Maryland Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals, the highest court in the State of Maryland, was created by the Maryland Constitution of 1776. Its origins go back to 1694 when royal governor Francis Nicholson first established the Court of Appeals, our state's “supreme court.” Technically, the name of the court is the Court of Appeals of Maryland, but it is typically referred to as the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Maryland Court of Appeals

The court hears cases almost exclusively by way of certiorari, a discretionary review process. In other words, it only considers cases that it believes have issues are worth addressing. If the court does not believe there is an issue that needs to be given further consideration or analysis, it will deny certiorari and refuse to hear the case. A petition for writ of certiorari filed in the Maryland Court of Appeals seeking the court to overrule a decision of the Court of Special Appeals must be submitted no later than 15 days from the date of the order of the Court of Special Appeals.

Another important function of the Maryland Court of Appeals is that the court may adopt rules of judicial administration, practice, and procedure that have the force of law. The most notable example of this is Maryland Rules which sets forth the rules of practice and procedure for Maryland state courts.

The Maryland Court of Appeals also has the obligation to supervise the exercise of the disciplinary and reinstatement powers of the local courts, as the court of appeals has original and complete jurisdiction over attorney discipline matters.4 A court has a duty to insist upon the maintenance of the integrity of the Bar and to prevent the transgressions of an individual lawyer from bringing its image into disrepute.

There are currently six active Court of Appeals judges on what is a seven-judge panel.  They are:

  • Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera
  • Judge Sally D. Adkins
  • Judge Robert N. McDonald
  • Judge Michele D. Hotten
  • Judge Clayton Greene, Jr.
  • Judge Shirley M. Watts 

Judge Lynne A. Battaglia is now retiring, leaving five candidates competing for her spot. The are:

  •  Hon. Kathryn Grill Graeff from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals;
  • Thomas Edward Lynch, III, a partner at Miles & Stockbridge;
  • Andrew David Levy, a partner at Brown Goldstein Levy;
  • Joseph Michael Getty, a former State Senator with deep Republican party ties; and
  • Hon. Donald E. Beachley  a Washington County Circuit Court judge. 
Maryland Court of Appeals judges have traditionally (and remarkably) been very nonpartisan, nonpolitical judges.  Governor Ehrlich and Governor O'Malley both seemed to set party affiliation aside and reach to select the most qualified judge. It will be interesting so see what Governor Hogan does.

One thing that surprises people about the Maryland Court of Appeals is that, unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, retired Court of Appeals judges often stay on the bench.  It is an odd rule that allows retired judges to be recalled into service on the court.  Often major 4-3 rulings involve one or more retired judges who return to the court.  Retired judges give Maryland a very deep bench of knowledge and experience.  But whether there is wisdom in having an inconsistent court is another question that is harder to answer. 

In the past, there has been a struggle getting opinions back from the court.  New Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera has done a fantastic job of turning that around and getting opinions decided in a reasonable time frame. 

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