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Overview of the State of Maryland Court System


Content:

A. Maryland Trial Courts

Maryland has District Courts and Circuit Courts. District Courts are smaller claim courts and have jurisdiction up to $30,000. All District Court cases are bench trials. District Court cases for $5,000 and under are small claims trials, which proceed without formal rules of evidence.

Circuit Courts in Maryland have jurisdiction for anything over $15,000. Circuit Court cases are normally heard by a jury, unless the parties waive the right to a jury.

STATE TRIAL COURTS
Allegany County:

Type of jurisdiction - Rural (Far western panhandle of Maryland)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 months

Comments: The Circuit Court for Allegany County has two judges. The region is mountainous and country-oriented. The juries tend to be middle to lower-income and are conservative.

District Court (no jury / bench trials only):

  • Typical award - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: The District for Allegany County has two judges.

Anne Arundel County:

Type of jurisdiction - Suburban/rural (Annapolis, Maryland)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has eleven judges. Mediation is mandatory in the Circuit Court. The juries tend to be upper middle- income to affluent.

District Court (no jury / bench trials only):

  • Typical award - Moderately conservative.
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks.

Comments: The District Court has eight judges. The judges tend to be less conservative than the juries.

Baltimore City

Type of jurisdiction - Urban (biggest city in Maryland)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Extremely liberal
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has thirty-one judges. As to be expected in a large city, there are many working class and lower- income individuals that make up the bulk of the jury pools. While all professionals work in the city, they commute home to the suburbs. Crime remains high.

District Court (no jury / bench trials only):

  • Typical award - Moderately conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: The District Court has twenty-seven judges. There is a stark contrast between trying a case before a district court judge and a jury in Baltimore City. The judges are surprisingly conservative for an urban setting.

Baltimore County

Type of jurisdiction - Suburban (North of Baltimore City)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Moderate
  • Time to trial - 12-14 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has seventeen judges. The juries tend to be middle to upper middle-income persons.

District Court (no jury / bench trials only):

  • Typical award - Moderate
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: The District Court has thirteen judges. The awards rendered by the judges tend to be a little less conservative than the juries.

Calvert County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural (Southern Maryland, on Chesapeake)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 12-14 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has two judges. Summary judgments do not get granted very often. The region is traditionally rural and agricultural. However, it is experiencing rapid growth from families moving in from the closer-in Washington, D.C. suburbs.

The juries tend to be middle-income and conservative.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Moderate to liberal
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: There is only one judge in the District Court, and his awards tend to be more liberal than those of the juries.

Caroline County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural (Eastern Shore)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has one judge. The juries tend to be middle to lower middle-income. The region is agricultural.

District Court:

  • Typical award - A little less conservative than the jury verdicts
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: The District Court has one judge.

Carroll County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural (on Pennsylvania border)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has three judges. The area is traditionally rural but is growing with families moving from the closer-in Baltimore suburbs.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: The District Court has two judges.

Cecil County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural (on Pennsylvania border)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has three judges. The juries tend to be middle-income.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: The District Court has two judges.

Charles County

Type of jurisdiction - Suburban/rural (Southern Maryland)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Moderate to conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has four judges. This is another traditionally rural area with some agriculture. It too is experiencing growth from families moving further out from the Washington, D.C. suburbs.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Moderate
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: The District Court has two judges. The awards of the judges tend to be less conservative than the jury awards.

Dorchester County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural/agricultural (Eastern Shore)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has one judge. The region is agricultural with large farms and watermen. Juries tend to be middle-income.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: The District Court also has just one judge, and he is generally very conservative in cases involving personal injury.

Harford County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural/suburban (borders Pennsylvania)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: There are six Circuit Court judges. Traditionally a rural area, Harford County is becoming more suburban as families move further out from the Baltimore suburbs. The juries tend to be middle-income.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: There are four District Court judges. Their awards tend to be moderate.

Howard County

Type of jurisdiction - Suburban (between Baltimore and D.C.)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Moderately conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 months

Comments: There are five judges on the Circuit Court. The region is middle-income to affluent and has workers commuting to both Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Moderately conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: There are five judges on the District Court.

Kent County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural (Furthest county on Eastern Shore)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: There is one Circuit Court judge. The region is agricultural and juries tend to be middle to lower middle-income.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: There is one District Court judge.

