May 15, 2002
The Honorable Casper R. Taylor, Jr.
Speaker of the House
Annapolis MD 21401
Dear Mr. Speaker:
In accordance with Article II, Section 17 of the Maryland Constitution, I have today vetoed House Bill 70 - District Court - Small Claims Actions.
House Bill 70 expands the exclusive original jurisdiction of the District Court and limits the concurrent original jurisdiction of the circuit courts by increasing the maximum amount in controversy for civil actions with the exclusive original jurisdiction of the District Court from $2,500 to $5,000.
Following the 2001 Session of the General Assembly, I vetoed identical legislation, House Bill 546. The reasons for my veto are restated below.
Currently, if a civil action involves an amount in controversy of not more than $2,500, the District Court of Maryland has exclusive jurisdiction and the action is required to be filed and heard in the District Court. Expanding the exclusive jurisdiction for the District Court has an impact on the ability of a litigant to request a trial by jury, and precludes discovery in cases that may involve relatively minor amounts in potential damages, but have a real impact in the life of citizens.
The established jurisdictional amounts for our court system are designed to carefully balance the cases considered by the District Court and circuit courts in order to protect the rights of the individuals involved in legal actions. The disruption of this balance created by increasing the established jurisdictional amount in controversy may unfairly prejudice plaintiffs by limiting their rights. I agree with the Maryland State Bar Association's stated reluctance to change jurisdictional amounts unless supported by substantial evidence that such a change is warranted. House Bill 70 does not provide the compelling evidence necessary to alter the current law. This concern prompted the Maryland Trial Lawyers' Association to request a veto of this bill last year.
For the above reasons, I have vetoed House Bill 70.
Parris N. Glendening