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Judiciary seeks 5 percent budget boost

Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, Maryland Court of Appeals, in 2013. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, Maryland Court of Appeals, in 2013. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Judiciary seeks $591.4 million in fiscal year 2019 – a 5 percent increase from the $562.9 million appropriated for the judicial branch this fiscal year, which ends June 30.

About 90 percent of the Judiciary’s proposed increase is attributable to a $25 million rise in salaries, wages and fringe benefits. The budget request calls for a 1.5 percent increase in authorized positions, to 4,051.75 from 3,989 this fiscal year.

The Judiciary’s budget request is independent of the budget Gov. Larry Hogan proposed last week for executive-branch agencies in fiscal 2019, which begins July 1. The Maryland Constitution bars the governor from altering the Judiciary’s proposed budget – but the General Assembly can.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera is expected to defend the Judiciary’s request in hearings in coming weeks before subcommittees of the Senate Budget & Taxation and House Appropriations committees.

“I am certain that the members of your committees understand the complexity of our work to address the many and varied needs of the people of Maryland and the costs of doing that work well,” Barbera recently wrote in a letter to the committees’ leaders. “Only 1.2 percent of the overall state appropriation, the Judiciary budget, while comparatively small, ensures meaningful access to the courts in Maryland. As the General Assembly moves forward in investing in Maryland’s future, I urge your continued investment in fair, efficient, and effective justice for all Marylanders.”

The Judiciary’s budget has increased markedly since fiscal 2014, when it was $450.6 million.

Under the Judiciary’s request, the Court of Appeals’ budget for next fiscal year would rise to nearly $13.3 million from $11.7 million this fiscal year. The high court received nearly $12.1 million in fiscal 2017.

The state’s intermediate court, the Court of Special Appeals, would have a budget increase to $12.8 million from $12.5 million this fiscal year.

Baltimore city and Maryland’s 23 counties pay to maintain circuit courts but not the judges’ and clerks’ offices in their jurisdictions. The Judiciary’s fiscal 2019 budget would provide $68 million for the salaries, wages and fringe benefits of 173 circuit court judges and their staff, a $3.6 million increase from this year. The number of authorized positions would increase by one, to 428.

The proposed budget would also provide $122.9 million to the clerks’ offices at the circuit courts, a $6.7 million increase from this year’s figure of $116.2 million. The number of authorized clerks’ office positions would increase by 22.5, to 1,475.5.

The district courts’ budget would rise nearly $11 million, to $198.6 million from $187.7 million this fiscal year. The number of authorized positions would increase by 22, to 1,570.5.

The Administrative Office of the Courts’ budget would climb to $90.7 million from $86.2 million this fiscal year.

Judicial salaries are set by statute.

Barbera is paid $195,433, while the six other Court of Appeals judges are each paid $176,433.

Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Patrick L. Woodward is paid $166,633, while the 14 other Court of Special Appeals judges are each paid $163,633.

Circuit Court judges are paid $154,433.

District Court Chief Judge John P. Morrissey is paid $163,633, while other district court judges are paid $141,333.


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