Andrews v. Governor of Maryland

Decision Date07 September 1982
Docket NumberNo. 138,138
Citation449 A.2d 1144,294 Md. 285
PartiesRichard L. ANDREWS v. GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND et al.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Richard L. Andrews, in pro. per.

Richard E. Israel, Asst. Atty. Gen., Annapolis (Stephen H. Sachs, Atty. Gen., Baltimore, on the brief), for appellees.


COLE, Judge.

The one issue presented by this appeal is whether two proposals for amendments to the Maryland Constitution, drafted by the General Assembly and submitted to the voters for their ratification in the general election of 1980, followed the constitutionally prescribed format for amending the Constitution, when the passage of one amendment was made contingent upon the passage of the other.

The pertinent facts can be recounted succinctly. The General Assembly passed two bills at its 1980 Session proposing to amend the State Constitution. Richard L. Andrews, the appellant here, challenged the proposals as violating Article XIV, § 1 of the Constitution, in that each proposal contained a provision that its passage and adoption was to be contingent on the passage of the other. Andrews filed suit in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, seeking to have the court declare the two proposed amendments invalid and requesting the court to issue an injunction to prevent the placing of the proposals on the November, 1980 ballot.

On October 7, 1980, the Circuit Court granted summary judgment to the defendants in Andrews' suit. Andrews appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which dismissed the appeal as not being from a final judgment. Andrews thereupon filed a motion with the Circuit Court to render final judgment, which was granted on July 10, 1981. In the meantime, on November 4, 1980, the voters of Maryland approved the proposed constitutional amendments and the Governor of Maryland proclaimed their ratification. Andrews once again appealed the decision of the Circuit Court to the Court of Special Appeals. We granted certiorari prior to consideration by that court to consider the constitutional question presented.

The amendments whose vitality Andrews challenges were proposed by the General Assembly as Chapters 523 and 524 of the Acts of 1980. Chapter 523 proposed to repeal and amend several sections of Article IV of the Constitution. That portion pertinent to this appeal concerns the restructuring of the court system in the Eighth Judicial Circuit, Baltimore City. Prior to Chapter 523, each of Maryland's twenty-three counties had only one circuit level court for that county. Baltimore City, on the other hand, had three civil common law circuit level courts: The Superior Court, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Baltimore City Court, Md.Const. Art. IV, § 28. See Davidson v. Miller, 276 Md. 54, 344 A.2d 422 (1975); Legum v. Blank, 105 Md. 126, 65 A. 1071 (1907). Chapter 523 proposed a comprehensive revision of Article IV, repealing Sections 27 through 35 and 37 through 39, and amending Sections 1, 4A, 4B(a), 5, 9, 18, 20, 23, 25, and 26, which resulted, as far as the issue presented here is concerned, in consolidating the various circuit level courts in Baltimore City into one circuit court. 1 The offshoot of this would be to harmonize the Baltimore City court system with the circuit courts systems in the twenty-three Maryland counties. In addition, Chapter 523 provided that it would only be effective if Chapter 524 was adopted by the voters in the same election.

The second proposed amendment, Chapter 524, endeavored to amend Article IV, § 8 of the Constitution. The change pertinent to the instant case concerns the right of removal guaranteed by that article. Prior to Chapter 524, Article IV, § 8 provided that

in all suits or actions at law ... pending in any of the courts of law in this State, having jurisdiction thereof, upon suggestion in writing under oath of either of the parties to said proceedings, that such party cannot have a fair and impartial trial in the court in which the same may be pending, the said court shall order and direct the record of proceedings in such suit or action, issue, presentment or indictment, to be transmitted to some court having jurisdiction in such case for trial....

This guaranteed to civil law litigants one automatic right of removal to another court of competent jurisdiction. See Davidson v. Miller, supra; Shreffler v. Morris, 262 Md. 161, 277 A.2d 62 (1971). Chapter 524 changes this "automatic" right to a discretionary one, providing that

in addition to the suggestion in writing of either of the parties to the cause or case, that the party cannot have a fair and impartial trial in the court in which the cause or case may be pending, it shall be necessary for the party making the suggestion to make it satisfactorily appear to the court that the suggestion is true, or that there is reasonable ground for the same....

