Maryland has two appellate courts: the Court of Appeals, the highest court, and the Court of Special Appeals, the intermediate appellate court.
The Court of Appeals is the highest court in Maryland. The Chief Judge, Mary Ellen Barbera, sits on the Court along with six other judges, hearing oral arguments on each case unless a judge removes him/herself from a case. The Court hears cases almost exclusively by way of certiorari, a process which gives the court discretion to decide which cases to hear. However, the Court of Appeals is mandated by law to hear cases involving the death penalty, legislative redistricting, removal of certain officers, and certifications of questions of law.
The Court of Special Appeals is Maryland’s intermediate appellate court. Unless otherwise provided by law, the Court considers any reviewable action of the circuit and orphans’ courts. Judges sitting on the Court of Special Appeals generally hear and decide cases in panels of three, but may also sit en banc (all 15 judges).
These courts review a trial court’s (District or Circuit Court) decisions in cases which have been appealed to them and the courts decide whether the trial judge followed the law and legal precedent.
Baltimore County is a part of the 2nd Appellate Judicial Circuit.
The State Reporter's Office publishes a monthly newsletter of called the Amicus Curiarum at the beginning of each month. The Amicus Curiarum contains abstracted highlights of selected appellate opinions.
All published appellate opinions, dating back to 1995, may also be obtained on the court’s website
A Circuit Court is a trial court which 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. A Circuit court also hears domestic violence cases. Cases may involve juries or sometimes are heard by a judge only.
The Baltimore County Circuit Court is open 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday except legal holidays.
District Courts are also trial courts which hear cases regarding 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). Unlike the Circuit Court, there are no jury trials in District Court.
Baltimore County has three District Courts which are open 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday except legal holidays. The three District Courts are located in Towson, Essex and Catonsville.
The Orphans’ Court is a specialized court that handles wills, estates, and other probate matters and limited aspects of guardianship. It is located at the County Courts Building in Towson, Maryland.
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