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(Supreme Bench of Baltimore City)

Series Description

The 1867 Maryland Constitution established the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City. A chief judge and four associated judges, elected by the qualified voters of Baltimore City to 15 year terms, originally composed the Supreme Bench. Major duty of the judges was to preside over one of five courts of the Eighth Judicial Circuit: The Supreme Court of Baltimore City, Court of Common Pleas, Baltimore and the Criminal Court of Baltimore City. However the primary function of the judges lay in making rules of Practice, appointing and qualifying all court officials, and performing other administrative duties that the individual judges of the above name courts had previously done independently.

With the passage of time the number of judges and the administrative responsibilities of the Supreme Bench expanded. By 1973 21 judges sat on the Supreme Bench and their responsibilities included overseeing the separate law, equity and Criminal Courts and a Department of Probation. The first full-time Probation Officer for the City of Baltimore was hired in 1908 as a member of the Prisoner's Aid Association. In 1916 the association created a Department of Probation within their organization that served the city courts until it was transfered to the Supreme Bench in 1921.

In 1931 the Maryland Legislature passed the probation Act for Baltimore City that authorized the . Supreme Bench of Baltimore City to create a Probation Department for use in the courts of Baltimore City. The act empowered the Supreme Bench to hire and fire personnel. Parole officers were made available to the judges of the courts within the Eighth Judicial Circuit to make investigations and perform probationary services.

In 1973 the Maryland General Assembly approved Senate Bill 851, which transferred the Probation Department of the Supreme Bench to the Maryland State Division of Parole and Probation. This bill, which took effect on July 1, 1973, also brought the Probation Departments in the County District Courts under the direct supervision of the Maryland State Division of Parole and Probation.

For further information on the Supreme Bench see the 1867 Maryland Constitution. (Art. 4, part 4, sees. 27, 31-37), Laws of Maryland. 1931 (ch. 132, sec. 351 A), City of Baltimore Municipal Handbook - 1974 (p. 130). See also the article by Harry Adelberg, "Probation in its Practicle Application" (The Daily Record. Baltimore November 15, 1935.) and "The Records of a City: Baltimore and Its Historical Sources," by Richard J. Cox and Patricia M. Varnoy (Maryland Historical Magazine vol. 70 (fall 1975), pp. 286-310.)

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DateSeries NameDescriptionMSA Citation
  Details1942-1974Probation Department - Personnel Files

These files are for employees of the Probation Department of the Supreme Bench who were deceased, chose not to transfer to the State Division of Parole and Probation, or had left the employ of the Probation Department prior to 1973. The reason for those employees who left the Probation Department prior to 1973 were voluntary resignation or dismissal. The personnel files contain applications for employment, letters of recommendation, entry tickets, identification cards, tes.t results, college transcripts, attendance records, evaluations, signed loyalty oaths, letters of resignation or termination, exit interviews and evaluations, etc.

A container list that serves as as name index to these records is available at the Baltimore City Archives. The use of the records is restricted until 2024.

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