Montgomery County

Type of jurisdiction - Suburban/Affluent (North of D.C. on Virginia border)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Moderate to conservative
  • Time to trial - 12 months

Comments: There are twenty-one Circuit Court judges. Montgomery County is a culturally-diverse region, ranging from urban areas closer to Washington, D.C. with lower-income persons to very affluent suburbs to more rural areas with some farmland at its outer reaches. The juries tend to be well educated, but if they find causation, they may be willing to give a high verdict.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Moderate
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: There are eleven District Court judges. As a group, the judges cannot be classified with one etiology. There are some who tend to be more conservative than the others, and others who tend to be more liberal than the others.

Prince George’s County

Type of jurisdiction - Urban/suburban (surrounds D.C.)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Very liberal
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: Prince George’s County is the second largest jurisdiction in Maryland with twenty-three judges. Many of its residents are federal government employees. The county has in recent years experienced troubles with its schools and with crime. The juries tend to be middle-income and liberal to moderate.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Liberal
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: The District Court has fifteen judges. The dockets are frequently overbooked, and it is not rare for a trial to be continued by the court on the day of trial because of too busy of a docket. Continued cases are being scheduled 4-10 months later. The judges are quite busy in District Court and appreciate anything that speeds a case along.

Queen Anne’s County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural (Eastern Shore)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: The Circuit Court for Queen Anne’s County has one judge. While this region is still considered rural, there is an increased number of retirees from the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. areas, as well as a growing number of individuals moving to this area from the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. areas and continuing to work on the western shore. The juries tend to be middle to upper-income and conservative.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Moderately conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: There is one District Court judge in Queen Anne’s County.

St. Mary’s County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural (furthest Southern county)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Moderate to conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: The Circuit Court for St. Mary’s County has three judges. While this region is primarily rural and agricultural, it has a sizeable contingent of military at the Patuxent River Naval Base. Juries tend to be middle-income.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Moderately conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: The District Court has only one judge.

Somerset County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural (Eastern Shore)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has one judge. This region is primarily populated with farmers and watermen. The juries tend to be middle to lower middle-income.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: There is only one District Court judge.

Talbot County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural (Eastern Shore)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has one judge. The region is primarily agricultural and rural with the juries tending to be middle- income.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: There is only one judge in the District Court.

Washington County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural/mountainous (Western panhandle)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has five judges. The residents of the region primarily tend to be in agriculture and industry. The juries tend to be middle-income.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Conservative to moderate
  • Time to trial - 10-12 weeks

Comments: There are only two District Court judges.

Wicomico County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural (Eastern Shore)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: The Circuit Court has three judges. The majority of residents live in the Salisbury area which is a medium-size city. The juries tend to be middle-income.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Moderately conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: There are two judges in the District Court.

Worcester County

Type of jurisdiction - Rural (Eastern Shore)

Circuit Court:

  • Typical jury verdicts - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 10-12 months

Comments: There are three judges in the Circuit Court. While the area remains primarily agricultural, there are a sizeable number of retirees from the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore regions which now take up residence in the areas near the Maryland beaches. This region is home of the popular vacation destinations of the Maryland beaches. During the summer months, the population of Ocean City, Maryland increases into the hundreds of thousands.

District Court:

  • Typical award - Conservative
  • Time to trial - 8-10 weeks

Comments: The District Court has two judges.


STATE APPELLATE COURTS

Court of Appeals

Jurisdiction: All civil and criminal matters.

Right of appeal: By petition for writ of certiorari.

Time to decision: 6 months

Comments: The Maryland Court of Appeals is the Supreme Court in Maryland. It always sits in banc (with all seven members). It sits nine months out of the year, taking off the summer.

The only case that has an automatic right of appeal to the Court of Appeals is a death penalty criminal case. Short of that, a civil case is only heard when the court removes an appeal from the Court of Special Appeals or when the court grants a petition for writ of certiorari. If a party loses in Court of Special Appeals, they can file a Petition for Writ of Certiorari requesting that the Court of Appeals review the lower court’s decision. Based on statistics kept by the Court of Appeals, the court grants one out of every seven petitions. On the average, 700 petitions were filed over the past three years and approximately 110 were granted.

It normally takes the Court of Appeals a minimum of six months to publish an opinion. Most, but not all, of the Court’s opinions are published.


Court of Special Appeals

Jurisdiction: All civil and criminal matters.

Right of appeal: As a matter of right - automatic.

