HOW DO I SEARCH MARYLAND COURT RECORDS?
The Maryland court system makes court records available to the public in line with the Maryland Public Information Act. Court records are maintained by the Clerks of the local courts and centrally by the Maryland Judiciary. These court records are available in paper versions and electronic versions; hence citizens may obtain court records in one of 3 ways;
- Visit the local courthouse to obtain a paper copy of the court record
- Visit the local courthouse to access an electronic copy of the court record via the public access terminal
- Access an electronic copy of a court record remotely from the website of either Maryland Courts or the courthouse.
To determine the location and the web address of a local court in the state, use the Court Directory provided on the Maryland Judicial Branch website. Note court records sealed or expunged by court order and the ones deemed confidential by law may not be available to the public. It generally costs a nominal fee to copy available court records.
HOW TO GET MARYLAND COURT RECORDS FOR FREE?
Obtaining court records always come with a fee. However, in many cases, electronic versions are accessible online for free. In Maryland, case records from several courts can be accessed online. In circumstances where paper copies or certified copies are required, citizens may obtain such from the local courthouse where the case in question was heard.
Maryland citizens can access electronic versions of case records for cases originating within the District and Circuit Courts on the Case Search portal of the Maryland Court website. The Case-Search portal allows requestors to search case records by case number or name of a party to the case.
To search a case record by the case number, users are required to fill in the case number and choose the court where the case record is filed. To search by the name of a party involved in the case, filling in the names of the person or company involved is enough to return search results. However, requestors can use the party type, case type, court system, and filling date to retrieve a more precise search result.
Court records are considered open to the public and are usually accessible through government sources, though they may also be accessed through third-party websites. These websites offer an easier method in most cases, as they are not limited by geographical area, or by limitations in search engine technology. They can often serve as a starting point when looking for a specific record, or multiple records. Interested parties must usually provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. This may not apply to records on juveniles.
- The assumed or known location of the person listed in the record. This will most often be a city, county, or state.
Because they are not government-sponsored, record availability on third party websites may vary when compared to government sources.
HOW DOES THE MARYLAND COURT SYSTEM WORK?
There are four levels in the Maryland court system that comprise two trial courts and two appellate courts. The District Courts and the Circuit Courts are the trial courts. The Court of Special Appeals is the intermediate appellate court while the Court of Appeals is the court of last resort in Maryland. Cases are first heard in the trial courts in the presence of a judge or jury who makes decisions based on the pieces of evidence presented during proceedings.
The appellate courts are established to review decisions from the trial courts by determining if the trial court judges follow appropriate legal precedents. Maryland Appellate Courts do not conduct new trials. There are other judicial bodies within the Maryland court system that hear special cases. These include the Orphan's Court and the office of Administration Hearings.
HOW DOES THE MARYLAND DISTRICT COURT WORK?
There are 34 District Court locations in 12 districts in Maryland. The District Courts have jurisdiction over both civil and criminal cases. These courts handle civil and criminal cases such as;
- Claims up to $30,000
- Landlord/tenant disputes
- Domestic violence cases
- Replevin cases
- Protection/restraining orders
- Traffic violations
- Motor vehicle violations
The District Courts share jurisdiction with the Circuit Courts in cases where the potential penalty for an offender may be a fine of $2,500 or more, confinement for 3 years or more, or both. No jury trials are held in Maryland's District Courts.
HOW DOES THE MARYLAND CIRCUIT COURT WORK?
The Circuit Courts are divided into eight judicial circuits and have locations in each of the 23 counties of Maryland and Baltimore City. It is considered the trial court of general jurisdiction. The circuit divisions are shown below:
- 1st Circuit: Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester (9 judges)
- 2nd Circuit: Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne's Talbot (8 judges)
- 3rd Circuit: Baltimore, Harford (26 judges)
- 4th Circuit: Allegany, Garrett, Washington (8 judges)
- 5th Circuit: Anne Arundel, Carroll, Howard (22 judges)
- 6th Circuit: Frederick, Montgomery (30 judges)
- 7th Circuit: Calvert, Charles, Prince George's, St. Mary's (35 judges)
- 8th Circuit: Baltimore City (35 judges)
Circuit Courts handle the major civil and criminal cases in Maryland. Its jurisdictions also cover cases relating to:
- Juvenile matters
- Family matters
- Mental Health
- Domestic violence
- Real property ($5,000 – no maximum)
The Circuit Courts hear the majority of the appeals from the District Courts, Orphans' Courts, and administrative agencies. If one of the aggrieved parties in a civil or criminal case from the District Court requests for a jury trial, the Circuit Courts may also hear such. Circuit Court cases may be decided by a jury or a judge.
HOW DOES THE MARYLAND ORPHANS' COURT WORK?
The Orphans' Court functions as the probate court in Maryland with jurisdiction over the administration of estates of people who have died. The court also holds authority over the guardianship of the property of minors and the appointment of guardians for minors in some counties.
