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Zimmerman's Research Guide


Maryland - Judicial Branch

This entry is divided into the following sections:

1. General Information

The Maryland court system has four levels. The highest court is the Court of Appeals. The intermediate appellate court is the Court of Special Appeals. The main trial court is the Circuit Court. The lower trial court of general jurisdiction is the District Court. There are also specialty trial courts - notably, the Orphans' Court. The Small Claims Court is part of the District Court. The Tax Court is actually an independent executive agency, discussed in the Tax section of the "Maryland - Executive Branch - Agencies and Offices" entry.

More information about the Maryland courts is posted by the Maryland Judiciary.

Maryland is part of the fourth Federal Circuit.

2. Judicial Opinions

Court of Appeals: Court of Appeals cases are published officially in the Maryland Reports back to 1851 and unofficially in the Atlantic Reporter back to 1885. Older opinions are published in the following case reporters: Harris and McHenry, 1770-1774 and 1780-1799; Harris and Johnson, 1800-1826; Harris and Gill, 1826-1829; Gill and Johnson, 1829-1842; Gill, 1843-1851. These old reporters are available in some Maryland government and academic libraries.

In addition, the Proceedings of the Maryland Court of Appeals, 1695-1724, is posted by the Maryland Archives.

Free Postings: Maryland Court of Appeals opinions are posted free on the Maryland Judiciary Web site back to 1995 and on Google Scholar back to 1950.

Fee-Based Services: Maryland Court of Appeals decisions are available on Lexis back to 1770 (MD;MD), Westlaw back to 1714 (MD-CS), LOIS back to 1899, and both Fastcase and Versuslaw back to 1950.

Page Cites for Recent Cases: West takes about five or six weeks to assign official Maryland Reports page numbers to Court of Appeals cases. Until then, the BlueBook says you can cite to the Lexis or Westlaw page. However, the Court of Appeals itself requires you to site to the pages in its own signed opinion -- which you can get from the Court Clerk or, if you have a post-2005 "RecordFax" number from the Daily Record (443-524-8101).

Court of Special Appeals: The Court of Special Appeals was created in 1966 to cut the case load for the Court of Appeals. The Court's reported opinions are published officially in Maryland Appellate Reports and unofficially in West's Atlantic Reporter.

Free Postings: Maryland Court of Appeals opinions are posted free by the Maryland Judiciary back through 1995. They are searchable on Google Scholar back to 1950.

Fee-Based Services: Maryland Court of Appeals decisions are available on Lexis (MD;MDAPP), Westlaw (MD-CS), LOIS, and Versuslaw.

Unreported Opinions: A list of the unreported opinions of the Court of Special Appeals is posted by the Maryland Judiciary. You can get copies of the full text from the Maryland State Law Library (888-216-8156 out of state; 410-260-1430 in state) or you can write away to the court. The unreported opinions from November 2014 to the present are available to subscribers in a database posted by The Daily Record. Prior to November 2014, selected opinions were abstracted in The Daily Record; you could get a fax of the full text of opinions back to 2006 if you call The Daily Record (443-524-8101) with the RecordFax number.

Circuit and District Courts: The Maryland Circuit Courts go way back; the District Courts started issuing opinions on July 5, 1971, when they replaced a number of miscellaneous lower trial courts (see "Other Courts," below).

Circuit Court opinions starting in 2003 are available on Lexis (MD;MDBT).

Select opinions of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City -- plus a very few opinions from other circuit and district courts -- are published in the Daily Record, Maryland's legal newspaper. Subscribers can search the archive back to July 7, 2000 on the Record Web site (www.mddailyrecord.com). Lexis has coverage from 1995 to the present (MD;DLYREC). Westlaw has coverage from August 1991 to April 1999, then from November 2002 to the present (DAILYREC).

To locate other opinions, contact the relevant Court Clerk (you can link to phone numbers through www.mdcourts.gov/circuit).

Tax Court: The Tax Court is not part of the Judicial Branch, it is an independent executive agency. Decisions are discussed in the Tax section of the "Maryland - Executive Branch - Agencies and Offices" entry.

