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Overview of the Maryland Court System

Maryland's judicial system has five different courts: an orphan's court, two levels of trial courts, and two levels of appellate courts.

The orphan's court is a specialized court that handles probate matters, such as wills and estates, and some aspects of guardianship.

The first of the two trial courts are the district courts. These courts handle both civil and criminal cases, but they are heard and decided by judges, not juries. District courts hear civil cases involving amounts up to $30,000, small claims matters of less than $5,000, domestic violence cases, and criminal cases.

The second trial court level is the circuit court. These courts handle the state's major civil cases and more serious criminal cases. The circuit courts also hear juvenile and family cases, as well as appeals from the district courts.

The first of the two appellate courts is the Court of Special Appeals, which is the state's intermediate appellate court. This court hears appeals from district courts, orphan's courts, and circuit courts.

Parties that are unsuccessful in the Court of Special Appeals may seek further review in the Court of Appeals, Maryland's highest court. Certain cases, such as death penalty cases, are appealed directly to the Court of Appeals.

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