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:
Decisions of the Court of Appeals are reported in the Maryland Reports, the Atlantic Reporter, and the Maryland Reporter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 the Maryland Judiciary Web site at http://www.courts.state.md.us/opinions.html. Opinions are loaded on the day of filing.
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.