Maryland Question 1 & Question 2: double-majorities required to pass, plus what trial judges must be attorneys in other states?

October 17th, 2012 by Bill Raftery Leave a reply »

Voters in Maryland will once again be voting on whether to require certain judges in the state be attorneys. In 2010 voters amended the state constitution to require that Orphan’s Court (read: probate) judges in the city of Baltimore must be attorneys. Question 1 (SB 281 0f 2011) and Question 2 (SB 48 of 2012) would extend that requirement to the Orphan’s Court judges of Prince George’s County and Baltimore County, respectively.

Double-majorities required to pass

Interestingly, the two bills were at one point intertwined. SB 281 of 2011 as introduced, dealt only with Prince George’s County. It was amended to include Baltimore County, however the state constitution created a sticking point. Under Article XIV, § 1, an amendment dealing with only one county or jurisdiction has to get the approval of a majority of a voters both statewide and in the county/jurisdiction affected. Multi-county proposals aren’t so constrained

If the General Assembly determines that a proposed Constitutional amendment affects only one county or the City of Baltimore, the proposed amendment shall be part of the Constitution if it receives a majority of the votes cast in the State and in the affected county or City of Baltimore, as the case may be. When two or more amendments shall be submitted to the voters of this State at the same election, they shall be so submitted as that each amendment shall be voted on separately.

The House amended SB 281 of 2011 to get rid of Baltimore County and thus return the bill to a single county amendment. SB 48 of 2012 was introduced and adopted for Baltimore County.

What do other states do?

A majority of states allow at least some judges to be non-attorneys, although in practice attorneys often fill these positions it is not always the case. Moreover, the tendency is to move away from such “lay” judges; in addition to Maryland’s 2010 amendment Georgia voted in 2011 to discontinue the practice of electing lay judges for Municipal Courts (those already serving may continue to do so and be reelected).

Details below the fold

State Courts Notes
Alabama Probate Jefferson and Montgomery County judge must be attorney
Arizona Justice of the Peace, Municipal
Arkansas City
Colorado County & Municipal
Connecticut Probate 2009 law requires all Probate Court Judges be attorneys. Non-attorney Probate Judges in office on January 4, 2011 may remain and be reappointed.
Delaware Justice of the Peace & Alderman’s  Law degree required in city of Newark
Georgia Civil, Magistrate, County Recorder’s, Municipal 2011 law requires all Municipal Court judges be attorneys. Non-attorney Municipal Judges in office as of June 2011 may remain and be re-elected.
Indiana City & Town County Court judges did not need to be attorneys. However, the last county discontinued its County Court in favor of the state’s Superior and Circuit courts in 2009.
Kansas Municipal Must be attorney in cities of the first class.
Louisiana Justice of the Peace, Mayor’s, City & Parish
Maryland Orphan’s In 2010, voters approved a constitutional amendment to require Orphan’s Court judges in the City of Baltimore be attorneys.
Mississippi Justice of the Peace, Municipal (cities below 10,000)
Missouri Municipal (cities below 7,500)
Montana Justice of the Peace, City
Nevada Justice of the Peace (elected/appointed before October 1, 2005), Municipal
New Mexico Magistrate, Municipal,  Probate
New York Town & Village Justice
North Dakota Municipal (in cities less than 5,000)
Ohio Mayor’s
Oregon County, Justice, Municipal
Pennsylvania Magisterial District Judges
South Carolina Magistrate, Probate, Municipal
South Dakota Magistrate
Tennessee Municipal
Texas Justice of the Peace,  Municipal
Utah Justice
West Virginia Magistrate, Municipal
Wisconsin Municipal
Wyoming Municipal

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