APRIL ADEMILUYI, et al.
CHIZOBA EGBUONU, et al.
Argued: September 6, 2018
Circuit Court for Prince George's County Case No.:
Barbera, C.J. Greene, [*] Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten,
State is not constitutionally barred from evincing a
policy of nonpartisanship in judicial elections while
nevertheless keeping the election process itself an
inherently partisan affair; nor is it barred from relying on
the long-established infrastructure of a political party
primary to accommodate the election of candidates it desires
to be selected on bases apart from partisan politics.
Judge Irma S. Raker Suessmann v. Lamone, 383 Md.
697, 727 (2004).
electoral process for conducting elections of circuit court
judges is an imperfect hybrid. As this Court discussed in
Suessmann v. Lamone, 383 Md. 697 (2004), this
judicial electoral process is a hybrid because it is neither
purely partisan nor purely nonpartisan. Circuit court judges
have run in partisan elections just as other candidates on
the ballot since the Constitution of 1851. An appearance of
nonpartisanship was achieved when the General Assembly passed
a bill in the 1941 legislative session to remove the
designation of party affiliation in the listing of candidates
for the office of circuit court judge on the ballot.
significantly, perhaps, the hybrid quality exists because
this judicial electoral process serves two functions. First,
in order for the incumbent judge to retain his or her seat,
the judge is required to be a candidate in a potentially
contested election. Incumbent judges are required to run
after their initial gubernatorial appointment and at the end
of each fifteen-year term. The process for initial
appointment includes candidates being vetted through a
judicial nominating commission. Second, the electoral process
allows for challengers, who may or may not have been vetted
through the judicial nominating commission, to file as
candidates as long as they qualify under the constitutional
provisions to serve as a circuit court judge.
issue confronting this Court in the instant appeal arises
from legislation enacted by the General Assembly in 2006 that
allows non-principal parties to nominate candidates for
circuit court judge elections through whatever nomination
process is required by their party bylaws. The critical
advantage of a circuit court judge candidate nominated by a
non-principal party is that the nominee bypasses the primary
election and moves directly to the general
asked to determine whether the Circuit Court for Prince
George's County erred by entering a preliminary
injunction which prohibited the State Board of Elections
("the State Board") from certifying the ballot for
the 2018 Gubernatorial General Election with April Ademiluyi
listed as a candidate for circuit court judge. More
specifically, we must determine whether nomination by the
Libertarian Party of Maryland ("the Libertarian
Party") of Ms. Ademiluyi was improper where the
Libertarian Party's Constitution requires that its
candidates for office be registered Libertarians and Ms.
Ademiluyi was a registered Democrat. For two reasons, we
concluded that Ms. Ademiluyi's candidacy was
impermissible under the relevant provisions that regulate
judicial elections in Maryland: (i) her candidacy is at odds
with the Libertarian Party's Constitution, which requires
all of its candidates for public office to be registered
members of the party; and (ii) a judicial candidate's
route to access the ballot is dependent upon his or her party
affiliation- candidates registered with a principal party may
only achieve this end through participation in primary
learning of Ms. Ademiluyi's party affiliation through a
Maryland Public Information Act ("MPIA") request,
Chizoba N. Egbuonu, Luther V. Watkins, Sr., Manuel R.
Geraldo, and Stella A. Grooms (collectively
"Appellees"), challenged her qualifications for
nomination as a circuit court judge under Maryland's
election code. At a hearing before the Circuit Court for
Prince George's County, Ms. Ademiluyi failed to appear
and therefore made no arguments. After the circuit court
ordered that her name be removed from the ballot, Ms.
Ademiluyi appealed to this Court and presented us with
several questions for review in her appeal
memorandum. However, a grant of preliminary injunction
falls within the circuit court's discretion and the
appropriate frame of review is whether the circuit court
abused its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction.
See Schade v. Maryland State Bd. of Elections, 401
Md. 1, 33 (2007); see also Ehrlich v. Perez, 394 Md.
691, 707 (2006).
argument in the present appeal was held on September 6, 2018.
That same day, we issued a per curiam order
affirming the circuit court's grant of preliminary
injunctive relief which enjoined the State Board from
certifying the general election ballot with Ms.
Ademiluyi's name listed as a candidate. Ademiluyi v.