Supreme Bench: The Supreme Bench became the 8th Judicial Circuit for Baltimore City on January 1, 1983. Contact the Baltimore City Circuit Court for old Supreme Bench opinions.

Other Courts: Bland's Reports and Johnson's Reports for the Maryland Court of Chancery (covering 1909-1854) are posted by the Maryland Archives, along with Proceedings for the colonial Court of Chancery (1669-1679), Provincial Court (1673-1683) and several County Courts.

Opinions of the Chancery Court are also published in Maryland Chancery Reports (1874-1854), now available on microfilm.

3. Briefs, Pleadings and Other Filings

Lexis has a database for briefs and motions (CRTFLS;MDMTBR) and another database for pleadings (CRTFLS;MDPLDG). The cases feature selected documents from the Maryland Court of Appeals, Court of Special Appeals and Circuit Courts starting in 2000.

Westlaw has selected briefs from the Maryland Court of Appeals and Maryland Court of Special Appeals starting in 1972 (MD-BRIEF) and selected complaints, motions and other documents filed in Maryland trial courts (MD-FILING).

Courtlink has its own database of Maryland case file documents.

Briefs for Maryland Court of Appeals cases and reported Court of Special Appeals cases can be ordered from the Maryland State Law Library. The Library gets the briefs on microfiche, with about a 2-year delay.

In addition, complaints for selected cases are available to subscribers to the Courthouse New Service.

Alternatively, you can get copies of case filings by contacting the clerk of the relevant court.

See also the separate entries for "Briefs" and "Forms."

4. Certiorari

To find out if a Writ of Certiorari has been filed in a particular case, call the Clerk's Office at the Court of Special Appeals (410-260-1450) and/or the Court of Appeals (410-260-1506 or 410-260-1500). Note: Parties generally get the later of (a) 15 days from the date of the Court of Appeals' "mandate" or (b) 30 days from the date of the opinion to file for certiorari [see Maryland Rule 8-302]. The Clerk at the Court of Appeals can tell you the date of the mandate; the opinion date is on the opinion.

To find out if a Write of Certiorari has been granted or denied for a recent case, call the Clerk's Office at the Court of Special Appeals (410-260-1450); for older cases you can get this information from the Shepard's or KeyCite Report.

5. Court Rules and Orders

Maryland Court Rules annotated are published as a 2-volume softcover set under the title "Maryland Rules" at the end of Michie's Annotated Code of Maryland. Searchable annotated editions of Maryland court rules are available on Lexis (MD;MDRULE) and Westlaw (MD-RULES). See also the treatises discussed in the "Interpreting Maryland Court Rules" section of this entry, below.

Unannotated court rules are posted free on the Internet by Lexis/Michie. West published the unannotated Maryland Court Rules: State and Federal softcover pamphlets. An unannotated edition is searchable on LOIS.

The Rules of Procedure for the Maryland Tax Court are posted on the Rules and Procedures page of the Court web site. The Tax Court Rules of Procedure are also published in Title 14, Subtitle 12 of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR).

Maryland courts generally do not have local rules, but see "Local Rules and Differentiated Case Management (DCM) Plans," below.

Maryland statutes relating to the court system are published in the "Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings" article of the Maryland Code (further discussed in the entry for Maryland - Legislative Branch).

The Small Claims court generally follows the District Court Rules in Title 3 of the Maryland Rules ("Civil Procedure - District Court"), with just a few changes found at section 3-701. The jurisdictional requirements (i.e., the maximum dollar amount) for small claims cases is found in section 4-405 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings article of the Maryland Code. The rule allowing an officer or other non-lawyer to represent a corporation and or other business entity in small claims court is found in section 10-206(b)(4) of the Business Occupation and Professions article.

New Rules, Proposed Changes: New rules and proposed changes to Maryland court rules are drafted and posted by the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. They are also searchable on Westlaw (MD-ORDERS) and published in the Maryland Register.

Interpreting Maryland Court Rules: To better understand the meaning of a particular court rule, check the Maryland Rules Commentary treatise by Niemeyer and Schuett (Lexis/Matthew Bender), the Maryland Rules of Evidence volume of the Maryland Practice Series (Thomson/West), which includes comments by Lynn McClain, and the annotations in the "Maryland Rules" volumes at the end of Michie's Annotated Code of Maryland (Lexis).

