Question 3: Should Baltimore City’s orphans’ court judges be required to be lawyers?

Question 3: Should Baltimore City’s orphans’ court judges be required to be lawyers?

As you will see it on the ballot:

Question 3
Constitutional Amendment
(House Bill 417, Chapter 481 of the 2010 Legislative Session)
Qualifications for Baltimore City Orphans’ Court Judges

Requires judges of the Orphans’ Court in Baltimore City to be members in good standing of the Maryland Bar who are admitted to practice law in Maryland.

(Amending Article IV, Section 40 of the Maryland Constitution)

Under the Maryland Constitution, the voters of each county and Baltimore City elect three judges to the Orphans’ Court of their respective jurisdictions, with the exception of Montgomery and Harford counties, where circuit court judges sit as the Orphans’ Court. The judges must be citizens of the State and residents, for the preceding 12 months, in the city or county in which they are elected. The constitutional amendment would add an additional eligibility requirement for judges of the Orphans’ Court in Baltimore City, requiring them to be members in good standing of the Maryland Bar who are admitted to practice law in Maryland.

Arguments “for” requiring orphans’ court judges to be Maryland lawyers first:

Judges should have a basic standard of expertise in law.  Requiring that judges be a member of the bar provides that. 


Arguments “against” requiring orphans’ court judges to be Maryland lawyers first:

People with financial backgrounds are just as qualified to deal with probate issues as lawyers. The state’s other Orphans’ Court judges, who preside in 21 of the 23 Maryland counties, still would not have to be lawyers if the amendment passes.  It would only apply to Baltimore City.

Extra Information:  Even though the orphans’ court question pertains only to Baltimore City, it’s up for statewide vote because it proposes a change to the state constitution, according to Jared DeMarinis, the Maryland State Board of Elections’ director of candidacy and campaign finance. As a side note Montgomery County.

Montgomery County is one of two in Maryland that does not have a separate Orphan’s Court per se.  Here Circuit court judges preside over Orphans’ Court cases. Circuit court judges also deal with other types of cases and are required to have law degrees and be a member of the Maryland bar.

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