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O’Malley declines to seat elected Baltimore Orphans’ Court judge

Ramona Moore Baker

Ramona Moore Baker

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will follow the advice of counsel and not seat Ramona Moore Baker, a non-lawyer, on the Orphans’ Court of Baltimore City — even though she was elected to the bench in November, the governor’s office said Tuesday.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, in an advisory opinion, told O’Malley last month that seating Baker would violate the state constitution. That’s because on the same day Baker won her seat, state voters approved a constitutional amendment that only permits Maryland attorneys to be Orphans’ Court judges in Baltimore.

“There is no dispute that Ms. Baker garnered the requisite number of votes to win one of the three Orphans’ Court seats at issue in the election,” Gansler wrote in the opinion O’Malley requested.

“There is also no dispute that she lacks one of the constitutional qualifications for the position,” Gansler added. “In these circumstances, the issuance of a commission to her, although a ministerial act, would be at odds with the state constitution.”

Within hours of her Election Day victory, Baker said she had retained an attorney and would pursue legal options if denied the seat. But on Tuesday, she made no mention of a court challenge.

“I trust in the Lord of my salvation for the outcome,” she wrote in an e-mail message.

Heading into Election Day, Baker was assured victory. She was one of three candidates for the three seats on the court, which handles probate issues and has jurisdiction over guardianship matters.

Baker, an interior designer, finished second in the race, having received 33.97 percent of the votes cast. That result placed her behind the court’s chief judge, Joyce M. Baylor-Thompson, with 34.72 percent, and ahead of Judge Lewyn Scott Garrett, with 31.04 percent.

But in a statewide ballot, Maryland voters approved — by a nearly 5-to-1 margin — the constitutional amendment making Baltimore’s Orphans’ Court the only one in the state whose judges must be members of the bar.

Baylor-Thompson and Garrett, both lawyers, were outspoken during the campaign season in urging Marylanders to vote for the amendment, which was Question #3 on the statewide ballot. They said a glib understanding of the law and experience in conducting legal research are crucial in deciding the large number of cases that come before Baltimore’s Orphans’ Court.

Garrett, before the election, said being a lawyer is as essential to the task of judging as being a periodontist is to the task of oral surgery.

“I consider myself intelligent, but if you need a root canal, do not come to me,” he said.

Baker — who ran unsuccessfully for the judgeship in 2006 — countered Baylor-Thompson and Garrett by noting that two-thirds of the state’s Orphans’ Court judges are not lawyers, according to the Maryland Judiciary.

Baltimore’s Orphans’ Court has been without a third judge since O’Malley appointed Karen Friedman to the District Court in July. O’Malley may appoint a Maryland attorney to fill the vacancy.

8 comments

  1. Maryland citizens unknowingly approved a constitutional admendment making Baltimore County the only Maryland County requiring the Orphans’ Court judges to be lawters. This is a unjust discrimatory action against the citizens of Baltimore County, Md. It would be good if all judges in the Maryland and American Judiciary were not required to be lawyers. There would be more justice and legal costs to citizens might be reduced. The game is “what’s going on?”

    Robert hunter

  2. It’s Baltimore City and not Baltimore County, Mr. Hunter. At any rate, the people have spoken and decided this issue, regardless of how you or I might have decided it.

  3. John Norman dies in 2010, Orphans Cort Judge in Fredrck Md.

    God will prevail for Ramona Moore Baker and the Orphans court in Baltimore City

  4. The Governor, the Attorney General and the Assiistant Attorney General,may all delay the the swearing in of Ramona Moore Baker for the Orphans court for Batlimore City but it will not be denied.

    God has the final say.

  5. What this article does not point out is that Ramona Moore Baker has the law background needed for the Orphans court in Baltimore City.

    If the Supreme Court Judges do not have to be lawyers and the comar codes can be applied by lay persons, then Ramona Moore Baker’s 13 years of service in Wills and Estates can also perform the duties of the Orphans court

    Yes. 2/3 thirds of the Judges of the Orphans Court are not lawyers.

    But, Ramomna Moore Baker is qualified and should be serving behind the bench not in front of it.
    wwww.RamonaMoore.com

  6. The Governor, the Attorney Generakl and the Assistant Attorney General

    God, God God they

  7. Yes, Ramona Moore Baker is an Interior Designer but her law back ground was not noted in the article dated Jan. 04, 2011.Ramona Moore Baker is more than the article suggests.
    If you want the readers to agree with a result( the election 2010 for the Orphans court) you reduce the background of the winning candidate. History was made. There is nmothing any paper can do to change it.

    And Ramona Moore Baker is still ” trusting in the Lord ” for the fina result”

    Let’s give an example a team of people tried kill, steal and destroy, Jesus But, he, God, still holds the power.

    Sometimes life has to go in a direction to appear that
    a group of people won. But, winning takes on many phases.

    Just wait for the final, final result.

    Man has power but my God has all power.

    Now print this.

    And, Ramona Moore Baker will still be praising the Lord not matter what the media writes.

    And the Winner is

  8. I really need to talk with
    Judge Joyce M. Baylor Thompson about a case that is pending still with Orphan Court. This case is not being justified fairly. Can I please get a # …so that I can call you . This case is going terribly wrong.

    sincerely, Aaron