Marylanders to consider renaming high courts with Ballot Question 1
MARYLAND – When Marylanders hit the polls in the November General Election, they will vote on a handful of ballot questions. The questions include issues like residency requirements for certain elected officials, legalizing marijuana, how much civil jury trials can cost, and abolishing the Howard County Orphan’s Court.
Ballot Question 1, however, has to do with changing the names of Maryland’s highest courts. If passed, the ballot question would change the name of the state’s Court of Special Appeals to the Maryland Appellate Court, and the Court of Appeals would become the Supreme Court of Maryland.
The Maryland General Assembly tried to pass a similar measure back in 1990. However, it did not receive enough support from the state’s House of Representatives. In the most recent legislative session, Maryland’s Senate and House pushed the bill to the ballot with an average of 87% of “Yes” votes.
Delaware State University professor of political science Dr. Samuel Hoff tells 47 ABC it’s largely a symbolic move.
“On the practical side, it doesn’t affect the courts other than the fact that we’ll be referring to the Justices on the high court as just that, Justices rather than judges, and to the head of that court as Chief Justice rather than Chief Judge,” said Dr. Hoff. “It seems that there is confusion, not only by attorneys who file case material from out of state, but even in state. You might argue that that confusion has existed since the Court of Special Appeals was created in 1966.”
Only New York and Washington D.C. still use the high court names currently used in Maryland. Dr. Hoff says matching the pattern of the majority of the country might bring more distinction to Maryland’s high courts. “Folks also bring up the fact that this will increase the dignity and stature of the Maryland courts by making this particular move,” said Dr. Hoff.
So, why should the average Marylander care about a symbolic move? “You certainly don’t want to be involved as a litigant in a case that gets mixed up between the courts because of the confusing names,” said Dr. Hoff. “I think the names are more cognizant and consistent with what the courts will actually do, and I think for that reason, citizens should be for that.”
Dr. Hoff says in Maryland’s history, only three ballot questions have been struck down by voters. For that reason, he says this ballot question will likely get the stamp of approval.