COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS

ORIGIN & FUNCTIONS


[Seal, Court of Special Appeals] The Court of Special Appeals is the second highest court in Maryland. Like the State's highest court, the Court of Special Appeals is an appellate court. It was established in 1966 to ease the caseload of the Court of Appeals and to facilitate resolution of cases requiring appellate adjudication. The Court of Special Appeals sits in Annapolis.

[photo, Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland] An earlier intermediate appellate court, the General Court, had formed during the Revolutionary War (Constitution of 1776, sec. 56). Hearing appeals from the county courts, the Court was organized into the General Court of the Western Shore which sat in Annapolis and the General Court of the Eastern Shore which sat at Easton. In 1806, the General Court was abolished (Chapter 55, Acts of 1804, ratified 1805). Thereafter, the Court of Appeals served as the State's only appellate court until the Court of Special Appeals was established in 1966 (Chapters 10, 11, Acts of 1966, ratified Nov. 8, 1966, and implemented by Chapters 11, 12, Acts of 1966; Const., Art. IV, sec. 14A).

Murphy Courts of Appeal Building, 361 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland, April 2002. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


Except as otherwise provided by law, the Court of Special Appeals has exclusive initial appellate jurisdiction over any reviewable judgment, decree, order, or other action of a circuit court or an orphans' court, except for appeals in criminal cases in which the death penalty is imposed. Generally, it hears cases appealed from the circuit courts (Code Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, sec. 12-308). The Court also considers applications for leave to appeal in such areas as post-conviction, habeas corpus matters involving denial of or excessive bail, probation revocations, convictions based upon guilty pleas, and inmate grievances (Code Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, secs. 1-401 through 1-403).

Judges of the Court of Special Appeals are empowered to, and generally do, sit in panels of three. A hearing or rehearing of a case before the whole Court (when all 15 judges sit together, en banc) may be ordered in any case by a majority of the Court's incumbent judges.

Since July 2013, the Court of Special Appeals has consisted of fifteen judges (Chapter 34, Acts of 2013). They are appointed by the Governor with Senate consent for ten-year terms, subject to approval of the voters at the next general election after the expiration of one year from the date of vacancy. One judge is elected from each of the seven appellate judicial circuits.* The remaining eight judges are elected from the State at large. The Chief Judge of the Court of Special Appeals is designated by the Governor.
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* In 1994, boundaries of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Appellate Judicial Circuits were reformed by Constitutional amendment (Chapter 103, Acts of 1994, ratified Nov. 8, 1994). One seat was eliminated from the 6th Appellate Judicial Circuit (Baltimore City) and a seventh circuit created encompassing Montgomery County (Const., Article IV, sec. 14). For the Court of Special Appeals, one judge from the 6th Appellate Judicial Circuit temporarily became an at-large member. The first vacancy on the Court from among the at-large members was used to fill the vacancy in the new 7th Appellate Judicial Circuit (Chapter 581, Acts of 1994).


APPELLATE JUDICIAL CIRCUITS
  • Map of Appellate Judicial Circuits
  • 1st Appellate Judicial Circuit: Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico & Worcester counties
    2nd Appellate Judicial Circuit: Baltimore County & Harford County
    3rd Appellate Judicial Circuit: Allegany, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Howard & Washington counties
    4th Appellate Judicial Circuit: Prince George's County
    5th Appellate Judicial Circuit: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles & St. Mary's counties
    6th Appellate Judicial Circuit: Baltimore City
    7th Appellate Judicial Circuit: Montgomery County


    CLERK
    The Clerk is appointed by the Court of Special Appeals. The Clerk maintains the docket, receives the records and briefs of all appeals filed with the Court, and maintains official custody of Court decisions.

    ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION DIVISION
    The Alternative Dispute Resolution Division formed in February 2010 under the Court of Special Appeals as the Mediation Office. The Office was established to oversee the Civil Mediation Pilot Program created by an administrative order from the Chief Judge of the Court of Special Appeals. In February 2012, the Office reformed as the Alternative Dispute Resolution Division.

    The Division oversees the Court's Mediation and Prehearing Conference programs.

    Every civil case filed with the Court of Special Appeals is reviewed to determine whether a mediation or prehearing conference would be beneficial. In Mediation, parties work with one or more impartial mediators who assist the parties in reaching their own voluntary agreement for complete or partial resolution of the issues on appeal, in addition to any other issues relevant to the underlying dispute between the parties. In Prehearing Conference, parties work with an incumbent or retired Court of Special Appeals judge to discuss the contents of the record and/or record extract, pending Prehearing motions, scheduling matters related to the appeal, consolidation of appeals, and any other issue aimed at streamlining the appellate process. Both processes offer litigants a chance to resolve their differences before engaging in the potentially lengthy and expensive appeal process, and assist the Court in conserving judicial resources by reducing the Court's caseload.

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