ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s new chief judge has set a deadline for the state’s highest court to issue decisions.

The Daily Record reported Monday that Court of Appeals Judge Mary Ellen Barbera says the state’s highest court will issue its decisions no later than the first Aug. 31 after it hears arguments.

“It is quite simply the right thing to do,” Barbera said.

Before stepping down in July, retired Chief Judge Robert Bell issued majority opinions in three criminal appeals cases that had been before him for at least five-and-a-half years after they were argued.

The newspaper reports that between his retirement and Oct. 1, Bell was listed as the author of 11 more opinions in cases the court had heard years earlier. The fastest came 298 days after oral argument. The slowest, which was an explanation of the court’s order in a guardianship case, was 1,874 days.

Bell declined to say why the opinions took so long. He says his retirement acted as a spur.

“I’m just finishing up, that’s all,” Bell told the newspaper last week.

In one of the three opinions issued in the months before Bell’s retirement, Kevin Alston waited more than seven years for a ruling on his five-year sentence. In another, the Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Jaron Tyree Grade five-and-a-half years after hearing his case. In the third case, the court unanimously affirmed the conviction of a man who was convicted for harming a police dog during an arrest.

The cases were featured in The Daily Record’s 2012 and 2011 reports, which examined what many judges and lawyers considered the inordinate amount of time it often took Maryland’s highest court to issue decisions in cases after hearing oral arguments.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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