Appealing a District Court Decision
Topics on this page
- Notice of Appeal
- Record Transmittal
- Agreed Statement of the Case
- Stay of Judgment
- Presenting Your Case
- Appeals Heard on the Record
- Alternatives to an Appeal
If you lose your case in the District Court and disagree with the District Court’s decision, you can file an appeal with the circuit court. This article focuses on appealing a decision in civil cases. While there are similarities for appeals of criminal cases, there are also some very important differences.
The specific facts and circumstances of your situation will determine what options are available to you. This article addresses the most common situation of appealing a District Court civil case to the circuit court. Be aware that there are exceptions to the common situation. For any appeal, there are specific steps and deadlines. Review the Maryland Rules carefully.
Evaluate your situation before choosing to appeal your case. If you handled your own case before, consider finding an attorney for the appeal or consulting with an attorney to determine whether the appeal is worth your time and energy. If you do handle your own appeal, expect to devote a significant amount of time to your case, including time for legal research.
To start an appeal in a District Court case, the party that chooses to appeal (the "appellant") must file a Notice of Appeal, Form DC-CV-037 (Civil Appeal/Request For Transcript), within 30 days of the entry of judgment. Make sure to properly serve the other party. If you miss the deadline, the District Court can strike your notice of appeal.
If one party files a timely notice of appeal, then the other party can file a notice of appeal within 10 days after the date on which the first notice of appeal was filed. If the Maryland Rules allow for a longer time period, then the longer time period applies.
NOTE: Different deadlines can apply to certain types of District Court cases. For example, the deadlines for an appeal of a landlord/tenant matter depends on the type of landlord/tenant action (e.g., the appeal period for a failure to pay rent action is four days).
Read the Law: Md. Code, Real Property 8-401
If you had a co-plaintiff or a co-defendant and they do not wish to file an appeal, you can still file an appeal on your own. You do not need them to join with your appeal.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 7-106
If you are appealing to the circuit court, you will appeal to the circuit court for county (or Baltimore City) in which the District Court decision was made.
Read the law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 12-403
There are filing fees for both the District Court and the circuit court. If you choose to appeal your case and believe you cannot afford to pay the costs of filing for an appeal, you can request the requirement that these costs be prepaid be waived.
If you do not pay the required fees or obtain a fee waiver, the District Court can strike your notice of appeal.
Remember, if your request is approved, the waiver only removes the requirement to pay the costs of filing for an appeal upfront. You may still have to the pay the court fees at the end of the appeal, unless the court orders the other party to pay those fees and costs. There is a process of asking the court for a final waiver of costs at the end of the case. Learn more about filing fee waivers.
Once all fees have been paid, the District Court clerk will send the record to the circuit court. Once circuit court receives the record, the appeal will be added to the circuit court’s docket.
Unless you have received a prepayment waiver, before the District Court clerk transmits the record, you must pay for the cost of the preparation of a transcript, if a transcript is necessary to the appeal. Transcript preparation may be a significant expense, but a transcript can be helpful as it provides the circuit court with all the information about the case.
The District Court must transmit the record within 60 days of the notice of appeal. The clerk's office does the actual transmitting, but it's your responsibility to make sure it happens on time. If you need more time, you can ask the District Court or circuit court to extend this time period. Be aware that if the record is not properly transmitted due to your neglect, then the District Court can strike your notice of appeal.
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. If the parties can agree, then file an agreed statement of the case with the District Court. In this scenario, the record of appeal would consist of the agreed statement of the case, the District Court judgment, and any opinion issued by the District Court. Be aware, however, that the circuit court may still ask the District Court to transmit all or some of the record to supplement the record of appeal.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 7-109
A judgment is stayed automatically for 10 days. The winning party may try to enforce a judgment during the appeals process unless the appellant takes certain steps. An appellant then 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 – review the Maryland Rules carefully. The circuit court has final authority to rule on the supersedeas bond.
Generally, the appeal will be tried de novo, meaning that you will present your case all over again to the circuit court. The circuit court will not review what happened in the District Court. Learn more about preparing your case and presenting your case.
There are exceptions. The circuit court will hear the appeal on the record, meaning that the circuit court will review what happened in the District Court, rather than hear new evidence, for the following matters:
- a civil action in which the amount in controversy exceeds $5,000 exclusive of interest, costs, and attorney's fees if attorney's fees are recoverable by law or contract;
- any matter arising under injunction petitions for nuisance abatements;
- any civil or criminal action where the parties agree to appeal based on the record;
- an appeal from an order or judgment of direct criminal contempt if the sentence imposed by the District Court was less than 90 days' imprisonment; and
- an appeal by the State from a judgment quashing or dismissing a charging document or granting a motion to dismiss in a criminal case.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 7-102
Read the Law: Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 12-401
For appeals heard on the record, a transcript of the District Court proceeding is required.
If there is no agreed-upon statement, then the appellant must file a legal memorandum explaining their appeal. The other party to the appeal, known as the appellee, may reply to the legal memorandum. If you want the chance to present your arguments in person, any party may request an oral argument in circuit court. Review the Maryland Rules, in particular Maryland Rule 7-113, for the specific requirements, including deadlines.
For an appeal on the record, the circuit court can:
- dismiss the appeal;
- affirm the judgment (i.e., confirm the District Court’s decision);
- vacate or reverse the judgment;
- modify the judgment;
- remand the judgment (i.e., send it back to the District Court to reconsider, acting in accordance with the circuit court’s opinion); or
- a combination of the above.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 7-113
Depending on your situation, if you disagree with the District Court’s decision, you may have options other than an appeal.
Motion to Amend or Alter Judgment - You must file the motion within 10 days after entry of judgment. You can file this motion with a motion for a new trial. The District Court has a lot of discretion regarding whether to grant this motion. If granted, the court can open the judgment to receive additional evidence, amend its findings, amend its reasons for the decision, add new findings or reasons, amend the judgment, or enter a new judgment.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 3-534
Motion for a New Trial - You must file the motion within 10 days after the entry of judgment. You can file this with a motion to amendment or alter judgment. You must include all of the grounds (e.g., all reasons in support of a new trial) in this motion. You cannot add additional grounds without the court’s permission. If the court grants the motion, the court can set aside all or part of the judgment and grant a new trial on all or some of the issues. If a partial new trial is granted, then the court may direct entry of the judgment for the remaining issues or stay the entry of judgment until after the new trial.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 3-533
If 10 days have passed since the entry of judgment:
You may be able to file a motion within 30 days after entry of the judgment requesting that the court exercise its revisory power to open the judgment to receive additional evidence, amend its findings, amend its reasons for the decision, add new findings or reasons, amend the judgment, or enter a new judgment.
If there has been fraud, a mistake, or an irregularity, you can make a motion at any time to request the court to exercise its revisory power.
If there is newly-discovered evidence that could not have been discovered by due diligence in time to file a motion for a new trial, then you can file a motion within 30 days after entry of the judgment requesting that the court grant a new trial.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 3-535