Chapter 524 concludes with the same contingency section contained in Chapter 523, i.e., that the provisions of Chapter 524 would only be effective if Chapter 523 was adopted by the voters in the same election.

Andrews contends that by making the efficacy of each of the proposed amendments contingent upon the adoption of the other, the legislature has stepped outside the procedure prescribed by the Constitution for its own amendment. Specifically, he maintains that the contingency provision in each of the bills violates the separate vote requirement of Article XIV, § 1: "[W]hen two or more amendments shall be submitted ... to the voters of this State at the same election, they shall be so submitted as that each amendment shall be voted on separately."

Andrews thus challenges the validity of the proposals even though approved by the electorate and proclaimed by the Governor as valid amendments. Our duty here is clear. We must determine if the legislature has complied with the scheme prescribed in the Constitution for its own amendment, for, as we said in Hillman v. Stockett, 183 Md. 641, 648, 39 A.2d 803 (1944).

Provisions of a constitution regulating its own amendment, otherwise than by a convention, are not merely directory, but are mandatory; and a strict observance of every substantial requirement is essential to the validity of the proposed amendment.

We are equally mindful of the principle of judicial review that when a constitutional amendment has been ratified by the electorate every reasonable presumption in favor of its validity will be indulged in and the party challenging its validity will be saddled with the burden of clearly establishing its constitutional infirmity. See City of Glendale v. Buchanan, 195 Colo. 267, 578 P.2d 221, 224 (1978); Keenan v. Price, 68 Idaho 423, 195 P.2d 662 (1948); City of Raton v. Sproule, 78 N.M. 138, 429 P.2d 336 (1967). The reason for this principle is obvious. The people are presumed to have understood the propositions as submitted and by their approval determined that the amendments are for the public good.

Despite this heavy burden, Andrews, nevertheless, insists that the contingency clause appended to each proposal violates the voter's right to vote separately on each proposal as required in Section I of Art. XIV. The effect of this provision, Andrews maintains, is to remove the element of choice from the voter. If the voter wishes to reject one of the proposals, he must reject both. Otherwise, if he votes "no" on one and "yes" on the other he has effectively nullified his vote. This, Andrews argues, denies the voter his right of choice. If the voter wants to make his vote count, he must vote consistently on both proposals, the net effect of which requires the voter to cast one vote for or against both proposals.

In ascertaining the meaning of a constitutional provision, we are governed by the same rules of interpretation which prevail in relation to a statute. Perkins v. Eskridge, 278 Md. 619, 639, 366 A.2d 21 (1976). Thus, we consider the history of the provision, the evils to be remedied, as well as the objects to be attained by its adoption. The standard we have enunciated for this purpose is:

[C]onstitutions are not to be interpreted according to the words used in particular clauses. The whole must be considered, with a view to ascertain the sense in which the words were employed, and its words must be taken in their ordinary and common acceptation, because they are presumed to have been so understood by the framers and by the people who adopted it.... It [the Constitution], unlike the Acts of our legislature, owes its whole force and authority to its ratification by the people, and they judged of it by the meaning apparent on its face.... [ Manly v. State, 7 Md. 135, 147 (1854).]

We look, then, to the history and purpose of Article XIV, § 1, as well as the provision as a whole, to determine the scope and applicability of this section to the instant circumstances.

Although the Constitution has changed several times since the original 1776 instrument, there has always been some provision for its amendment. The 1776 Constitution, in § 59, provided that, in order to change the Declaration of Rights or the Constitution, the General Assembly would have to pass a bill, publish it at least three months before a new election, and then confirm the bill after a new election of delegates. Thus, anytime the members of the General Assembly desired to amend the Constitution they were required to submit their positions as legislators to the uncertainties of another election in order to seek the sense of the people on the proposed amendment.

This process was substantially altered by the Constitution of 1864 in Article XI, § 1. That provision required a proposed amendment to receive three-fifths support of the members of both houses. The proposals would then be publicized for at least three months and submitted to the voters for approval at the next election. If a majority of voters approved, then the Governor was to proclaim the...

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