Senate Bill 703 – Circuit Court Judges – Selection and Tenure (Constitutional Amendment by Sens. Beidle, West et al.) has received an Unfavorable Report from the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee (JPR).
This was the bill popularly known as the “80% bill,” because it required an appointed judge to receive confirmation by 80% of the Senate to avoid a contested election, and would retain a seat on the Bench by prevailing in a Retention Election. The MSBA opposed the 80% provision, but urged the Committee to amend the bill into a less complicated, more traditional retention election format.
It should be noted that SB 703 and its crossfile, HB 1402 (Barron et al.) drew less opposition from traditional supporters of the current judicial election system – the Legislative Black Caucus, and the GOP Caucus – than most of the other bills to eliminate contested elections for circuit court judges. In fact, prominent Baltimore attorney Billy Murphy, an ardent supporter of contested elections, testified in support of SB 703, which he described as a compromise piece of legislation. Consequently, the early demise of SB 703 casts doubt on the viability of the remaining pieces of legislation aimed at ending contested judicial elections.
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