Appellate Review

There are many steps to our legal system including filing, discovery, trial, and appeal. An appeal is what occurs after trial when the losing party files with the appropriate appellate court for review. There are several different appellate courts and what appellate court you will appeal to depends on what court your case was originally tried. There are also different forms of review conducted by the appellate court, which depends on a variety of factors. An appeal occurs after a final judgment in a case. A final judgment is the last decision in a case that resolves all issues in the dispute and settles those parties’ rights with respect to those issues. This type of judgment leaves nothing left but how to enforce the decision (monetary judgment, probation, jail, protection order, ect.)

We have four levels of adult courts in Maryland. District Courts and Circuit Courts are the trial courts. District Court hears civil domestic violence cases, criminal misdemeanors and felonies with imprisonment of three years or less, and civil case with damage amounts of $30,000 or less. Workers Compensation Commission is equivalent to District Court. There are no jury trials in District Court as all trials are bench trials, meaning trials before a judge. Circuit court holds all jury trials and is the original jurisdiction of felonies with more than 90 days of jail time and civil cases of greater than $30,000 in damages. Further, all jurisdictions (counties) in Maryland (and the City of Baltimore) have their own District and Circuit Courts.

There are two appellate courts in Maryland and the Circuit Court will sometimes act as an appellate court. The Court of Special Appeals is the intermediary appellate court and is located in Annapolis. This Court hears appeals by right. The Court of Appeals is the highest court in Maryland and is also located in Annapolis. The Court of Appeals reviews cases at its discretion. A party must file a writ of certiorari with the Court of Appeals, which is basically asking the Court of Appeals to hear your case. The Court of Appeals granting a writ of certiorari is fairly rare and it usually grants a writ based on an issue that is unresolved in the law. The Court of Special Appeals and the Court of Appeals hear cases from all jurisdictions in Maryland.

In the District Court (Workers Compensation Commission), parties have the right to appeal from a final judgment in either a civil or criminal case. An appeal from District Court would be heard in Circuit Court. Civil domestic violence cases and some criminal cases are entitled to de novo review in the Circuit Court. This means that case is reviewed as if it were a new case and the parties will have a new trial. However, these appeals will be before a judge as a bench trial and not as a jury trial. If the State loses the initial criminal trial, it has no right to appeal. Other cases will be reviewed using other forms of review including abuse of discretion. Under these methods of review, the Circuit Court will review the record from the District Court and address the parties issue on appeal. The losing party from the appeal in Circuit Court may file a writ of Certiorari with the Court of Appeals asking for relief based on a specific issue. The Court of Appeals has the discretion to hear the appeal or not.

In the Circuit Court, parties have the right to appeal to the Court of Special Appeals (intermediary appellate court) in civil and criminal cases. The Court of Appeals will use different methods of review including abuse of discretion and de novo depending upon the issue being appealed. The losing party of the appeal in the Court of Special appeal may file a writ of certiorari with the Court of Appeals requesting that the court grant their appeal.

If the Court of Appeals denies the writ or grants the writ and records a decision then the ability to appeal has been exhausted. The Court of Appeals is the final say in Maryland on Maryland State laws. If the case involves a Federal law or Constitutional issue then the case can be brought in the Federal Court system to begin with or appealed to the United States Supreme Court. To petition the Supreme Court, a party would need to file a writ of Certiorari requesting the Court take the appeal. However, the Supreme Court of the United States typically hears less than 100 cases a year. This option is unlikely unless it involves a hot button issue that has never been resolved and/or where there is a circuit split. A circuit split occurs when the different federal appellate circuits split on a specific issue.

Whether applying for appeal in the Circuit or the Special Court of Appeals, one must be aware of filing requirements and deadlines. This is also true for filing a writ of certiorari. Contact Fred for a free initial consultation and for further advice regarding you appeal by calling 410 730 4404.