A MESSAGE FROM THE CHIEF JUDGE OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF MARYLAND
The District Court of Maryland was “born” on July 5, 1971 and is celebrating its 50th year of continuous operations. It was established by way of constitutional amendment that
point of intersect with so many and the justice system, our tagline is, “Where Justice Starts.”
As the District Court was created to serve the people of Maryland, District Court Headquarters’ (DCHQ) underlying philosophy can be summed up in one question: What can DCHQ do for you? The philosophy extends not just to the judges and clerks, but to our justice partners, the state’s attorneys, public defenders, Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration, Maryland Department of Health, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the criminal justice information system, national crime information center and, most importantly, to District Court users. The assistance is far ranging from facility maintenance to clerk Maryland Electronic Courts (MDEC) training, from financial accounting to alternative dispute resolution offerings, and from the appointed attorney program to updates of forms.
was approved by referendum of the voters of the state. Designed to be a statewide system, the court replaced a hodgepodge of local, town, and municipal courts, each with its own rules and many, with a reputation for corruption. Chief Judge Robert Sweeney, the first chief judge of the District Court, passed up a lifetime appointment to the federal bench to lead the opening of this new court system. With little more than 60 days to start operations, staff, and open courthouses in every county in the state and in Baltimore City, Chief Judge Sweeney set out to build a true “People’s Court” -- one that would provide fair and equitable justice to the citizens throughout Maryland. At inception, District Court courthouses were located in convenience stores, storage areas, basements of county buildings, and firehouses. One courthouse was even located in the office portion of a gas station. Maryland had a population of just over 4 million people at the time and the District Court had 73 judges. Now, Maryland has a population of just over 6 million people and there are 124 judges including me. Today’s District Court has 33 courthouses across 12 districts covering the state’s 24 jurisdictions. Some districts are composed of just one location like Baltimore City but have multiple courthouses. Other districts span multiple counties each with only one courthouse per county – District 3, the Upper Shore, for example, is made up of Cecil, Caroline, Kent, Talbot, and Queen Anne’s counties. Each district is headed by a management team of administrative judge, administrative clerk, and administrative commissioner, and they collectively manage the day-to-day operations of their courts. The District Court is currently home to more than 2,000 hardworking and dedicated judges, commissioners, clerks, bailiffs, and constables serving from the city of Oakland in Garrett County to Snow Hill in Worcester County. For these past 50 years, our mission has been to provide equal and exact justice to all who come before us. Because we are the first
DCHQ has seven departments, each of which works closely with the other departments:
1. Office of the Chief Judge and Chief Clerk 2. Operations 3. Administrative Services 4. Engineering and Central Services 5. Finance 6. Alternative Dispute Resolution 7. Commissioners
This is a dedicated team of professionals, and any issues we tackle require the involvement and expertise of not just one, but many of the departments in DCHQ, requiring coordination, collaboration, and innovation. I am privileged to work with such a talented team of extraordinary individuals. I am very proud of the hard work and dedication that everyone brings to the table every day as we all answer the call of what DCHQ can do for you.
JOHN P. MORRISSEY CHIEF JUDGE DISTRICT COURT OF MARYLAND
26 | Maryland Judiciary
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