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Miller puts off vote on ending judicial elections - until next year

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller agreed to request by Gov. Larry Hogan to hold off voting on a constitutional amendment that would end election of Circuit Court judges in Maryland.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller agreed to request by Gov. Larry Hogan to hold off voting on a constitutional amendment that would end election of Circuit Court judges in Maryland.(Barbara Haddock Taylor)

A bid to end elections for trial court judges in Maryland is being put on hold until next year, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said Friday.

Miller informed fellow senators that he had agreed to a request by Gov. Larry Hogan to table a proposed constitutional amendment on selection and retention of Circuit Court juges.

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Under current law, Circuit Court judges are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, but they most be approved at the next election by the voters of the jurisdiction in which they preside. The election is an open one, meaning that qualified lawyers can run against - and sometimes defeat - sitting judges.  The amendment would require judges to be reappointed - and confirmed - every 10 years.

At least some trial judges must stand for election in 31 states, according to legislative analysts. Many believe facing the voters is a good way to hold judges accountable. But others believe that requiring judges to run for election undermines the impartiality, independence, and professionalism of the judiciary.

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The measure had a hearing earlier this month. With 29 Democratic senators listed as cosponsors, it has enough votes to get out of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and enough to pass if no cosponsors defect.

Miller said the governor told him he was "probably" in favor of ending judicial elections, but wanted to study it more.  And since any state constitutional change could not take place until Marylanders can vote on it in 2016, Miller said he saw no harm in waiting.

"We're going to pass it next year," he said.

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