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Sources for Maryland Case Law Research

The Maryland Court System

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

Court of Special Appeals

The Court of Special Appeals is the intermediate appellate court. It 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. Decisions 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. 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. 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.

For further information about the structure and jurisdiction of Maryland courts, consult the TMLL Guide to Legal Research, "Maryland Case Law."

Resources

Reporters

  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. 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. The Atlantic Reporter covers Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont, in addition to Maryland.

  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

  • Lexis and Westlaw: Lexis and Westlaw provide opinions of the Court of Appeals (dating back to 1787 on Westlaw and 1770 on Lexis) and the Court of Special Appeals (for both systems dating back to 1967, when this court was created).
  • Internet: Opinions of the Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals from 1995 to the present are available on the Maryland Judiciary Web site. Opinions are loaded on the day of filing.

Records and Briefs

Larger libraries (such as the Thurgood Marshall Law Library) may receive the records and briefs of reported cases from the Court of Appeals and the Court of Special Appeals.

Finding Aids

  1. West's Maryland Digest 2d. 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 second edition of this digest has completely replaced the first.

  2. Atlantic Reporter Digest and West's Atlantic Digest 2d. This multi-volume set is the subject index for the Atlantic Reporter, the West regional reporter that includes published cases from Maryland.

  3. 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 updated by pocket parts. It includes several volumes of procedural forms.

Updating

  1. Shepard's Maryland Citations. (Print) 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 published by law schools within the state as well as citing references from federal cases. It does not provide citing references from cases of other states.

  2. Shepard's (Online on Lexis). Gives the prior and subsequent procedural history of Maryland (and other state) cases and includes cites to decisions that have cited particular cases, with analysis of the significance of those citations.

  3. KeyCite (on Westlaw). Performs the same functions as Shepardizing. Allows researcher to validate and expand case research. KeyCite on Westlaw is as up to date as Shepard's on Lexis.


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