Gavel Grab

Retention Elections Sought for MD Circuit Judges

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is urging the state’s legislature to adopt retention elections for circuit judges, to replace contested elections, in order to “remove the taint of money from the process.”

In a commentary published by the Baltimore Sun, Gansler maintains that Maryland’s current scheme–a governor’s appointment of circuit judges, followed by contested elections to retain their seats–has been threatened by big spending for judicial candidates, much of it from individuals and interests who may appear before them in court:

“When it comes to our judiciary, impartiality has always been Marylanders’ chief concern. Unfortunately, that value is threatened by the current practice of contested elections for circuit court judges, which exposes judges to influence peddling, bias and political whim.”

To “clean up” the elections, Gansler proposes legislation establishing that in the next election cycle after a judge’s appointment, the judge stand for a yes-no retention election without a challenger, and stand for retention every 10 years after that.

Maryland currently has retention elections for its appointed appellate judges, and Gansler states that extending this merit plan to include circuit judges has support of the Maryland State Bar Association, the League of Women Voters of Maryland and the chairwoman of the Maryland Conference of Circuit Judges.

You can learn more about appointment and retention systems from Justice at Stake’s issues page, and more about the perils of special-interest spending on judicial elections from a separate JAS  page.

No comments

No Comment

  1. […] has proposed replacing contested elections for circuit judges with retention elections. (See Gavel Grab.) According to Gansler, candidates for circuit judgeships pulled in nearly $4 million in campaign […]

Leave a reply