The Structure of the Maryland Court System

drawing of inside of a courtroom

The Maryland Court System Briefly Outlined

Nowadays, the average American dreads going to court. Companies usually assume that going to court will cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, may take years to conclude, and the result will be less than favorable. However, with a better understanding of the different aspect of the state court system, you can be better equipped to deal with legal issues.

Below we’ve briefly outlined the function and different levels of the Maryland court system.

The structure of the Maryland court system has four levels, two trial courts and two appellate courts.

The trial courts look at the evidence and determine guilt or innocence. They make judgments based on facts, the legal precedent, and the law.

Two levels of appellate courts review trial court’s decisions and actions. After reviewing they decide whether trial judge followed the legal precedent and the law while making decisions.

How Maryland Court System Works – The Basics

Let us have a look at exactly how the Maryland court system operates. Under the Maryland State Constitution, Maryland’s court system consists of four levels. Of those four, there are two trial courts: the District Court and the Circuit Court; and two appellate courts: the Court of Special Appeals and the Court of Appeals. There are also other Maryland Court bodies such as Orphans’ Court, The Office of Administrative Hearings, and Federal Courts in Maryland with agencies related to the Maryland Judicial System.

Trial Courts

Once you are accused of committing a crime and police arrest you, you’ll spend some time in a local jail as a holding place before your trial. Soon, you’ll appear before a judge who will inform you of the charge. At this point, known as the arrangement, you either plead “guilty” or “not guilty”. If you plead not guilty, the judge will set a bail amount and date for your trial to begin.

Depending on your offense, you’ll either go through the state’s District Court or Circuit Court.

District Court

Most people experience the US judicial system structure through a kind of district court. There is at least one district court located in each state county and the city of Baltimore. In a district court, most cases are argued before and decided by a judge, not a jury. Thus, most cases involve minor offenses such as traffic violations and boating violations, certain kinds of felonies and misdemeanors, peace order petitions and domestic violence cases, landlord-tenant disputes, civil cases involving limited dollar amounts and small claims, and recovery of detained or wrongfully taken goods (known as replevin).

Circuit Court

Circuit courts usually handle serious criminal cases. Major civil cases, such as juvenile and different family law cases, also fall under its jurisprudence. Most cases appealed from District Court, orphan’s courts, and administrative agencies also end up in circuit court. These cases are usually concerning divorce, custody and child support, but also cases of domestic violence. Again, each state county and Baltimore host a Circuit Court. Either a judge or jury may decide a case at this level.

Appellate Courts.

There are two appellate courts in Maryland, or places you would go to dispute the outcome of a trial case. For example, if you were found guilty, you could still argue at these courts that the lawyers missed some evidence, police mishandled the investigation, or the jury had a significant bias against you.

Court of Special Appeals

The Court of Special Appeals acts as an intermediate appellate court. As lawyers argue out their position, a panel judges, usually three, review the procedures and evidence handled by the trial court. In the end, these judges could either overrule the trial verdict, uphold the original decision, or declare a mistrial.

Court of Appeals

The Maryland Court of Appeals is the highest court of the state (commonly known as a “supreme court” in other states). This panel of seven judges handles cases by writ of certiorari, or written request. They determine if laws follow the state constitution. The state also requires them to judge cases involving state redistricting or the impeachment of officials.

Other Maryland Court Bodies

In addition to courts that deal with criminal and civil cases, Maryland also has a number of judicial bodies that deal with other regulatory matter.

Orphans’ Court

Judges presiding over the Orphans’ Court handle matters concerning of guardianship of children, their wills, and managing the estates of unemancipated minors.

Office of Administrative Hearings

The Office of Administrative Hearings focuses on all contested executive branch administrative law cases. For example, if you have an issue with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, with your license or insurance policy, this agency may grant you a hearing.

Federal Courts in Maryland

The state of Maryland contains a few federal courts. If your case deals with laws that overlap with both the state and federal levels, you may appear in both courts simultaneously. U.S. Constitution authorizes federal courts to address issues involving laws enacted by the federal Congress. State courts, on the other hand, deal with laws of the state and local government. For more information, visit the U.S. Courts’ website.

Agencies Related to the Maryland Judicial System

In Maryland, professional lawyers of the state and non-members of the Maryland Bar are free to offer legal services. Attorney Grievance Commission oversees all their conduct.

If a person wants admission to practice law in the state, they must pass the bar examination, managed by the Board of Law Examiners.

The Client Protection Fund provides resources and training for those seeking state admission. They also protect members against fraud and other attacks on their integrity by reimbursing their losses.

The Commission on Judicial Disabilities primarily receives, investigates, and hears complaints against members of the Maryland Judiciary. This agency also confidentially recommends reprimands for offending judges.

Rules Committee meets to consider potential changes to court procedure and decorum.

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) administers and manages budget concerns of the Maryland courts.

Finally, you should consult the State Law Library for more technical information about the legal process.

Bours & Lucero, LLC: Helping You Navigate the Maryland Court System

At Bours & Lucero, LLC, we would like to hear from you. Our attorneys have been guiding our clients through our system of law for over 40 years. Thanks to our unparalleled expertise we will help you to understand the law relevant to your situation.

Schedule a free consultation with our Maryland law attorneys today!