Enforcing a Judgment
Even if you win your case, the process may not be over. For more information about enforcing a court's judgment, see How to Enforce the Judgment If You Win.
Preparing Your Appeal
If you lose your case and disagree with the decision, you always have a right to appeal it. That means that you would have to present your case to another court, one that is it a “higher” level and has the authority to hear your case. If you lost your case in District Court, you may appeal to Circuit Court. If your case was in Circuit Court (even if it was an appeal from District Court), you may appeal to the Court of Appeals in Annapolis.
The Court of Appeals is the state’s “highest” court, hearing appeals made from the Court of Special Appeals. (In rare cases, the Court of Appeals may choose to hear very important appeals directly, without having the case heard first in the Court of Special Appeals.) It is important to know that the Court of Appeals, unlike the process in the Court of Special Appeals, selects the appeals it wishes to hear—mostly those cases that present new legal situations.
If you are appealing a small claims case from District Court, you will have to present your case over again. Otherwise, in other situations, the Circuit Court or Court of Special Appeals will make decisions based on the evidence you presented in your original case. With this type of appeal, you will only be able to present legal arguments to justify why you believe you should have won your case. You will not provide evidence again to the court.
Because the appeals process, also known as the “appellate” process, takes some time and expense, a party should always take the time and re-evaluate his or her case. This is especially true because the appellate process usually involves complex legal arguments, rather than the presentation of evidence. If you handled your own case before, you should consider finding an attorney for the appeal. If you do handle your own appeal, you should expect to devote a significant amount of time to your case because you will have to write the reasons for your appeal based on legal research.
Filing Your Appeal
From District Court to Circuit Court
In order to start an appeal in a District Court case, the losing party must file a Notice of Appeal, Form DC/CV 37, within 30 days of the entry of judgment. The party wishing to appeal, known as the “appellant,” files this notice of appeal with the District Court and also pays filing fees and a deposit for a transcript of the case, if one is necessary. As with every court filing, the party that files must make sure the other party is served properly. The appellant must pay filing fees to both the District Court and to the Circuit Court. Transcript preparation may be a significant expense—see the District Court’s Guide to Appeal Fees. However, it is important because the purpose of the transcript is to provide the Circuit Court with all of the information about the case. An appellant may file a Petition for Waiver of Costs, Form CC-DC 8, but if the court does not grant the request, the appellant will have to pay for the transcript.
If the parties to the appeal can agree to a statement of the case, then the transmittal of the entire record may not be necessary. Maryland Rule 7-109 strongly encourages parties to agree to such a statement, which describes how the appeals questions arose and how the court decided them. Read the Rule: MD Rule 7-109
If there is no agreed-upon statement, then the appellant will need to file a legal memorandum explaining his or her appeal. The other party to the appeal, known as the “appellee,” also may reply. Any party may request an “oral argument” in Circuit Court. Maryland Rule 7-113 covers many of these details, including the time for filing this paperwork.Read the Rule: MD Rule 7-113
It is important to remember that the winning party may try to enforce a judgment during the appeals process unless the appellant takes certain steps. Because a judgment is stayed automatically only for 10 days, an appellant usually files a supersedeas bond (or some other “security”) with the District Court in order to continue the stay of judgment enforcement during the appeal. There are many details to this process, most of which are described in Maryland Rule 8-423. The Court has final authority to rule on the supersedeas bond. Read the Rule: MD Rule 8-423
From Circuit Court to the Court of Special Appeals
Appeals from Circuit Court cases can become quite complex. To appeal a Circuit Court decision, an appellant must file in the Circuit Court a Notice of Appeal, serve the other party, and pay the accompanying fee. (See the Revised Schedule of Circuit Court Charges, Costs and Fees.) The appellant must pay a filing fee to the Court of Special Appeals as well. The appellant must file the notice within 30 days of the entry of the judgment and also must order the transcript from the court reporter and pay for the transcript. As in an appeal from District Court, an appellant likely will file a supersedeas bond with the lower court.
Then, 10 days after filing the notice, the appellant must file with the Clerk of the Court of Special Appeals a Civil Appeal Information Report, Form CSA1, which must contain certain facts about the case. The Court of Special Appeals may order a pre-hearing or scheduling conference in order to set dates for filings and to address other matters. Or the court may order the parties to participate in mediation to give them an opportunity to resolve the issues in the case themselves, as opposed to having the court determine the outcome of their controversy, and to avoid the time and expense of an appeal. Otherwise, the court will order the appeal to proceed. In addition, parties may streamline the appeals by creating an agreed-upon statement of the case.
In many cases, the next step in a case appealed to the Court of Special Appeals is the writing of a “brief,” the formal legal arguments that state why the appellant should not have lost the case in Circuit Court. An appellant also must file a “record extract,” taken from the transcript of the Circuit Court record. There are many rules that define how an appellant should write the brief, the time for filing the brief and how many copies the Court requires. The appellee also must file a brief in response to the appellant’s brief. The rules that govern this very detailed procedure begin with Maryland Rule 8-501. The parties may also have the opportunity to participate in mediation at this stage of the appeal. A book, available in law libraries, entitled, Appellate Practice for the Maryland Lawyer, by Paul Sandler and Andrew Levy gives a comprehensive overview of appellate court procedures. Read the Rule: MD Rule 8-501 (Record Extract)Read the Rule: MD Rules, Title 17, Chapter 400 (Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Court of Special Appeals, Effective January 2014)
How the Courts Decide the Appeal
If the appeal to Circuit Court is for a small claim, then the new trial will be an informal one before a Circuit Court judge. If the appeal to Circuit Court is for another reason, then a Circuit Court judge will decide the appeal without any oral arguments, unless one of the parties requests it. The Circuit Court may decide the appeal in the following ways:
- Uphold, or “affirm,” the judgment of the District Court
- Reverse, or “vacate,” the judgment of the District Court
- Modify the judgment
- Tell the District Court to hold further proceedings, known as a “remand”
- Dismiss the appeal because it was not properly filed or for another technical reason
The Circuit Court judge will write a short opinion justifying the reasons for deciding the appeal. The opinion is sent to both parties and is filed in the Clerk's Office with all of the other paperwork from the case.
In the Court of Special Appeals each side presents an oral argument that is 30 minutes long. A panel of three judges will listen to the arguments, and one of the judges will write an opinion, which gives a detailed reason for the Court’s decision. Because it takes some time for judges to consider the case properly and to write an opinion, the parties may not know the outcome immediately.
Appealing an Appeal
A Court of Special Appeals decision still might not be in favor of the appellant. In that case, the appellant has a few options remaining. First, he or she may file a motion for reconsideration with the Court of Special Appeals, according to Rule 8-605. The second option is to file a "Petition for Writ of Certiorari" with the Court of Appeals. Certiorari is Latin, meaning "to be informed." In Maryland, this Petition is a formal, lengthy written request to the Court of Appeals asking for judicial review of the decision handed down by the Court od Special Appeals. There also is a filing fee. The Court of Appeals has significant discretion in granting appeals, accepting fewer than 20% of all petitions. If an appellant has a sufficiently unique legal issue—so that review is “desirable and in the public interest”—the Court will issue a writ of certiorari, and the parties will argue the case in a way similar to the procedures followed in the Court of Special Appeals. Read the Rule: MD Rule 8-605