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Bills to add judges move through General Assembly

ANNAPOLIS – Cross-filed bills in the General Assembly that would add judges to Maryland’s courts have moved through their respective chambers with little resistance.

A representative from the Maryland Judiciary was asked no questions at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday about the Senate version of the bill.

The identical bills passed both chambers unanimously and Montgomery County Circuit Court Administrative Judge John W. Debelius III said in a phone interview it’s “wonderful” the bills are moving forward without issue.

“We’re thrilled and I’ll keep my fingers crossed,” said Debelius, who is also chairman of the Conference of Circuit Judges.

The bills would add 11 circuit court judges and two district court judges as part of a multiyear plan the Judiciary was asked to implement in 2011.

No positions have been created in the last two years, according to the annual analysis of the need for judgeships submitted by the Judiciary.

The Judiciary certified a need for 31 additional judgeships in trial courts and two additional Court of Special Appeals judges, but only requested a total of 12 trial court judges, including both district and circuit courts, for fiscal year 2017.

“There is kind of a pent-up need,” Debelius said.

The lack of additional judges in recent years while populations and caseloads continue to grow has strained resources.

The proposed bills include one more trial-court position than was requested in October, adding judges in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as well as Baltimore city.