Research Guides

TMLL Research Guide - Chapter 9


Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals is the highest court in Maryland and hears cases pri­marily on review. It has appellate jurisdiction over death penalty cases and questions of law under the Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act. The Court has original jurisdiction over questions concerning gubernatorial succession, review of legislative districting, disciplining of judges, and attorney discipline. The Court sits in Annapolis with five of the seven judges constituting a quorum. Its term begins on the second Monday of September and runs until the beginning of the new term. Petitions for certiorari may be filed by any interested party, including the State. Appeals may be filed either before or after the Court of Special Appeals has handed down a decision, but not later than the time prescribed by the court rules. However, certiorari will not be granted if the Court of Special Appeals has denied or granted leave to:

  1. prosecute an appeal in a post-conviction proceeding.
  2. appeal from a refusal to issue a writ of habeas corpus concerning bail.
  3. appeal in an inmate grievance commission proceeding.
  4. appeal from a final judgment entered following a plea of guilty in a circuit court.

Decisions of the Court of Appeals are reported in the Maryland Reports, the Atlantic Reporter, and the Maryland Reporter.

Court of Special Appeals

The Court of Special Appeals is an intermediate appellate court created in 1966. The court has no original jurisdiction. Except for death penalty cases, which are directly appealable to the Court of Appeals, it has exclusive initial appellate jurisdiction over judgments, decrees, and orders from the Circuit or Orphans' Courts. The Court of Special Appeals sits in Annapolis. Cases are heard before a panel of not fewer than three judges. All de­cisions are by majority vote. There are thirteen members of the court. One member is elected from each of the first five judicial circuits, two members are elected from the sixth judicial circuit (Baltimore City), and six judges are elected from the State at large. An appeal is taken by filing an order for appeal with the clerk of the trial court. However, in a post-conviction case, an appeal may be filed with either the clerk of the Court of Special Appeals or with the lower court clerk. Decisions of this court are reported in the Maryland Appellate Reports, the Atlantic Reporter, and the Maryland Reporter.

Circuit courts

The Circuit Courts are the highest common law and equity courts of record exer­cising original jurisdiction. These courts have appellate jurisdiction over decisions of the District courts. With the exception of Montgomery County, they also have exclusive jurisdiction over juvenile matters. Each county has a circuit court and these courts are grouped geographically into circuits. Baltimore City is the Eighth Judicial Circuit. Appeals are made de novo except in civil cases exceeding $2,500, and in cases in which the parties agree that the appeal is on the record made in District Court. Judgments of the Orphan's Court may be appealed to the Circuit Court instead of the Court of Special Appeals, except in Harford or Montgomery Counties. Appeals from the District Court are taken to the Circuit Court of the county in which the judgment was entered. Opinions of these courts are usually not published, but summaries of some important cases appear in Maryland's legal and business newspaper, the Daily Record.

District courts

The District Courts are of limited jurisdiction in both criminal and civil areas. They were created in 1970 and began operating in July 1971. There are twelve geographical districts consisting of one or more political subdivisions with at least one judge. The court has exclusive jurisdiction over landlord and tenant cases, replevin actions, motor vehicle violations, civil cases under $2,500, and criminal cases in which the penalty is less than three years or the fine does not exceed $2,500, or both. There is concurrent jurisdiction with the Circuit Court in misdemeanors and certain felonies. District Courts have no jurisdiction if the defen­dant is entitled to and demands a jury trial. Opinions of the District courts are not reported.

Orphans' courts

The Orphans' Courts have jurisdiction over probate matters. There is an Orphans' Court in each county, except for Harford and Montgomery, and Balti­more City. Opinions of these courts are not reported.


  1. Maryland Reports (Md.) (1658 to date) Contains the full text of opinions handed down by the Maryland Court of Appeals and its predecessor, the General Court of Maryland. Opinions are arranged chronologically. In addition to the opinions, each volume has a table of cases reported, names of the judges of the court, an index of petitions for writ of certiorari, a list of words and phrases construed, a table of statutes cited, and an index digest.
  2. Maryland Appellate Reports (Md. App.) (1967 to date) Contains the full text of Maryland Court of Special Appeals opinions. The format is the same as that of Maryland Reports.
  3. Atlantic Reporter (A., A.2d) (1885 to date) (West Group) The unofficial reporter for Maryland cases. West gathers published appellate decisions from all states in seven regional reporters. The Atlantic Reporter covers Con­necticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont, in addition to Maryland. Since it is a West reporter, cases include both headnotes and the topics and key numbers under which they are grouped in the West digests.
  4. Maryland Reporter (A., A.2d) (1938 to date) (West Group) For the benefit of practitioners who are primarily interested in Maryland decisions, West has reprinted the pages of the Atlantic Reporter containing Maryland decisions. The pagination is the same as the Atlantic Reporter.
  5. Daily Record (1888 to date) Daily newspaper published in Baltimore City and self-described as "Maryland's Business & Legal News." Contains legal announcements, court calendars, articles, opinions of the attorney general, and synopses of important court decisions.

Electronic sources

Opinions of the Court of Appeals are available on Bloomberg Law (beginning 1851), Lexis (beginning 1658), and Westlaw (beginning 1714). Opinions of the Court of Special Appeals are available on all three systems beginning 1967 when this court was created. Opinions of the Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals from 1995 to the present are available on theMaryland Judiciary Web site. Opinions are loaded on the day of filing.

Unreported opinions from Maryland appellate courts are available starting with May 2015 on theMaryland Judiciary Web site.

Records and briefs

The library receives the records and briefs of reported cases from both the Court of Appeals and the Court of Special Appeals. The earlier ones, from 1948 for the Court of Appeals and from 1967 for the Court of Special Appeals, are in paper format. The later ones, beginning with the October 1979 term, are on microfiche.

Finding aids

  1. West's Maryland Digest 2d (West Group) This multi-volume set is the subject index to both Maryland case law and federal cases arising in Maryland. Cases from 1658 to the present are included and organized by subject using West's topic and key number system. The editors of West write a short paragraph summarizing each point of law they find in all reported appellate decisions. These paragraphs are then placed at the appropriate spots in the pre-existing topical outline that forms the nucleus of the digest. The second edition of this digest has completely replaced the first.
  2. Atlantic Reporter Digest and West's Atlantic Digest 2d (West Group) This multi-volume set is the subject index for the Atlantic Reporter, the West regional reporter that includes published cases from Maryland. The two editions are designed to be used together with the first providing coverage from the earliest published cases through, depending on the volume, the early 1930s through the late 1940s, and the second providing coverage from that point to the present.
  3. West's Maryland Law Encyclopedia (West Group) Legal encyclopedias can be useful as indexes and introduc­tory guides to the law. They are written in narrative form, arranged by subject and contain references to cases in the footnotes. Some states, including Maryland, have encyclopedias that discuss the law of the state. West's Maryland Law Encyclopedia contains summary discussions of all areas of Maryland law with citations to cases, statutes, attorney general opinions and law review articles. It is available on Westlaw and in print. The print edition is updated by pocket parts.


  1. Shepard's Maryland Citations (Lexis Publishing) gives information about later history and other cases that have cited a particular decision or section. The Maryland edition of Shepard's includes citing references from attorney general opinions and law review articles that have been published by law schools within that state as well as citing references from federal cases. It does not provide citing references from cases of other states.
  2. BCite (Bloomberg Law), Shepard’s (Lexis), and KeyCite (Westlaw) give the prior and subsequent procedural history of Maryland (and other state) cases and include cites to decisions that have cited particular cases, with analysis of the significance of those citations.
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