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CSA asks lawmakers to add two judges

Two judges would be added to Maryland’s intermediate Court of Special Appeals under legislation pending before the General Assembly.

The state judiciary pressed for introduction of House Bill 83 and Senate Bill 239 this year, saying the appellate court’s docket is too large for 13 judges to handle effectively and efficiently.

The proposed boost to 15 would be the first increase in the Court of Special Appeals’ size since 1977, a 36-year span not lost on a judiciary that — in an internal memorandum — noted that the appellate court’s docket has risen from 115 to 157 cases per judge.

The appellate court’s docket shows no signs of letting up as the General Assembly, during that same span, increased by 74 percent the number of circuit court judges, from whose courts appeals are brought, states the memorandum drafted for Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Peter B. Krauser.

In addition, the number of Marylanders — which has climbed from 4.2 million to 5.8 million since 1977 — is expected to reach 6.3 million by 2020, according to the memorandum.

“While population statistics have routinely been used to justify additional circuit court judges actually realized, there has been no such increase in the size of the Court of Special Appeals since the number of judges was raised to 13 in 1977,” the memorandum states.

The two additional judges would hold at-large seats, not tied to any particular jurisdiction.

With 13 sitting judges, the appellate court “relies heavily” on 10 specially assigned retired judges, the document adds. These judges were assigned 419 cases in the past year, thus performing the work of nearly 4.2 judges each, according to the memorandum.

In addition, the court’s civil appeals have “increased in complexity,” the memorandum states. Since 1977, the average length of published civil opinions has increased 236 percent, while the average length of all its reported opinions rose 138 percent, the memorandum adds.

Krauser declined to comment on the memorandum or the judiciary’s request for more judges on the Court of Special Appeals, its first in at least six years.

The Department of Legislative Services, which analyzes the financial impact of pending legislation, has not yet calculated the cost of adding two judges and their associated expenses, such as staff.

The annual salary of each Court of Special Appeals judge is $149,552, which will increase to $154,108 beginning July 1.

In pressing the case for additional judges, the memorandum notes that three states with smaller populations than Maryland have larger intermediate appellate court benches: Wisconsin, with 5.7 million people, has 16 judges; Minnesota, with 5.3 million people, has 19 judges; and Colorado, with 5 million people, has 22 judges.

The legislation also boosts by one the number of circuit court judges in Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick and Wicomico counties. Four additional judges would be added to the Maryland District Court — one each in Baltimore city and in Charles, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

If enacted, the law calling for more judges would go into effect July 1.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s and Calvert, and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, introduced SB 239 and HB 83 at the Maryland Judiciary’s request.

Hearings have not yet been scheduled on the bills, which are before the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings and Budget and Taxation committees and the House Judiciary Committee.

The 1967 legislation that created the Court of Special Appeals called for five judges. That number was steadily increased to 13 in 1977, the memorandum states.