In July 2013, Governor Martin O’Mally appointed Mary Ellen Barbera as chief judge of the Court of Appeals. Chief Judge Barbera succeeded Robert M. Bell who, on July 6, 2013, reached the state constitution’s mandatory retirement age of 70.
In the first few months of her new position, Chief Judge Barbera has visited the state’s circuit and district courts. She states that outdated courthouses serve as a major obstacle to the judiciary’s “overreaching mission, the fair administration of justice.” Among her duties as chief judge is the oversight of the judiciary’s operating budget, which is currently $468.2 million. The judiciary is preparing its funding requests for the next fiscal year and Chief Judge Barbera notes that the capital budget requests will include funding for courthouse improvements.
The Maryland Constitution calls for opinions to be issued 90-days after the appeal is heard. However, the turnaround has averaged anywhere from 5.4 months in 1996 to a high of 243 days in fiscal year 2011, and, recently, the court has issued several opinions in cases heard three or more years ago. Critics speculate that the reason the Court of Appeals does not include on its decisions the date the appeal was argued is due to embarrassment for the excessive amount of time the Court takes to issue opinions. Chief Judge Barbera acknowledges that criticism and plans to have the Court include the argument date in the opinion. In addition, the Court of Appeals will begin issuing its decisions in the same term the case is argued. Including the date the case was argued in the Court’s opinion and issuing opinions in the same term that the case was argued are both practices employed by the United States Supreme Court.