Egbuonu, 461 Md. 455 (2018). In that order, we indicated
that an opinion detailing the reasoning behind our affirmance
of the circuit court's decision would follow. In
explanation of that per curiam order, we conclude
that the Libertarian Party's nomination of Ms. Ademiluyi
did not comport with the requirements of § 5-701 of the
Election Law Article ("EL") and that the circuit
court's grant of preliminary injunction is sufficiently
supported by the appropriate factors.
give our reasons for the September 6, 2018 order. The
election of judges in Maryland has been the subject of a
lengthy and long-standing debate-initially emerging from
constitutional reform of the mid-19th century. It is useful
to begin our analysis with a historical review of the
partisan underpinnings of this imperfect hybrid of an
History of Judicial Elections in Maryland
first seventy-five years of Maryland's history after the
adoption of the Constitution of 1776, judges were appointed
by the Governor and confirmed but were not required to run in
contested elections. Maryland's first constitution
provided for the Governor to appoint all judges with the
advice and consent of the Governor's Council. Md. Const.
of 1776 § 48 (1776). The Governor's Council, under
the Constitution of 1776, consisted of five members chosen by
vote of the State Senate and House of Delegates. The
Governor's Council played an advisory role and generally
provided the Governor with advice and assisted in his
appointments, as provided for elsewhere in the Constitution.
Md. Const. of 1776 § 26 (1776).
1836, the Governor's Council was abolished by
constitutional amendment and full executive power was vested
in the Governor. 1836 Md. Laws ch. 197 § 13. Instead of
confirmation by the Governor's Council, the Governor made
judicial appointments with the advice and consent of the
Senate. 1836 Md. Laws ch. 197 § 14.
reform of the mid-19th century modified the method of
selection of judicial candidates by introducing contested
judicial elections similar to our contemporary system. During
the Constitutional Reform Convention of 1850 ("1850
Convention"), a fierce debate emerged concerning the
method of selecting judges. The debate primarily consisted of
two different methodologies: (i) popular election; and (ii)
appointment by the Governor for an indefinite term, with the
Governor holding the power to impeach and remove an appointed
judge only upon bad behavior. Debates and Proceedings of the
Maryland Constitutional Reform Convention to Revise the State
Constitution, Vol. II (1851) ("1850 Debates and
Proceedings"). The popular election system carried
support from the Democrats while an appointed judiciary
appealed to members of the Whig Party. Id.
evidenced by the debates, both the Whigs and Democrats were
concerned about partisan influence on judicial offices
stemming from whichever selection process was adopted.
Id. at 497-99. The Democrats expressed concern that
appointment by the Governor would transform judicial offices
into partisan offices. Id. at 457-62. Similarly, the
Whigs expressed concern that, without indefinite terms,
incoming Governors would have the power to dismiss incumbent
judges throughout the State and appoint newly partisan
judges. Id. at 470-73, 476.
addition to debates concerning the method of selection, a
secondary issue emerged concerning temporal aspects of
judicial elections. Id. at 490-501. Primarily, some
members of the 1850 Convention argued that elections for
judicial offices and other courthouse officials including
State's Attorneys and Clerks of the Court, should be held
the year following elections for other public officers.
Id. Those involved believed that temporal distance
between elections for judicial offices and other public
offices, such as the Governor and State Legislature, would
distance judicial elections from the partisan undercurrent of
elections for these public offices. Id. at 537-44.
F. Chambers, a member of the 1850 Convention and Judge of
this Court, summarized the general concerns over the
politicization of judicial elections in his sweeping remarks
before the 1850 Convention:
I am aware, Sir, that it is said the people are competent to
elect other officers; and if so, why not to elect judges?
* * *
Now this is the relation in which the judge stands to the
people. The judge is supposed to know the law; the
people are known not to know it. He is to exercise
his judgement, not theirs - to express his
opinions, not theirs. Political officers are usually elected
for a very short term, and in reference to particular,
distinct, well understood questions. They have a certain line
of duty, and everybody understands what it is. But it is not
so in the case of the judge; his position is perfectly the
reverse, in all these particulars. Above all, it differs in
one other most important respect. In a political officer, you
look for a politician; you expect him to act for those who
elected him, and if he never were a politician before, he
will surely become such, by serving a while as the
representative of the people. Just the reverse it is with the
judge. He must not act the politician; he must not know one
party from another in the discharge of his duties; and if he
had been ever so ardent a politician before, he is sure to
cease to be such, in a very short time after he is placed
upon the bench.