You might also want to check the meeting minutes of the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice, which is the best source for determining the "intent" behind a rule. You can search or browse the meeting minutes back to the 1940s in the Digital Collections of the Maryland State Law Library. The Standing Committee also posts meeting minutes by date back to 1997. For questions, call the Committee (410-514-7040).

Historical Court Rules: The current Maryland Rules replaced the Maryland Rules of Procedure and Maryland District Rules (M.D.R.) in 1984. The Rules were substantially revised again in 1997. There is a Table of Comparable Rules for both the 1984 and 1997 changes in the Maryland Rules volumes of the Annotated Code of Maryland that cross references the old and new sections. The Table is one of several Appendixes published after the text of the Maryland Rules and before the Index to the Maryland Rules. In print, it appears about 60% of the way through Volume 2.

Local Rules and Differentiated Case Management (DCM) Plans: The Maryland trial courts do not have local rules. However, many have "Differentiated Case Management" (DCM) Plans that divide cases into track based on type of case and complexity. More complex cases get later deadlines, longer memoranda, etc. DCMs are generally posted on the court web site (see e.g., the Anne Arundel County Civil Case Management Plan or the Baltimore County Family Law DCM); call the court if you don't see one. For more on Maryland local court rules, see No Local Rules in Maryland ... Sort Of by John Cannan, 52(1) Law Library Lights 17 (Fall 2008).

6. Docket Sheets

Docket information for Maryland Circuit and District Courts is available free through the Maryland Judiciary Case Search. Estate (probate) records are available through the Estate Search. For dates of coverage, see the MJCS FAQ.

In addition, docket information is available through commercial vendors including Courtlink, Lexis, CourtExpress and Westlaw.

The MJCS has a separate search for liens and judgments; your best bet is to search this as well as the regular case search. Lexis and TLO have their own liens and judgments searches, which currently have more PG county liens and judgments not available through the MJCS. The other commercial services may have equivalents.

Otherwise, contact the relevant court clerk's office to get a copy of the docket sheet.

7. Forms and Fines

Official forms used in the Maryland Circuit and District Courts are posted on the Court's Web site (www.mdcourts.gov/courtforms). The Fine Schedules for Motor Vehicle and Natural Resources violations are posted with the District Court Forms (www.mdcourts.gov/district/dctcivforms.html).

8. Judicial Biographies

Basic biographies of most Maryland judges are available in the Maryland Manual (www.mdarchives.state.md.us/msa/mdmanual/29ap/html/00list.html). For judges on the bench prior to 2005, the State Law Library keeps news clipping files. The State Law Library also keeps back editions of the Maryland Manual.

For more information, use the general sources discussed in the "Judges" entry.

9. Judicial Ethics

The Maryland Code of Judicial Conduct is published as Maryland Rules section 16-813. The Code of Conduct for Judicial Appointees is Maryland Rules section 16-814.

Opinions of the Maryland Judicial Ethics Committee are published in the Judicial Ethics Handbook. The Handbook is available at the Maryland State Law Library and most Maryland law school libraries but, to my knowledge, only the State Law Library has received new opinions since 1989.

10. Jury Instructions

The primary sources for Maryland jury instructions are Maryland Civil Pattern Jury Instructions and Maryland Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions, both published by the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA).

For more about Maryland jury instructions, see Maryland Civil Jury Instructions and Commentary by Rosalyn B. Bell and Maryland Civil Jury Instructions and Commentary by David E. Aaronson. Both books are published by Lexis.

11. Verdicts and Settlements

The Metro Verdicts Monthly reports on verdicts issued in Maryland Courts, mostly from personal injury and other torts cases. You can search a robust database called the Maryland Trial Reporter. See the separate entry for Verdicts and Settlements for more resources.

See Also
Court Clerks / Court Houses
Jury Instructions
Legal Ethics
Maryland - Legislative Branch
State Cases
State Court Rules
Verdicts and Settlements

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2015 Andrew Zimmerman