Decision Time: 4 to 6 months

Comments: The Maryland Court of Special Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in Maryland. The Court of Special Appeals is comprised of thirteen judges from appellate districts throughout the State of Maryland. They sit in groups of three. One of the three judges is normally assigned

to write the opinion before oral argument. An appeal to the Court of Special Appeals must be filed within 30 days of the entry of judgment from the trial court. The court will then decide whether the case should be set in for a pre-hearing conference. A Scheduling Order will be entered into where the Appellant (the party appealing) will be assigned a date to have their brief filed. The Appellee then has 30 days to file a response thereafter. Hearings are normally set approximately six months later. It takes an additional four to six months to get an opinion. Most Court of Special Appeal’s opinions are unreported (and therefore hold no precedential value other than the case at hand). From start to finish, the appeal process is normally fourteen to sixteen months.

Since a losing party has the automatic right of appeal, the Court of Special Appeals is inundated with both civil and criminal appeals. As a result, most opinions are case specific and may be unpublished.


FEDERAL TRIAL COURTS

United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern, Division, Baltimore

Chief Judge: James K. Bredar

Clerk of the Court: Felicia Cannon

Type of Jurisdiction: The Northern Division ranges from rural to urban and is comprised of the following counties: Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick, Carroll, Baltimore, Harford, Cecil, Montgomery, Howard, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Caroline, Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset, Worcester, and Baltimore City.

Typical Jury Verdicts: Moderate to conservative

Time to Trial: 12 to 14 months

Comments: The Northern Division is comprised of eight judges and six magistrates.

United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division, Greenbelt

Type of Jurisdiction: The Southern Division is suburban and is comprised of the remaining Maryland counties of: Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary’s.

Typical Jury Verdicts: Typically, the Southern Division is slightly more conservative than the Northern District.

Time to Trial: 12 to 14 months

Comments: The Southern Division represents a smaller geographic area and is comprised of four judges and four magistrates.


FEDERAL APPELLATE COURT

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Location: Richmond, Virginia

Circuit Justice: John G. Roberts

Chief Judge: Roger L. Gregory

Jurisdiction: All civil and criminal matters

Right of Appeal: As a matter of right – automatic

Time to Decision: 1 to 2 years


B. Appellate Courts

Appeal From the District Court

District Court to Circuit Court - Any party in a civil case may appeal by filing an order for appeal with the clerk of the District Court within 30 days from the date of the final judgment. In a small claims case, the appeal will be heard de novo as if there had never been a prior hearing or judgment. In a controversy which exceeds $5,000, the appeal will be heard on the record. MD. CODE ANN. §§ 12-401 to 12-404.

To secure appellate review in the circuit court, a notice of appeal must be filed with the clerk of the District Court within 30 days after entry of the judgment or order denying the motion. The party requesting the appeal will be required to pay the clerk the cost of preparing a transcript, if a transcript is necessary (cases heard on the record). The transcript must be ordered, in writing, from the clerk of the District Court within 10 days after the date the first notice of appeal is filed. The transcript must contain: a transcript of all testimony or that part of the testimony that the parties agree is necessary for the appeal and; transcription of any other proceeding relevant of the appeal pursuant to Rule 16-504.

Obtaining a transcript could take up to several months, thereby making an appeal from the District Court to the Circuit Court a very lengthy process.

Appeal from Circuit Court

Circuit Court to Court of Special Appeals - To secure an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals from the Circuit Court, a notice of appeal must be filed with the clerk of the Circuit Court within 30 days after entry of the judgment or order from which the appeal is taken. A filing fee will be charged and must be paid. The appellant (party making the appeal) must order a copy of the transcript in writing from the court stenographer within

10 days after the date the first notice of appeal is filed in all other actions

or after the date of an order pursuant to Md. Rule 8-411.

Court of Special Appeals to Court of Appeals - To secure appeal to the Court of Appeals from the Court of Special Appeals, generally, a writ of certiorari is required. (See Rule 8-301 for the other two methods). A petition for writ of certiorari may be filed either before or after the Court of Special Appeals has rendered a decision, but not later than 15 days after the Court of Special Appeals issues its mandate. The petition will contain the information set forth in Md. Rule 8-303(b)(1)(A)-(E), and upon submission of the petition the Court of Appeals will grant or deny the appeal.


Document Navigation:

Overview of the State of Maryland Court System

PDF version of the entire overview

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