DISTRICT COURT OF MARYLAND

ORIGIN & FUNCTIONS


[photo, Maryland Judicial Center, Annapolis, Maryland] The District Court of Maryland began operating as a court of record in July 1971. It had been created by constitutional amendment in 1970 (Chapter 789, Acts of 1969, ratified Nov. 3, 1970; Const., Art. IV, secs. 41A through 41-I). The Court replaced the justices of the peace, the county trial magistrates, the People's Courts (in certain counties), the People's Court of Baltimore City, and the Municipal Court of Baltimore City.

With statewide jurisdiction, the Distrct Court of Maryland functions in every county and Baltimore City.

Maryland Judicial Center, Annapolis, Maryland, December 2000. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


The District Court has no juries; each case is heard and decided by a judge. A person entitled to and electing a jury trial must proceed to the Circuit Court (Code Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, secs. 1-601 through 1-608, 2-601 through 2-607, 4-101 through 4-405, 6-403, 7-301, 7-302, 9-201, 11-402, 11-701 through 11-703, 12-401 through 12-404; Code Criminal Procedure Article, sec. 6-101; Code Family Law Article, secs. 4-501 through 4-510).

In minor civil and criminal matters, and in virtually all violations of the Motor Vehicle Law (Code Transportation Article, Titles II-27), the District Court has jurisdiction. The exclusive jurisdiction of the District Court generally includes all landlord and tenant cases; replevin actions; motor vehicle violations; and criminal cases if the penalty is less than three-years imprisonment or does not exceed a fine of $2,500, or both. The District Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Circuit Court in misdemeanors and certain enumerated felonies, but has little equity jurisdiction.

Small claims (civil cases involving amounts not exceeding $5,000) also come under the jurisdiction of the District Court. In civil cases involving amounts over $5,000 (but not exceeding $30,000), the District Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit courts.

Administered centrally, the District Court of Maryland is funded totally by the State.

Since July 1, 2019, some 123 judges, including the Chief Judge, serve on the Court (Chapter 199, Acts of 2005; Chapter 34, Acts of 2013; Chapter 91, Acts of 2016; Chapter 749, Acts of 2019; Code Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article, sec. 1-603).

District Court judges are appointed by the Governor to ten-year terms, subject to Senate confirmation. They do not stand for election. Those appointed may take office upon qualification (or commissioning). Their term of office begins at the date of commissioning. After their being commissioned, a swearing-in date is set.

The Chief Judge of the District Court of Maryland is designated by the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. As the District Court's administrative head, the Chief Judge appoints administrative judges for each of the Court's twelve districts, subject to the approval of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. A chief clerk of the District Court also is appointed by the Chief Judge as are administrative clerks for each district.

Formerly located in the Maryland Judicial Center at 580 Taylor Avenue, the District Court moved with the Maryland Judicial Center to 187 Harry S Truman Parkway in Annapolis in September 2019.

DISTRICTS


[photo, Maryland Judicial Center, Annapolis, Maryland] The District Court of Maryland has 34 locations in twelve geographical districts statewide. Each district contains one or more political subdivisions, with at least one judge in each county and Baltimore City.

Maryland Judicial Center, 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, Maryland, April 2015. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


[photo, Cecil County District Court/Multi-Service Center, 170  East Main St., Elkton, Maryland]

District 5 (19 judges): Prince George's County

Cecil County District Court/Multi-Service Center, 170 East Main St., Elkton, Maryland, May 2018. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


[photo, Robert F. Sweeney District Court Building, 251 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland]

Robert F. Sweeney District Court Building (Anne Arundel County), 251 Rowe Blvd., Annapolis, Maryland, September 2014. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.



DISTRICT ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGES

District administrative judges oversee the administration of the local district courts, budgets, and procurement. They also manage trial calendars to ensure the expeditious disposition of cases.

The Chief Judge of the District Court of Maryland appoints the District Administrative Judge for each local district court, subject to the approval of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.

DISTRICT COMMISSIONERS

District commissioners in each district determine if a defendant is to post bond or collateral, be held in custody, or be released on their own recognizance. They also issue arrest warrants.

With the approval of the Chief Judge of the District Court of Maryland, a district commissioner is appointed by the District Administrative Judge in each district.

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