About the Maryland Court System
The Maryland court system has four levels: two trial courts and two appellate courts. The trial courts consider evidence presented in a case and make judgments based on the facts, the law and legal precedent (prior legal decisions from a higher court). Appellate courts review a trial court's actions and decisions and decide whether the trial judge properly followed the law and legal precedent.
Maryland has two appellate courts: the Court of Appeals, the highest court, and the Court of Special Appeals, the intermediate appellate court. These courts review a trial court’s (District or Circuit Court) actions and decisions in given cases and decide whether the trial judge properly followed the law and legal precedent.
Circuit Courts generally handles more serious criminal cases, major civil cases, including juvenile and other family law cases such as divorce, custody and child support and most cases appealed from the District Court, orphans’ courts and certain administrative agencies. Circuit courts also hear domestic violence cases. Each County and the City of Baltimore has a circuit court. Cases may involve juries or sometimes are heard by a judge only.
Most people experience the court system through the District Court. Cases heard here include motor vehicle (traffic) and boating violations and other misdemeanors and specified felonies, domestic violence and peace order petitions, landlord-tenant disputes, small claims and other civil cases involving limited dollar amounts, and replevin (recovery of wrongfully taken or detained goods). Each county and the City of Baltimore has at least one District Court location. A case in the District Court is argued before a judge only: there are no jury trials in District Court.
The Orphans’ Court is a specialized court that handles wills, estates, and other probate matters and limited aspects of guardianship.
Other Bodies in Maryland
Office of Administrative Hearings
The Office of Administrative Hearings listens to contested executive branch adminsitrative law cases, except for those concerning officials or agencies exempted by law.
Federal Courts in Maryland
Federal courts are authorized by the U.S. Constitution to deal with issues involving laws enacted by Congress, as contrasted with state courts, which apply the laws of their state and local governments. For more information, see the U.S. Courts' website.
How do I...?
Frequently Asked Questions about "Service of Process" in Maryland
Changing your criminal record
Calculating Child Support
Child Custody in Maryland
Grounds for Absolute Divorce
Marital and Non-Marital Property
Breaking a Lease
Frequently Asked Questions about Wills
Powers of Attorney
Emancipation of a Minor