The Maryland General Assembly has recently certified multiple proposed constitutional amendments for the November 8, 2022 ballot. These proposed amendments, if successful, will cause some major changes to civil litigation in the State of Maryland.
The Maryland General Assembly recently passed Senate Bill 670 (SB670). SB670, if successful on the ballot, will change the maximum amount in controversy in which a party can bring a civil suit without a jury trial from $15,000 to $25,000.
The bill was first read during Senate Judicial Proceedings on February 3, 2021 and in its initial reading it stated the amount in controversy as being raised to $30,000. It was then amended in the House on April 9, 2021, and the amount in controversy was changed to $25,000. The bill then went back to the Senate and was passed on April 12, 2021 with the House Amendment. The bill was then enacted under Article II, Section 17(c) of the Maryland Constitution – Chapter 598 on May 30, 2021. It is now certified to appear on the Maryland Ballot on November 8, 2022 as a constitutional amendment.
This proposed amendment will have a large impact on civil litigation in Maryland if it succeeds. By raising the amount in controversy in which parties may sue without a jury trial, there may be a reduction in the number of civil jury trials, and an increased amount of bench trials. This would alleviate some of the burden on both the Maryland Courts and the parties to civil litigation as jury trials are often more time consuming and costly as compared to bench trials. The change will mean that only parties to litigation with an amount in controversy over $25,000 may demand a jury trial.
In addition to SB670, the upcoming November 8, 2022 ballot will contain a vote regarding name changes to both of Maryland’s Superior Courts. Currently Maryland’s initial appeals court is named the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and Maryland’s Superior Court is named the Maryland Court of Appeals. The proposed changes would change the Maryland Court of Special Appeals’ name to the Appellate Court of Maryland and change the Maryland Court of Appeals’ name to the Supreme Court of Maryland. Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals Mary Ellen Barbera stated that the current Court names have caused “confusion from beyond the borders of our state as lawyers, law students and litigants research, contact and even file papers with the wrong court. That same confusion persists among Marylanders.”[i] The proposed name change will ideally alleviate the confusion that Chief Judge Barbera addresses.
As we approach the November 8, 2022 ballot, it will be important to watch for these proposed changes and how they affect the future of civil litigation in Maryland.
-Kari Martiniano, Law Clerk
[i] Danielle E. Gaines, General Assembly Passes Bill to Rename Maryland’s Top Court, Maryland Matters (April 6, 2021), https://www.marylandmatters.org/blog/general-assembly-passes-bill-to-rename-marylands-top-court/.