 2005.

The Maryland Commissioner of Insurance serves as head of the Maryland Insurance Administration, an independent agency within the state executive branch created in 1993. The commissioner oversees the department’s efforts to regulate the state’s insurance companies and producers and investigate complaints consumers have about their insurance coverage. Commissioners are appointed by the governor with advice and consent from the Maryland State Senate and serve four-year terms.

Ballotpedia covers 12 state executive offices in Maryland. Seven of those offices are nonpartisan, including the Commissioner of Insurance. Three offices–Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary of State–are held by Republican officials. Democratic officials hold the offices of Attorney General and Comptroller.

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Maryland Sports Betting Expansion Measure will appear on November ballots

The Maryland Sports Betting Expansion Measure, a legislatively referred state statute, was certified for the ballot on May 7. The ballot measure would authorize sports and events wagering at certain licensed facilities. The state revenue generated by such activities would be primarily dedicated to funding public education.

On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Murphy v. NCAA that the federal government could not require states to prohibit sports betting, thereby overturning the federal ban and allowing states to legalize sports betting. As of March 2020, 16 states had active sports betting industries, three of which legalized sports betting by approving a statewide ballot measure. South Dakota voters will vote on a legislatively referred constitutional amendment in November that would legalize sports betting within the city limits of Deadwood, South Dakota.

The Maryland Constitution requires that the Maryland General Assembly refer laws expanding commercial wagering to voters at a general election. In Maryland, a simple majority vote is needed in each chamber of the Maryland General Assembly to refer a state statute to the ballot. The governor is able to veto bills proposing legislatively referred state statutes. The governor has 30 days to sign or veto the bills after they are presented to him. If the governor does not sign a bill by the deadline, the bill is enacted without his signature.

On March 14, 2020, the Maryland House of Representatives voted 129-3 in favor of the measure. On March 18, the Maryland State Senate voted 45-0. Governor Larry Hogan (R) did not sign or veto the bill by the May 7 deadline. Therefore, the sports betting measure was certified for the ballot on May 7 without his signature.

During the 2020 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly also referred to the 2020 ballot the Legislative Authority over State Budget Amendment, which would authorize the Maryland General Assembly to increase, decrease, or add items to the state budget as long as such measures do not exceed the total proposed budget submitted by the governor.

Since 1996, 34 measures appeared on Maryland ballots. Of that total, 31 were approved, and three were defeated. One legislatively referred state statute appeared on Maryland ballots between 1996 and 2019, and it was approved.

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Maryland courts set tentative reopen date

On May 7, Chief Justice for the Maryland Court of Appeals Ellen Barbera announced that courts in the state could begin to reopen on June 8. Barbera told lawmakers during a Maryland State Senate hearing, per an article from, “Even if that day holds, I can assure you, this does not mean that Monday, June 8, will be business as usual for the Maryland judiciary.”

The Chief Justice said that reopening would come in phases and courthouses would require restructuring to incorporate social distancing measures. Since mid-March, when courts were first ordered closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Maryland courts have moved using remote technology, such as video or phone conferences, for some hearings.

Ballotpedia is tracking how state courts are responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, 34 states suspended in-person proceedings statewide, and 16 states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.