Saying Baltimore had the right idea, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. is seeking a constitutional amendment that would require the judges on the Prince George’s County Orphan’s Court to be Maryland attorneys.
“Life is so complicated and estates are so large,” Miller told a Senate panel Wednesday in explaining why judges who hear probate cases in one of Maryland’s most populous counties should be learned in the law.
“You need somebody sharp on the orphans’ court,” Miller, D-Prince George’s and Calvert, told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. “You need somebody trained in the law.”
But Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, a committee member, appeared unconvinced. “A wise and compassionate CPA” who understands the financial implications of wills, trusts and estates would make a fine orphans’ court judge, said Forehand, D-Montgomery.
Miller disagreed, saying certified public accountants are better suited at providing expert testimony in orphans’ court cases than at making the ultimate legal conclusion.
If the General Assembly approves the amendment — Senate Bill 281 — Maryland voters will be asked in November 2012 if orphans’ court judges in Prince George’s County must be Maryland lawyers.
Miller’s testimony followed the ratification by Maryland voters last November of a constitutional amendment requiring that judges on the Orphans’ Court of Baltimore City be Maryland attorneys. The amendment made Baltimore’s Orphans’ Court the only one in the state whose judges must be members of the bar.
Ratification also led Gov. Martin O’Malley to refuse to seat Ramona Moore Baker, a non-lawyer, on the Baltimore court — even though she had won election to the bench the same day as the statewide vote. O’Malley said he was following the advice of Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who concluded that seating Moore would violate the newly amended constitution.