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Baker v. O'Malley

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

May 27, 2014

RAMONA MOORE BAKER
v.
MARTIN O'MALLEY

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, William C. Mulford, Judge.

Argued by: Timothy S. Faith of Towson, MD. for Appellant.

Argued by: H. Scott Curtis (Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General on the brief) all of Baltimore, MD. for Appellee.

Panel: Meredith, Berger, Eldridge, John C.,[*] (Retired, specially assigned), JJ.

OPINION

Page 589

[217 Md.App. 289] Meredith, J.

On October 16, 2012, Ramona Moore Baker, appellant, filed suit in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County against Governor Martin O'Malley, appellee, seeking a writ of mandamus ordering the Governor to issue her a commission to serve as a judge of the Orphans' Court for Baltimore City based upon the certified results of the 2010 general election. In that election, for which results were certified on December 1, 2010, Ms. Baker received sufficient votes to be one of three people chosen by the voters of Baltimore City to serve as judges of the Orphans' Court for Baltimore City. But, in that same election, the voters of Baltimore City voted to approve an amendment to the Maryland Constitution requiring judges of the Orphans' Court for Baltimore City to be attorneys " who have been admitted to practice law in this State and are members in good standing of the Maryland Bar." Md. Const., Art. IV, § 40(b).

Page 590

Ms. Baker is not an attorney, and does not meet that criterion. Acting upon advice from the Attorney General of Maryland, Governor O'Malley declined to issue a commission to Ms. Baker, and eventually appointed another [217 Md.App. 290] person who is a Maryland attorney to serve on the Orphans' Court in the position that would have otherwise been held by Ms. Baker.

In response to the present suit, which Ms. Baker filed in October 2012, the Governor's counsel filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Ms. Baker's claims were barred by the statute of limitations and laches, and were otherwise without legal merit. After conducting a hearing, the circuit court agreed that the case should be dismissed. Ms. Baker then noted this appeal.

QUESTIONS PRESENTED

Ms. Baker presents three questions for review:

1. Whether the trial court erred in dismissing Appellant's petition for a writ of mandamus on the grounds that Appellant lacked a clear legal right to the issuance of the writ[?]
2. Whether the trial court erred in dismissing Appellant's petition on the grounds that the petition was time barred[?]
3. Whether the trial court erred in dismissing Appellant's petition on the grounds that her action for common law damages was barred by the doctrine of governmental immunity[?]

For the reasons stated below, we conclude that the court did not err in dismissing Ms. Baker's complaint as barred by laches, and we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Prior to the 2010 general election, the only eligibility requirements for the office of judge on the Orphans' Court for Baltimore City were Maryland citizenship and residency in Baltimore City for at least one year. See Md. Const. Art. IV, § 40(a). In the November 2010 election, however, voters approved an amendment to the Maryland Constitution that added to the minimum qualifications for judges on the Orphans' Court for Baltimore City a requirement that such judges be attorneys. The amended provision reads:

[217 Md.App. 291] The qualified voters of the City of Baltimore shall elect three Judges of the Orphans' Court for Baltimore City who shall be citizens of the State and residents, for the twelve months preceding, in Baltimore City and who have been admitted to practice ...

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