The Orphans' Court judges are required by law to be Maryland citizens and residents of their jurisdictions for at least one year before their election. However, in Prince George's County, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City, judges are required to be attorneys and barred in Maryland to be eligible for election. Orphans' Court judges in these three jurisdictions are permitted to sit over cases alone unlike in other jurisdictions where a panel of three judges preside over a case. Orphans' Court Judges are appointed to 4-year terms
HOW DOES THE MARYLAND OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS WORK?
The Office of Administrative Hearings handles cases involving disputes between Maryland citizens and some government agencies or administrative offices. This Office is established to give a fair hearing to citizens who feel aggrieved by any action taken by agencies who are covered in its jurisdiction. Note that some officials or agencies fall outside the jurisdiction of the Office of Administrative Hearings. Their judges hear cases in each county of Maryland (except Montgomery and Harford counties) but are primarily based in Baltimore.
WHAT ARE THE APPELLATE COURTS IN MARYLAND?
The Court of Appeals and the Court of Special Appeals are Maryland's appellate courts. These courts review the decisions of the lower courts in the state. The appellate courts are divided into 7 appellate circuits. The two appellate courts are in Annapolis in Anne Arundel County.
- 1st Appellate Circuit: Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, Worcester
- 2nd Appellate Circuit: Baltimore, Harford
- 3rd Appellate Circuit: Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Howard, Washington
- 4th Appellate Circuit: Prince George's
- 5th Appellate Circuit: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, St. Mary's
- 6th Appellate Circuit: Baltimore City
- 7th Appellate Circuit: Montgomery
HOW DOES THE MARYLAND COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS WORK?
The Court of Special Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in Maryland. It reviews decisions from the Circuit Courts or the Orphans' Court. Established in 1966, the court got its “special” tag from its initial jurisdiction over criminal cases only. However, its jurisdiction has since grown to include several case types.
Appeal filings in Maryland's Court of Special Appeals are regulated by Title 8 and Title 20 of Maryland Rules. However, jurisdictions in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County take exception to Title 20. Court of Special Appeals judges sit in a panel of 3 to review briefs filed by parties to a case and records from the trial courts. Sometimes, the Court may hear oral arguments from representatives of the parties involved. Oral argument hearings usually take place in the Courts of Appeal Building in Annapolis on one of the first 8 business days of a month.
In deciding a case, normally, one of 3 members of the sitting judges will issue a written opinion deciding the appeal. However, one or both of the other sitting judges on an appeal can issue a different opinion in agreement or disagreement with the majority opinion.
The Court of Special Appeals has an Alternative Dispute Resolution Division that selects from the appeals before the court, cases where mediation may resolve disputes without having to pass through the conventional appellate process. The division employs skilled mediators to wade in to help parties resolve differences in a case. In situations where mediation fails, the case is returned to undergo a typical appellate process.
The Court of Appeals consists of 15 judges. Each appellate circuit in Maryland is represented in its membership. The judges are appointed by the Governor with the consent of the Maryland Senate and may be retained if successful in a retention election held every 10 years. Court of Appeals judges have a mandatory retirement age of 70.
HOW DOES THE MARYLAND COURT OF APPEALS WORK?
The Court of Appeals is the equivalent of the Supreme Court in other states in the United States. It is the court of last resort in Maryland. The Court of Appeals does not hear an appeal as a matter of right. It decides which case to hear. However, there are some categories of cases which the court is mandated to hear. These categories include cases relating to:
- Legislative redistricting
- Removal of certain officers
- Certifications of questions of law
- Death Penalties
There are six judges and a Chief Judge in the Court of Appeal. The seven judges hear oral arguments on each case unless a judge recuses him/herself from a case. If that happens, the judge is replaced by a retired appellate judge or a judge from another court.
HOW MANY CASES DOES THE MARYLAND COURT SYSTEM HANDLE ANNUALLY?
Approximately 1.9 million cases are filed by lawyers and litigants annually in Maryland. In the 2018 fiscal year, a total of 1,902,579 cases was filed while in the 2017 fiscal year the total filings were 1,888,813 cases. The 2018 total represents 768 Court of Appeals filings, 1,864 Court of Special Appeals filings, 231,588 Circuit Courts filings, and 1,668,359 District Court filings.On average, filings at the District Courts account for 85-88 percent of the total filings and dispositions every year while Circuit Courts make up some 12-14 percent total filings and dispositions. Filings and dispositions at Maryland appellate courts are less than 0.2 percent of all total caseload for the state yearly.
Total Filings for all Maryland Courts, Fiscal Year 2014-2018
|Court of Appeals||768||871||922||949||825|
|Court of Special Appeals||1,864||1,931||2,053||1,937||1,873|
Data provided by the Maryland Judicial Council
Total Dispositions for all Maryland Courts, Fiscal Year 2014-2018
|Court of Appeals||771||877||930||1,011||838|
|Court of Special Appeals||2,190||2,052||2,274||2,117||2,079|
Data provided by the Maryland Judicial Council