1850 Debates and Proceedings at 482.
members of the 1850 Convention including William A. Spencer
echoed Mr. Chambers' concerns over the selection of
judges through popular election:
It is my apprehension that by giving the election of the
judges to the people, the independence of the bar will be
greatly affected. I wish it to be distinctly understood, that
I have not the slightest fear of the integrity of the people
but my apprehension is that that integrity and confidence
will be abused.
Id. at 499.
the 1850 Convention was not unified behind an appointed
judiciary and a substantial number of its members supported
the election of judicial officers. This is evident from
Charles J.M. Gwinn's comments on the
The gentleman from Anne Arundel [Judge Thomas Beal Dorsey],
has drawn a strongly marked picture of the evils attending
upon an election of the judges. It has not occurred to him,
apparently, that all his arguments apply with equal force to
every elective office. If a disposition to obtain popular
support and applause, can induce a judge to depart from the
line of his public duty, with equal reason may we apprehend
that the same evil would ensue upon the method which obtains
at present in the selection of our Governors, and members of
the Legislature, and of all others who are entrusted with
Id. at 497.
lengthy debate, a broad restructuring of the Maryland
judiciary was authorized upon the ratification of the
Constitution of 1851. The trial courts were reorganized into
eight judicial circuits. Initially, each circuit except the
fifth, i.e. Baltimore City, was limited to one judge who was
subject to election on a partisan ballot. Md. Const. of 1851
art. IV, § 8 (1851). The Judiciary Article of the new
Constitution provided that, upon a vacancy in any judgeship,
the Governor shall appoint a replacement with the advice and
consent of the Senate. The appointed judge shall hold the
office until the following general election for delegates.
Md. Const. of 1851 art. IV, § 25 (1851). To retain
office, the appointed judge became a candidate in partisan
elections with the potential that challengers would also file
to run in the election. The successful candidate in the
election, once the results were certified, would receive a
commission for a term of ten years.
the Constitution of 1864 was adopted and ratified, the
Judicial Article and the methods of judicial candidate
selection saw little substantive change to the preceding
provisions. The eight judicial circuits were expanded to
thirteen circuits. In addition, the terms of circuit court
judges were increased from ten to fifteen
years. See Md. Const. of 1864 art. IV,
§§ 3, 5 (1864). The Constitution of 1864 was the
most short-lived Constitution in Maryland's history and
was replaced only three years later in 1867 with
substantially the same provisions for circuit court judges.
See Md. Const. of 1867 art. IV, §§ 3, 5
State's current Constitution is the Constitution of 1867,
as amended, and thus these 19th century constitutional
underpinnings relating to the selection of circuit court
judges are relatively unchanged. See Md. Const. art.
IV, §§ 3, 5. First, circuit court judges are
elected at general elections for a term of fifteen years. Md.
Const. art. IV, § 3. Upon a vacancy in a judicial
office, the Governor is authorized to appoint a judge who
shall hold the office until either the first biennial general
election for representatives in Congress following the
expiration of his or her predecessor's term. Md. Const.
art. IV, § 5. In situations where the vacancy is brought
about by means other than the expiration of a predecessor
judge's term, the appointed judge participates in the
general election occurring after one year after the opening
of such a vacancy. Md. Const. art. IV, § 5.
court judges are the only judges in Maryland that are first
appointed by the Governor and then must participate and win a
subsequent election in which challengers can file to run
against them. See Md. Const. art. IV, §
3 (excepting District Court and appellate judges from
participating in contested elections); see also Md.
Const. art. IV. § 5A (providing that, after appointment
by the Governor, appellate judges must participate in
retention elections); Md. Const. art. IV, § 41D
(indicating that District Court judges are appointed by the
Governor and confirmed by the Senate and are not required to
participate in judicial elections). Maryland's present
Constitution also mandates qualifications that all
prospective judicial candidates must attain.
Nominating Conventions and Primary Elections
to the Constitution of Maryland, the General Assembly has the
responsibility of regulating elections. Lamone v.
Capozzi, 396 Md. 53, 60-61 (2006); see
also Md. Const. art. I, § 3; Md. Const. art.
III, § 49. Accordingly, throughout the history of the
State Constitution and its various amendments, the General
Assembly has supplemented these constitutional provisions by
enacting and amending the statutory law governing elections,
primarily former Article 33 of the Maryland Code and the
present-day Election Law Article.
to the adoption of primary elections in the early 20th
century, political parties nominated candidates for circuit
court judge by party conventions. By the late 19th century,
the two principal political parties were the Democratic and
Republican parties. These parties would nominate their
candidates through separate statewide and county nominating
conventions. See 1896 Md. Laws ch. 202 § 36-39.
