Instant Access to State, County and Municipal Records
How do Maryland Courts work?
The highest legal authority in the state of Maryland is the Supreme Court. It has the power to oversee and review all decisions made by the Court of Appeals in the state, allowing the Supreme Court to interject on any important questions or debates over law. However, the Court of Appeals also holds a similar power over the lesser courts across Maryland, but only when one party decides to appeal a decision made. These lesser courts are made up of the 23 superior or trial courts across the state’s 23 counties. Other tiers of court include the circuit courts, appellate courts, district courts, and orphan’s courts.
Civil Cases and Small Claims
There are some important differences between the cases taken on by civil courts and small claims courts in the state of Maryland. For example, civil courts in Maryland only take on cases in which the petitioner is seeking more than $150,000. There are close to 170,000 of these cases across the state each and every year. However, non-monetary disputes over things such as property, restraining orders, and name changes can also be heard by civil courts in Maryland. On the other hand, small claims courts are in place to deal with cases in which the petitioner is looking for $5,000 or under. There are close to 150,000 of these cases across Maryland annually. The types of cases heard in small claims court can range from disputes over deposits, loans, and repairs to warranties, damages, and more. The small claims court has the power to order a defendant into an action, for example, paying back a fee owed.
Appeals and court limits
There are also a number of key differences between civil courts and small claims courts in terms of appeals and court limits. Civil courts allow pretrial discovery, but this is not permitted in the small claims court. It is also not permitted for people to hire lawyers to represent them and file papers on their behalf in small claims courts, although both things are allowed in civil courts in Maryland. Either party can appeal a decision made in civil courts, whereas only the defendant/sued party can appeal in small claims courts. Civil courts have a filing fee of between $180 and $320 per claim, before handing each party up to 120 days to complete their respective cases. In comparison, small claims courts charge $30-$100 per claim, and give each party 30-70 days to complete their case.
Why are court records public?
The Maryland Public Information Act was brought in back in 1970, with the latest changes coming in 2000. This Act was introduced to ensure that everyone in the state of Maryland has the fundamental right to access public records, no matter whether they are held by the state or local government. All public records can be both accessed and copied by residents of Maryland, unless another law prohibits it. Not only does this promote a sense of transparency between the government and the public, but it also safeguards government accountability.
To access records:
Maryland Courts Self-Help Center
8:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., Monday – Friday