The Maryland Judiciary consists of the following courts:
The Court of Appeals, the highest tribunal in the State of Maryland, was created by the Constitution of 1776:
"That there be a Court of Appeals, composed of persons of integrity and sound judgment in the law, whose judgment shall be final and conclusive, in all cases of appeal, from the General Court, Court of Chancery, and Court of Admiralty: that one person of integrity and sound judgment in the law, be appointed Chancellor: that three persons of integrity and sound judgment in the law, be appointed judges of the Court now called the Provincial Court; and that the same Court be hereafter called and known by the name of The General Court; which Court shall sit on the western and eastern shores, for transacting and determining the business of the respective shores, at such times and places as the future Legislature of this State shall direct and appoint."
Today the court is comprised of a seven judge panel, each judge from each appellate circuit in the state. Members of the court are initially appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Subsequently, the judge runs to remain in court based on their records and remains in the office for a ten year term. Unique from other states' appeals courts, the Maryland Court of Appeals wears scarlet robes when hearing arguments.
Cases are exclusively heard by way of certiorari and the court has exclusive jurisdiction over areas as death penalty cases, legislative redistricting, removal of certain officers, and certification of questions of law.
The Court of Special Appeals is Maryland’s intermediate appellate court, created in 1966 and has jurisdiction over reviewable judgment, decree, order or other action of the circuit and orphans' courts. Presently, there are 15 judges comprising the court with generally most cases are heard and decided in panels of three.
A judge is initially appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Subsequently, a court member runs for office based on their records and may remain for a ten-year term.
Circuit Courts are grouped in 8 judicial circuits with a court in each of the state's 23 counties and Baltimore city. The courts handle more serious criminal cases and major civil cases, including juvenile, divorce, custody, domestic violence and child support cases. The Circuit Courts may hear appealed cases from the District Courts and Orphans' Courts.
Per Pamela Gregory's Legal Research in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia (2000), in print [Call Number: Reference Desk KF240 .C43 2000],
"Opinions of the circuit courts seldom are ever published, as they are nisi prius opinions. Occasionally an opinion will be of such general interest or uniqueness that the Daily Record will publish it, but those instances are rare." (p. 2-60)
The jurisdiction of the District Court includes all landlord-tenant cases, replevin actions, motor vehicle violations, misdemeanors and certain felonies. In civil cases the District Court has exclusive jurisdiction in claims for amounts up to $5,000, and concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit courts in claims for amounts above $5,000 but less than $30,000. The jurisdiction of the court in criminal cases is concurrent with the Circuit Court for offenses in which the penalty may be confinement for three years or more or a fine of $2,500 or more; or offenses which are felonies. The District Court does not conduct jury trials.
The Orphans' Court hears all matters involving decedents' estates which are contested and supervises all of those estates which are probated judicially. It approves accounts, awards of personal representative's commissions, and attorney's fees in all estates. The Court also has concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit court in the guardianships of minors and their property. All matters involving the validity of wills and the transfer of property in which legal questions and disputes occur are resolved by the Orphans' Court. Opinions of this court are not reported.