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Researching Maryland Law

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Case Law

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 at 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 of certiorari can 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:

l. 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, Maryland Reporter, and the Atlantic 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 the Court of Appeals, it has exclusive initial appellate jurisdiction over judgment, decrees, and orders from a Circuit or Orphans' Court.

The Court of Special Appeals sits at 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, Maryland Reporter and the Atlantic Reporter, second series.

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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 $1,000, and in cases where 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. This does not apply to 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 the Daily Record.

District Courts

The District courts are of limited jurisdiction in both criminal and civil areas and 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. It has concurrent jurisdiction with the Circuit Court in misdemeanors and certain felonies. The District Court has no jurisdiction if the defendant is entitled to and demands a jury trial.

The opinions of the District courts are not reported.

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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.

The opinions of these courts are not reported.


1. Maryland Reports (Md.) 1658-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, a list of the 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-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, first and second series (A., A.2d) 1885-date (West Publishing Co.)
The unofficial reporter for Maryland cases. West publishes 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, the cases include headnotes and the key number topics under which they are grouped in the West digests.

4. Maryland Reporter 1938-date (West Publishing Co.) For the benefit of practitioners who are primarily interested in Maryland decisions, West has reprinted the pages of the Atlantic Reporter which have Maryland decisions. The pagination is the same as in the Atlantic Reporter.

5. Daily Record - Daily legal newspaper published in Baltimore City since 1888. Contains legal announcements, court calendars, articles, opinions of the attorney general, and synopses of important court decisions.

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Records and Briefs

The Thurgood Marshall Law Library at the University of Maryland School of Law 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, from the October 1979 term, are on microfiche.

Finding Aids

1. Maryland Digest (West Publishing Co.) This multi-volume set is the subject index to Maryland case law.
Cases from 1650 to the present are included and organized by subject using West's key number topic system. The editors of West write a short paragraph summarizing each point of law they perceive in all reported appellate decisions. These paragraphs are then placed at the appropriate spots in the preexisting topical outline that forms the nucleus of the digest.

2. Atlantic Digest (West Publishing Co.) This multi-volume set is the subject index for the West regional reporter which includes published cases from Maryland.

3. Maryland Law Encyclopedia (West Publishing Co.) 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 which discuss the law of that 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 and is updated by pocket parts. It includes several volumes of procedural forms.

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Statutory Law


1. Session Laws - Chronological collection of laws passed by the Legislature each session and arranged by chapter number. First source to check for new legislation.

2. Public General Laws - Laws passed by the General Assembly which affect the entire state.

3. Public Local Laws - Laws passed by the General Assembly which only affect an area within prescribed territorial limits, i.e. Baltimore City. The last compilation of the public local laws was published as part of the 1930 edition of the code. To update these laws, use individual county public local laws in conjunction with Compilation of the Changes in the Public Local Laws.

4. Consolidated Codes - Current public general laws of the state arranged by subject. Session laws are rearranged into a logical subject arrangement and repealed laws are eliminated.


1. Laws of Maryland (Md. Laws) (Maryland Department of Legislative Reference) A chronological arrangement, published since 1800, of the full text of all public general and public local laws passed by the Maryland General Assembly. Also includes Executive Orders and Governor's vetoes. Indexed by subject and code section.

2. Maryland Annotated Code (Md. Ann. Code (1957 edition) or Md. Code Ann.) (Michie Company) A topical compilation of the public general laws of Maryland currently in effect. Includes annotations to cases construing and interpreting provisions of the code, references to the Maryland Law Review and the University of Baltimore Law Review, commentaries, and historical tracings. Updated yearly by pocket parts or cumulative supplements. The edition first published in 1957 (black binding, arranged by numbered articles) is gradually being replaced by the edition first published in 1973 (maroon binding, arranged by named articles). One subject index covers both editions with form of reference, numbered or named title, indicating which edition is current for that topic.

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Administrative Law


1. Maryland Register (Md. Reg.) (Maryland Division of State Documents) Issued every other Friday, the Maryland Register serves much the same purpose as does the Federal Register, that is a means of distributing in a timely fashion proposed and final actions of state agencies, most usually new regulations. Cumulative indexes are published quarterly. The Register also publishes Executive Orders of the Governor, the full text of the Opinions of the Attorney General, and the Opinions of the State Ethics Commission.

2. Code of Maryland Regulations (Md. Regs. Code) (Maryland Division of State Documents)
First published in 1974, COMAR is the official compilation of all regulations issued by agencies of Maryland that are not purely internal to the agency. It is published in loose-leaf format and its 26 titles are arranged by agency. The set currently consists of 24 volumes and is updated at least once per year. The Maryland Register, issued every other week, serves as the interim updating service.

3. Annual Report and Official Opinions of the Attorney General of Maryland 1916-date
These opinions carry the weight of law and can be cited in a brief. They are arranged by opinion numbers in the annual, bound volumes. A subject index and a table of laws cited are located at the end of each volume.

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1. Shepard's Maryland Citations (Shepard's/McGraw-Hill, Inc.) Covers all Maryland case and statutory law, court rules, and ordinances and gives information on later history and other cases that have cited a particular decision or section. State editions of Shepard's, including that for Maryland, give references to attorney general opinions and law review articles that have been published by law schools within that state.

2. Shepard's Atlantic Citations (Shepard's/McGraw-Hill, Inc.) Gives information about later case history under the Atlantic Reporter citation. The regional reporter editions omit the references to state publications such as attorney general opinions. They do, however, contain references to published appellate decisions from other states citing the decision, which are not found in the state edition.

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The Maryland Institute for Continuing Professional Education of Lawyers, Inc., commonly known as MICPEL, was formed in 1976 through the cooperative efforts of the Maryland Bar Association, the University of Baltimore Law School and the University of Maryland School of Law. MICPEL has published a series of practice oriented notebooks covering topics such as torts, probate, will drafting, bankruptcy, landlord/tenant, worker's compensation, etc. New titles and updated versions of old titles are published as warranted.

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