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Maryland Manual, 1981-82
Volume 180, Page 389   View pdf image (33K)
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District Court

Miller Bowen Allegany, 1981
Milton Gerson Allegany, 1981
James S. Stafford, Administrative Clerk

A proposed constitutional amendment in 1969,
which was ratified by the voters in the State at
the November 1970 general election, brought into
existence the Maryland District Court, a state-
wide court of limited jurisdiction. The initial im-
plementing legislation for the court was contained
in Chapter 528 of the Acts of 1970, which was
supplemented by Chapter 423, Acts of 1971, and
by other 1971 legislation.

The court commenced operation on July 5,
1971, and functions on a statewide basis in every
county in the State and Baltimore City. The Dis-
trict Court is a court of record, and replaces en-
tirely the theretofore existing justices of the peace,
trial magistrates, the People's Courts in certain
counties, Baltimore City, and the Municipal Court
of Baltimore City. It has uniform jurisdiction
throughout the State and, in Montgomery County
only, it has also been given juvenile court jurisdic-
tion. Although the District Court is a court of lim-
ited jurisdiction it has been given greatly expanded
jurisdiction over the courts that it replaced.

In accordance with constitutional provisions,
the first chief judge of the District Court was
appointed by the governor. Subsequent chief
judges will be appointed by the chief judge of the
Court of Appeals from among the judges of the
court. By statute the State is divided into twelve
judicial districts. In addition to the chief judge,
eighty-six associate judges are authorized by law.
District Court judges are appointed by the gover-
nor for ten-year terms, subject to confirmation by
the Senate. At the expiration of a ten-year term,
the governor is required to present the name of
the judge to the Senate for confirmation for an
additional ten-year term. Judges must meet the
same qualifications set out in the Constitution for
judges of the appellate courts and circuit courts
and they must devote full time to their judicial
duties. They are prohibited from engaging in any
way in the practice of law.

Within the District Court system there is a
chief clerk apointed by the chief judge. The chief
judge also designates from among the judges an
administrative judge and appoints an administra-
tive clerk for each District. In addition, a District
Court clerk for each county within a district and
all other necessary court employees are appoint-
ed. Commissioners are appointed by the adminis-
trative judge of the district with the approval of
the chief judge to function in each county and in
Baltimore City as may be needed. The commis-


sioners perform functions similar to the old com-
mitting magistrates with respect to issuance of ar-
rest warrants, setting bail, or other terms of pre-
trial release pending a hearing or incarceration
prior to hearing.

The District Court has jurisdiction in criminal,
traffic, and civil matters. In criminal cases the
court may conduct preliminary hearings in felony
cases and it has original non-jury jurisdiction
over misdemeanors, whether common law, statu-
tory, or established by ordinance, and over crimi-
nal violations of State and local regulations. In
addition, the court has jurisdiction over certain
enumerated felonies if the amount or value of the
goods taken or obtained by the party charged
does not exceed $500.

The traffic jurisdiction of the court extends to
almost every violation of the vehicle law, except
for special offenses committed by juveniles.

In civil eases, the District Court has exclusive
jurisdiction if the amount claimed does not ex-
ceed $2,500 and in cases involving landlord and
tenant replevin, forcible entry and detainer, and
grantee suits regardless of amount involved.
Where the claim exceeds $2,500 and up to a max-
imum of $5,000, it has concurrent jurisdiction
with the trial courts of general jurisdiction. If the
amount in controversy in a civil suit is in excess
of $500, then either party has the right to de-
mand a jury trial, in which event, upon timely
demand being made, the case will be transferred
from the District Court to a trial court of general
jurisdiction. In criminal and traffic cases a right
to trial by jury exists only if the punishment for
the crime exceeds confinement for a period of
more than three months. The State may not de-
mand a jury trial.

Appeals from decisions of the District Court
are taken to the Circuit Court in the county in
which the judgment was rendered. In Baltimore
City criminal and traffic ease appeals are taken to
the Criminal Court of Baltimore City and civil
cases to the Baltimore City Court. In criminal
and traffic cases and in civil cases of less than
$500 the appeal shall be tried de now unless the
parties agree to an appeal on the record. In civil
cases involving claims of more than $500 the ap-
peal shall be on the record. The time for noting
an appeal in all cases is within thirty days from
the date of judgement in the District Court (Code
1957, Art. 26, secs. 139-157; Code Courts Article,
secs. 1-601 through 1-608, 2-601 through 2-607,
4-301 through 4-304, 4-401 through 4-530, 6-403,
7-301, 7-302, 9-201, 11-402, 11-701 through
11-703, 12-401).


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Maryland Manual, 1981-82
Volume 180, Page 389   View pdf image (33K)
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