Maryland has three basic levels of the judiciary; trial courts, intermediate appellate courts, and the Maryland’s highest court of appeal. The trial courts are the lowest and oversee most cases. These trial courts make decisions based on facts, law, and prior legal outcomes from the high court. The appellate courts, on the other hand, review what the trial courts deliberated on to decide whether the judge followed the law. In jury trials, it is the responsibility of the appellate court to decide if the jury made the right decision using the presented facts and the law. It is important to note that the appellate courts do not decide on who lost or won a trial- they simply review the proceedings. In fact, appellate courts do not conduct new trials. They are made to determine if a ruling was fair or not.
Trial courts in Maryland have both the district and the circuit courts. The district courts are located in 34 places in Maryland’s districts. There are no juries in the district courts. Instead, individual judges hear and decide the cases. Civil cases, domestic violence, replevin, criminal cases, and landlord/ tenant cases are handled by the district courts.
The circuit courts are located in 23 counties and Baltimore City in MD. They try general jurisdiction cases including major civil cases and more serious criminal issues. Juvenile and family matters are also handled at this level. Jury trials are feasible in circuit courts of Maryland.
When people have been tried in the trial courts, and they feel that they were unfairly sentenced, they can make appeals in the appellate courts of MD. The intermediate court of special appeals created in 1966 specifically reviews the circuit and orphan’s court decisions. Unless otherwise specified by the law, the court of special appeals can effectively work on any reviewable judgment made by the orphans and circuit trial courts. The court is made up of a total of 15 judges who make sets of juries. A jury consists of three judges from the court of special appeals. However, some cases may require the entire panel to sit and make deliberations.
The highest court in Maryland is known as the Maryland Court of appeals. Other states call their highest court the Supreme Court. This court does not hear every case. There is a system of certiorari that limits the number and types of cases that the court handles. The law requires the court of appeal to hear cases such as those that have death penalties, legislative redistricting, certain state officials, and questions of law. The jury is made of the chief judge and six judges. The jury is responsible for hearing oral arguments in every case. If a judge must excuse him/herself from the hearing, another court judge is put in their place. Retired appellate judges can be called upon to be part of the jury in such instances.
The three levels of the court system in MD closely interact with each other. They serve to handle cases of different categories and magnitudes. However, the court level that serves most citizens is the district trial court.