Appeals from District Court to Circuit Courts:
One has the right to appeal a decision from the District Court to the Circuit Court. Most of these appeals are de novo, meaning that the Circuit Court hears the case as if it has never been tried before. This essentially is a “redo” of the trial in the District Court.
Appeals from Circuit Courts to Court of Special Appeals:
Cases can be appealed from the Circuit Court to the Court of Special Appeals as a matter of right. This means that if a person wants to appeal the decision of the Circuit Court, that person has the automatic right to bring the case before the Court of Special Appeals. Of course, there are several important (and often time consuming steps) that must be completed in order to bring a case before the Court of Special Appeals. Most importantly, litigants appealing a case must file a brief (detailed summary of one’s argument) with the Court of Special Appeals. The process of appealing a case is time consuming, rule specific, and requires a strong understanding of the law(s) at issue. Accordingly, you are encouraged to hire an attorney to assist you if you intend to bring a case before the Court of Special Appeals.
Once all the proper paperwork has been filed with the Court of Special Appeals, the case will be scheduled for oral arguments. This is the opportunity for a party to present his/her case in front of a panel of three (3) judges. During the oral arguments, the Judges may ask questions relating to the case, and why the party believes the lower court was correct or incorrect. Afterwards, the Court will issue a written opinion of its findings. The Appellate Court will either affirm the lower court’s decision, reverse it, or do a combination of both. The Appellate Court may also remand the matter back to the lower court. Often these written opinions from the Court of Special Appeals are very involved, and can take several months to prepare.
Appeals to the Court of Appeals:
The Court of Appeals is the highest court in our State. Unlike appeals to the Court of Special Appeals, appeals to the Court of Appeals are NOT automatic. One must file a Petition, referred to as a Writ of Certiorari, which must set out the over-all public policy that the petitioner wishes the Court to address. The Court of Appeals will hear a case when the law is unclear or new areas of law need to be addressed.
If the Court of Appeals decides to hear a case, a similar process is followed as in the Court of Special Appeals. One important difference is that oral arguments are presented in front of a panel of nine (9) judges.
En Banc Review:
This is usually referred to as a “cheap appeal”. Here, rather than going to the appellate courts in Annapolis and filing time consuming briefs, one is entitled to ask a three member panel in the Circuit Court to review the decision of one of its colleagues on the bench. The panel would make its decision, usually in a more expeditious time frame than the appellate courts. There is no right of appeal from the decision in an En Banc Review.