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Senate passes bill to beef up CSA, sends it to governor for signature

ANNAPOLIS — The Court of Special Appeals would get two additional judges under legislation the Senate passed on a 45-0 vote Thursday and sent to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s desk for his expected signature.

Court of Special Appeals

The measure, which the House of Delegates approved 127-6 last month, would increase the size of Maryland’s intermediate appellate court to 15 members. The two additional judges would be at-large gubernatorial appointments.

“We are very excited and pleased by this,” Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Peter B. Krauser said on behalf of the court after the Senate vote. “We have a daunting caseload.”

The additional judges “will put us in a better position to handle that caseload that we anticipate will continue to grow in the future,” Krauser added.

Krauser last month urged legislators to support the increase, telling them that the court’s sitting judges are “overwhelmed” by their caseload. The court’s current complement of 13 judges has remained unchanged since 1977, while the number of cases heard by each judge has climbed from 115 to 157 per year, Krauser told the House and Senate judiciary committees.

The Court of Special Appeals is not the only court that would see its bench increase under the legislation, Senate Bill 239 and House Bill 83.

The measure, which was introduced at the Maryland Judiciary’s request, calls for increasing by one the number of circuit court judges in Calvert, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick and Wicomico counties. The bill also calls for four additional judges on the Maryland District Court: one each in Charles, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and in Baltimore city.

The addition of the 11 appellate, circuit and district court judges — as well as their support staff and related expenses — would add $3.2 million to the state budget next fiscal year, which begins July 1, according to the Maryland Judiciary.

Assuming the governor signs the measure, the law will go into effect July 1.