April ADEMILUYI, et al.
Chizoba EGBUONU, et al.
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Circuit Court for Prince Georges County, Case No.:
CAL18-26458, E. Gregory Wells, Judge.
by Allen R. Dyer (Law Office of Allen R. Dyer, Ellicott City,
MD; April T. Ademiluyi, Law Office of April T. Ademiluyi,
Laurel, MD), on memorandum, for Appellants.
by Bruce L. Marcus (Sydney M. Patterson, MarcusBonsib, LLC,
Greenbelt, MD) and Argued by Andrea W. Trento, Asst. Atty.
Gen. (Julia Doyle Bernhardt, Asst. Atty. Gen. and Brian E.
Frosh, Attorney General of Maryland, Baltimore, MD), on
briefs, for Appellees.
before: Barbera, C.J. [*] Greene, *Adkins, McDonald,
Watts, Hotten, Getty, JJ.
[466 Md. 90] The 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, 862 A.2d 1
electoral process for conducting elections of circuit court
judges is an imperfect hybrid. As this Court discussed in
Suessmann v. Lamone, 383 Md. 697, 862 A.2d 1 (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
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. [466 Md. 91]  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
Georges 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 [466 Md. 92] 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 Partys Constitution requires that its candidates
for office be registered Libertarians and Ms. Ademiluyi
was a registered Democrat. For two reasons, we concluded that
Ms. Ademiluyis candidacy was impermissible under the
relevant provisions that regulate judicial elections in
Maryland: (i) her candidacy is at odds with the Libertarian
Partys Constitution, which requires all of its candidates
for public office to be registered members of the party; and
(ii) a judicial candidates 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 elections.
learning of Ms. Ademiluyis 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 Marylands election
code. At a hearing before the Circuit Court for Prince
Georges 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. [466 Md. 93] However, a grant of
preliminary injunction falls within the circuit courts
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, 930 A.2d 304
(2007); see also Ehrlich v. Perez, 394 Md.
691, 707, 908 A.2d 1220 (2006).
argument in the present appeal was held on September 6, 2018.
That same day, we issued a per curiam order
affirming the circuit courts grant of preliminary injunctive
relief which enjoined the State Board from certifying the
general election ballot with Ms. Ademiluyis name listed as a
candidate. Ademiluyi v. Egbuonu, 461 Md. 455, 193
A.3d 207 (2018). In that order, we indicated that an opinion
detailing the reasoning behind our affirmance of the circuit
courts decision would follow. In explanation of that per
curiam order, we conclude that the Libertarian Partys
nomination of Ms. Ademiluyi did not comport with the
§ 5-701 of the Election Law Article ("EL") and that
the circuit courts 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 [466 Md. 94] 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 electoral process.
The History of Judicial Elections in Maryland
first seventy-five years of Marylands 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. Marylands first constitution provided
for the Governor to appoint all judges with the advice and
consent of the Governors Council. Md. Const. of 1776 § 48
(1776). The Governors Council, under the Constitution of
1776, consisted of five members chosen by vote of the State
Senate and House of Delegates. The Governors 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
1836, the Governors 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 Governors 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
[466 Md. 95] 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
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
States 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:
[466 Md. 96] I am aware, Sir, that it is said the people are
competent to elect other officers; and if so, why not to
* * *
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:
[466 Md. 97] 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
a substantial number of its members supported the election of
judicial officers. This is evident from Charles J.M. Gwinns
comments on the debate:
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
[466 Md. 98] 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, [466 Md. 99] 5 (1864). The Constitution of 1864
was the most short-lived Constitution in Marylands 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 (1867).
States 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 predecessors term. Md. Const. art. IV, § 5. In
situations where the vacancy is brought about by means other
than the expiration of a predecessor judges 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 [466 Md. 100] required to
participate in judicial elections). Marylands present
Constitution also mandates qualifications that all
prospective judicial candidates must attain.
Judicial Nominating Conventions and Primary
to the Constitution of Maryland, the General Assembly has the
responsibility of regulating elections. Lamone v.
Capozzi, 396 Md. 53, 60-61, 912 A.2d 674 (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 partys candidate for circuit court judge. The party
nominating convention allowed ...