Court of Appeals’ long history predates nation’s birth

The Court of Appeals originated in the seventeenth century. During the early years of the settlement of Maryland, the General Assembly sat as a court of law as well as a legislature. When the assembly divided into two houses in 1650, the upper house, or governor and council, became the Court of Appeals.

During the Revolution, the Court of Appeals was reformed by the Maryland Constitution of 1776 (sec. 56). Judges were appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the council (sec. 48). The court sat on the Western Shore in Annapolis.

By 1805, chief justices of the six judicial districts of the state constituted the Court of Appeals (Acts of 1804, ch. 55). From 1805 to 1851, the court sat at Easton on the Eastern Shore as well as at Annapolis. Judges held their commissions upon good behavior, but could be removed by the governor with the concurrence of two thirds of the members of each house of the General Assembly.

The Constitution of 1851 provided for a single Court of Appeals, which sat at Annapolis. Judges were chosen by the electorate. The court consisted of four justices, each of whom was elected from one of four judicial districts. From the elected justices, the chief justice was designated by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Justices served a ten-year term, which was renewable (Md. Const. 1851, Art. 4, sec. 4).

The 1864 Constitution increased both the number of justices and the number of judicial districts from four to five (Md. Const. 1864, Art. 4, sec. 17). Justices served fifteen-year terms. By the Constitution of 1867 the number of judicial districts and justices each were increased from five to eight (Md. Const. 1867, Art. 4, sec. 14).

A reorganization of the court, in 1944, reduced the number of justices to five (Acts of 1943, ch. 772). One judge was elected from each of three appellate circuits, and two were elected from the fourth appellate circuit (Baltimore City).

Court membership increased in 1960 to seven justices (Acts of 1960, ch. 11).

Source: Edward C. Papenfuse, et al., The Archives of Maryland, new series, An Historical List of Public Officials of Maryland, Vol. I. (Annapolis, MD: Maryland State Archives, 1990).