Judges’ Qualifications and Terms in Office For all judges other than Orphans’ Court judges, the qualifications are legal and professional: Maryland citizenship; Maryland residency for five years and in the appropriate circuit, district, or county for at least six months preceding the appointment; registration as a qualified voter, admission to practice law in Maryland, and 30 years of age at the time of appointment. The Maryland Constitution provides that those selected for judgeships shall be lawyers “most distinguished for integrity, wisdom and sound legal knowledge.” (The Constitution also requires the retirement of judges at the age of 70, although they can continue to serve in a limited capacity.) Orphans’ Court Judges are elected to four-year term (except in Harford and Montgomery counties, where Circuit Court judges sit as Orphans’ Court judges). The Governor fills vacancies, with advice and consent of the Senate. District Court District Court judges are appointed by the Governor upon recommendation of a local judicial nominating commission comprised of lawyers and non-lawyers, and confirmed by the State Senate. They do not stand for election. They must be confirmed by the Senate every 10 years (assuming the judge is re-appointed by the Governor, which they typically are). A District Court judge who is not confirmed is removed from office. The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals appoints the Chief Judge of the District Court. Circuit Court Judges generally are appointed by the Governor to fill vacancies upon recommendation of a local judicial nominating commission after completing a lengthy application and interview process. Judges may also run for election without going through that process. Judges appointed to fill vacancies must stand for election in the first general election after appointment, and interested candidates may run against them. Circuit Court judges serve 15-year terms and must stand for re- election when their terms end. Court of Special Appeals/Court of Appeals Judges are appointed by the Governor, based on recommendations from a state-wide appellate judicial nominating commission, and must be confirmed by the State Senate. They must stand for a retention (yes or no vote) election, for a 10-year term, in the first general election after appointment. Unlike Circuit Court judges, no one is permitted to file against appellate judges in the election. If an incumbent is rejected by voters, the post goes vacant and the Governor makes a new appointment. The Governor chooses the chief judge of each of these courts; the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals serves as the administrative head of the state’s judicial system.
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