For judicial elections, if a circuit was composed of only one
county, the candidate for circuit court judge was selected at
the county nominating convention held by the Democratic,
Republican, or other political party. If a circuit was
composed of more than one county, then each party held a
special judicial nominating convention for the circuit at
which representatives from each county would vote to select
the party's candidate for circuit court judge. The party
nominating convention allowed parties to nominate a
particular candidate to run for judicial office whose name
was then placed on the general election ballot. Id.; see
also Jackson v. Norris, 173 Md. 579, 586 (1937); 1890
Md. Laws ch. 538.
this period, ballots were printed by the political parties
and distributed to voters to be placed in the ballot box at
their precinct polling location. Unlike ballots today that
display the names of all candidates for each office, these
ballots only contained the names of the political party's
candidates. Thus, a voter could vote the entire slate on the
printed party ballot,  by dropping it in the ballot box.
Alternatively, they could scratch through and mark up the
printed ballot with different names if they were departing
from the party's slate or they could arrive at the polls
with their own handwritten ballot. 1805 Md. Laws ch.
XCV. The partisan nature of these circuit
court judicial elections is clear on its face: (1) candidates
for circuit court judge were selected by each party at a
county nominating convention or at a multi-county judicial
nominating convention; and (2) the judicial candidate's
name was printed on the party's printed partisan ballot
that was distributed to voters with encouragement to vote the
entire party slate by dropping the ballot, unmarked, into the
significant changes occurred to the electoral process in the
late 19th and early 20th centuries. First, the General
Assembly required that official ballots be printed by the
county election board. 1890 Md. Laws ch. 538. Second, the
General Assembly enacted provisions that the political
parties must follow to nominate their candidates to be listed
on the official ballot. Third, a system of statewide primary
elections was created for the benefit of the principal
political parties to allow selection of their nominees for
the general election by popular vote.
system of primary elections more closely resembling the
modern iteration appeared in the early 20th century. In 1904,
the General Assembly enacted a provision within the Public
Local Laws of Allegany County, which provided that the two
foremost political parties within the County would select
candidates for public offices to participate in the general
election by primary election. Kenneweg v. Cty.
Comm'rs of Allegany Cty., 102 Md. 119, 120 (1905);
see also 1904 Md. Laws ch. 508 § 105.
Individually, other counties sought legislation to hold
county-wide primaries until 1910 when the first statewide
primary election system was enacted. See Md. Laws
1910 ch. 741; Foxwell v. Beck, 117 Md. 1 (1911).
With the advent of county and statewide primaries, the
selection of circuit court judges by the principal parties
was accomplished through contested partisan primaries.
Non-principal parties selected their judicial candidates
through the traditional party nominating convention or
primary meetings. 1896 Md. Laws ch. 202 § 36-39.
O'Conor and the Bond Commission
impetus to reform judicial elections occurred during the
administration of Governor Herbert O'Conor. An attorney
and former Attorney General, O'Conor was elected Governor
in 1938 and reform of the judiciary and the elimination of
partisan elections of judges was a priority of his
legislative platform. In his first inaugural address on
January 11, 1939, he commented,
I should now like to make known my views with respect to the
Judiciary. No single fact has been impressed upon me more
forcibly than the necessity of having the judiciary function
without outside interference. I am sure that we agree that a
State is fortunate whose courts are administered by
high-minded judges, incorruptible, learned, and experienced.
My policy shall be always to assist in securing the very best
judges and in having them function unhampered and
uninfluenced in the discharge of their important duties.
Maryland is justly proud of its higher courts and illustrious
line of judges who have brought distinction and honor to
Maryland. It seems timely, however, to point out that the
methods might be devised to avoid the possibility of future
election of judges being thrown into political contests. The
administration will support well considered plans to prevent
such an occurrence.
O'Conor, State Papers and Addresses of Governor
Herbert R. O'Conor (1947).
O'Conor initiated a broad package of judicial election
reform including revamping this Court as a full-time
appellate bench. However, in the legislative atmosphere
created by Governor O'Conor of insulating judicial
elections from partisan influence by eliminating judicial
elections, Delegate Bernard S. Melnicove offered an
alternative approach by introducing legislation in 1941
(House Bill 800) to simply remove party affiliations from the
ballot of judicial candidates. See Prepares Bill to Take
Bench from Politics, Kerney, N.T., The Sun
(1837-1993); Mar 15, 1941: ProQuest Historical Newspapers:
The Balt. Sun. Specifically, the legislation required that
the names of judicial candidates be listed in alphabetical
order "without any party label or other distinguishing
mark or location which might directly or indirectly indicate
the party affiliation of any such candidate." 1941 Md.
