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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.


Courts

Appellate Courts

Maryland has two appellate courts: the Court of Appeals (https://mdcourts.gov/coappeals), the highest court, and the Court of Special Appeals (https://mdcourts.gov/cosappeals), 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 Court

Circuit Courts (https://mdcourts.gov/courtsdirectory) 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.

District Court

Most people experience the court system through the District Court (https://mdcourts.gov/district). 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.

Orphans’ Court

The Orphans’ Court (https://mdcourts.gov/orphanscourt) 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 (http://oah.maryland.gov/) 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 (http://www.uscourts.gov).

 

 

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How do I...?

Default Orders & Judgments in Maryland: What are they and what can I do if I get one? (https://www.peoples-law.org/default-orders-judgments-maryland-what-are-they-and-what-can-i-do-if-i-get-one)

Frequently Asked Questions about "Service of Process" in Maryland (https://www.peoples-law.org/frequently-asked-questions-about-service-process-maryland)
"Service of Process" is making sure the other side gets a copy of the papers you are filing (for example, a complaint).

How to File or Respond to a Case (https://www.peoples-law.org/how-file-case-or-respond-case)

Criminal Law

Changing your criminal record (https://www.peoples-law.org/expungement-and-changing-your-criminal-record)
This article covers expungement and pardons and includes how to remove your DNA from the state's DNA database.

Family Law

Calculating Child Support (https://www.peoples-law.org/calculating-child-support)
Maryland uses a formula to calculate child support. This formula is called the Child Support Guidelines. The court will usually order the amount of child support that the Guidelines say is correct unless someone can show that the Guidelines would be unjust and inappropriate in a particular case.

Child Custody in Maryland (https://www.peoples-law.org/child-custody-maryland)
Custody and visitation are the legal terms for court decisions about how the child will spend his/her time between parents (or others).

Grounds for Absolute Divorce (https://www.peoples-law.org/grounds-absolute-divorce)
To obtain an absolute divorce, one spouse must first prove that at least one ground for absolute divorce exists. This page gives a brief description of each ground for divorce in Maryland.

Marital and Non-Marital Property (https://www.peoples-law.org/marital-and-non-marital-property-maryland)
With a few important exceptions, all the property that was acquired during a marriage is considered marital property.

Housing

Breaking a Lease (https://www.peoples-law.org/breaking-lease)
Leases are binding contracts between the landlord(s) and the tenant(s). Maryland law imposes certain conditions on that contract such as limiting late fees to 5% of a monthly rental payment, but in those areas where the law does not impose limits, the landlord(s) and tenant(s) are free to negotiate their own agreement.

Security Deposits (http://www.peoples-law.org/security-deposits)
This article defines what a security deposit is and what is required of tenants and landlords.

Wills/Estates/Probate

Frequently Asked Questions about Wills (https://www.peoples-law.org/frequently-asked-questions-about-wills)
A Will is a written legal document prepared for one person, called the testator, which sets forth what is to happen after death to his or her property, called the estate, and who is to be named as guardian to care for any minor children.

Powers of Attorney (https://www.peoples-law.org/powers-attorney)
A power of attorney is a document in which you give someone legal authority to act for you.

Youth Law

Emancipation of a Minor (https://www.peoples-law.org/emancipation-minor)
Emancipation of a minor generally refers to the process of freeing a minor (person under age 18) from parental control.

 


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