The General Assembly has passed a bill to amend the Maryland Constitution and rename the state’s appellate courts.
Voters will be able to approve or reject the change on the the ballot in the 2022 General Election.
The bill — which passed the Maryland Senate 40-7 on Tuesday after passing the House of Delegates 125-10 last month — renames the Court of Appeals as the Supreme Court of Maryland and renames the Court of Special Appeals as the Appellate Court of Maryland.
If affirmed by voters, the measure would also rename the chief judge of the Court of Appeals as the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland.
Maryland’s top judges testified in favor of the bill earlier this legislative session.
“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,” Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Mary Ellen Barbera said at a bill hearing. “That same confusion persists among Marylanders.”
Forty-eight states call their highest appellate court their supreme court, and debate over a name change goes back to the Maryland Constitutional Convention of 1967-1968, Barbera said.
The seven-judge Court of Appeals was established as the state’s highest court by the Maryland Constitution of 1776 and has been altered several times since.
The 15-judge Court of Special Appeals was established in 1966 to ease the caseload of the Court of Appeals and it hears almost all initial appeals of Circuit Court cases, as well as some others.
As a constitutional amendment, the bill can not be vetoed by the governor and will not take effect unless approved by voters.