Laws Ch. 703.
O'Conor's legislative proposals to reform the
judiciary were controversial and after their initial failure,
he formed the Commission on the Judiciary Article of the
Constitution of Maryland, widely referred to as the Bond
Commission, and appointed Carroll T. Bond, the Chief Judge of
this Court, as chairman. The Bond Commission initially
intended to pursue the Governor's aim of reforming
judicial electoral process with an eye towards eliminating
Melnicove bill created substantial confusion for the judicial
candidates required to run in the 1942 election, because this
legislation did not provide any new provisions for the
conduct of judicial elections except to remove party
affiliation from the ballot. Id. Attorney General
William C. Walsh was asked to opine on whether candidates
were able to file in both the Democratic and Republican
primary elections, which was not provided for in the bill
that passed the General Assembly. Ruling Asked on
Judiciary: Question on Judges Filing as Candidates of Both
Parties Involved, The Sun (1837-1993); May 9,
1942; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Balt. Sun. The
Attorney General summarized his opinion that "a
Democratic Judge may file as a candidate for the Republican
nomination in a primary, and that a Republican Judge may file
for the Democratic nomination in a primary, and the only
remaining question is whether a Judge may file in both
primaries for both nominations." 61 Op. Atty Gen. 126,
Attorney General opined that the statute had no prohibition
against a candidate filing in the primary election for more
than one political party. Id. at 130. He based his
conclusion, in part on the fact that H.B. 800 removed party
affiliations from ballots, and commented "[t]he purpose
of the proposal to have the sitting Judges concerning whom
you inquire, nominated by both the major political parties in
the primary next September, is to eliminate, in so far as
possible, any partisanship in the election of the members of
the judiciary, and the passage of [1941 Md. Laws ch. 703
(H.B. 800)] is an indication of legislative approval of this
purpose." Id. at 129.
Bond Commission proceeded with its work and presented its
findings and recommendations that were divided in an interim
and a final report. In its interim report, the Bond
Commission established the priority of recommending
modifications to the structure of the Court of Appeals and
appellate judges. Interim Report of the Commission on the
Judiciary Article of the Constitution of Maryland 6 (1942)
("Interim Report of the Bond Commission"). The
Commission recommended that such judges initially be
appointed by the Governor and serve a term of at least one
year, at which point the appointed judge should stand for
election in the following general election for either State
or Federal offices. Id. at 4. Additionally, the
Commission recommended that judicial candidates should be
placed on the ballot without any reference to the
candidate's party affiliation.  Id. In the final
report, the Bond Commission skirted Governor
O'Conor's agenda of eliminating judicial elections by
The members of the commission have not overlooked the
advantages of appointment alone as a method of selecting
judges: many, perhaps a majority, thought that in Maryland,
as in some other states and in the federal jurisdiction, that
method might procure the best judges in the long run, but
they also felt that the people of the state would prefer to
have the ultimate power of election, and the effort has been
made to retain the opportunity for this.
of the Commission on the Judiciary Article of the
Constitution of Maryland, October 21, 1942.
1943, as a result of the Bond Commission's deliberations
and recommendations, the General Assembly enacted what is
commonly referred to as the Bond Amendment, which was
ratified by the electorate in November 1946. 1943 Md. Laws
ch. 772; Reed v. McKeldin, 207 Md. 553,
558-59 (1955). Among other things, the amendment modified
Article IV, section five of the Constitution of Maryland to
provide the following:
Upon every occurrence or recurrence of a vacancy through
death, resignation, removal, disqualification by reason of
age or otherwise, or expiration of the term of fifteen years
of any judge, or creation of the office of any judge, or in
any other way, the Governor shall appoint a person duly
qualified to fill said office, who shall hold the same until
the election and qualification of his successor. His
successor shall be elected at the first biennial general
election for Representatives in Congress after the expiration
of the term of fifteen years (if the vacancy occurred in that
way) or the first such general election after one year after
the occurrence of the vacancy in any other way than through
expiration of such term. Except in case of reappointment of a
judge upon expiration of his term of ...