| Inner Workings
of the Court of Appeals - adapted from the book Appellate
Practice for the Maryland Lawyer: State and Federal, (1994,
1997, and 2001 Supplement), edited by Paul Mark Sandler, Esq.
and Andrew D. Levy, Esq., published by the Maryland Institute
for Continuing Professional Education of Lawyers (MICPEL), copyright
1994, 1997, and 2001 by MICPEL and the editors.
All rights reserved. This material is used with the permission
of the copyright holders and may not be reproduced in whole
or in part without the express written permission of MICPEL,
Paul Mark Sandler and Andrew D. Levy, Maryland Bar Center, 520
W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1756 (website:
The Court of Appeals, the highest tribunal in the State of Maryland,
was created by the Constitution of 1776. The Court sat in various
locations throughout the State in the early years of its existence
but has resided in Annapolis since 1851. The Court is composed of
seven judges. Until 1994, there was one from each of the first five
Appellate Judicial Circuits and two from the Sixth Appellate Judicial
Circuit (Baltimore City), but a Constitutional amendment realigned
the circuits to create seven circuits with one judge from each.
Members of the Court are initially appointed by the Governor and
confirmed by the Senate. Subsequently, they run for office on their
records, unopposed. If voters reject a judge's retention in office
or there is a tie vote, the office becomes vacant and must be filled
by a new appointment. Otherwise, the incumbent judge remains in
office for a 10-year term. The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals
is designated by the Governor and is the constitutional administrative
head of the Maryland judicial system.
Since 1975, the Court of Appeals has heard cases almost exclusively
by way of certiorari, a discretionary review process. As a result,
the Court's formerly excessive workload has been reduced to a more
manageable level, thus allowing the Court to devote more time to
the most important and far-reaching issues.
A party generally may file a petition for certiorari for review
of any case or proceeding pending in, or decided by, the Court of
Special Appeals upon appeal from a circuit court, an orphans' court
or the Maryland Tax Court. The Court of Appeals grants those petitions
it feels are desirable and in the public interest. The Court also
may review cases on writ of certiorari issued on the Court's own
motion. The Court of Appeals conducts a monthly review of appellants'
briefs from cases pending in the Court of Special Appeals in an
effort to identify cases suitable for consideration by the higher
Certiorari also may be granted in cases that have been appealed
to a circuit court from the District Court or from the Motor Vehicle
Administration, after the initial appeal has been heard in the circuit
court, in order to obtain uniformity of decisions or where special
circumstances make certiorari desirable and in the public interest.
Additionally, the Court of Appeals has exclusive jurisdiction over
such diverse areas as death penalty cases, legislative redistricting,
removal of certain officers, and certification of questions of law.
The Court is empowered to adopt rules of judicial administration,
practice, and procedure which have the force of law. It also admits
persons to the practice of law, on recommendation of the State Board
of Law Examiners, and conducts disciplinary proceedings involving
members of the bench and bar.
Inner Workings of
the Court of Appeals of Maryland
The Court considers certiorari petitions on a prescheduled basis
throughout all twelve months of the year. Well in advance
of the court's certiorari conferences, each judge is provided with
the petitions to be considered, together with the opinions of the
lower court, which are sought to be reviewed. Under the court's
internal operating procedures, each judge, rather than their law
clerks, reviews each petition. At "cert" conferences, the
chief judge inquires of each judge, in reverse order of seniority,
as to those petitions then under consideration that the judge would
vote to grant, together with supporting reasons for that determination.
Each petition is thereby thoroughly considered. A petition,
to be granted, must garner the vote of at least three judges; otherwise,
it is denied. If a petition for writ of certiorari is granted
the matter will be placed on the regular docket; briefs and record
extracts will be required, and oral argument will be set.
The court does not sit in panels; all seven judges sit on each
case unless there is a disqualification in which event a judge from
another court, or a retired appellate judge, may be specially assigned
to sit in the place of the disqualified judge. In no case
may the court sit with less than five judges.
The judges of the Court of Appeals of Maryland assemble on the
4th floor of the Courts of Appeal Building before 10:00 a.m.
A few minutes before that time the judges don their red robes with
white stocks in the robing room and line up in the conference room
in prescribed order to enter the courtroom.
Promptly at 10:00 a.m. the Chief Judge pushes the buzzer, and the
court crier with a rap of the gavel announces, "All rise, please,"
while the judges enter and take their places, standing in front
of their chairs. As the judges and spectators stand, the court
Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All
persons having any business with the Honorable the Court of Appeals
of Maryland draw near and give your attention. The court is
now in session. God save the State and this Honorable Court.
The judges and all others sit down and the court crier places the
gavel before the chief judge.
The judges are seated with the chief judge in the center, the other
judges being seated according to seniority; the most senior sitting
on the chief judge's immediate right, and the next senior on his
left, then back to his right and so on.
The chief judge will call the first case on the docket for that
day for argument. Counsel in the cases are allowed thirty
minutes argument per side. When the red light on the rostrum flashes
on, it signals the end of counsel's allotted time. Counsel
can expect questions from the judges as they have already read and
studied the briefs prior to the session. All arguments in
the court are recorded so that the judges may avail themselves of
the arguments when they are writing the opinions. When the
cases docketed for that day are completed, the judges will retire
to the conference room for discussion and a tentative vote on each
case. In reverse order of seniority, the chief judge voting
last, the judges state their individual views with respect to each
issue presented to the court for decision. Once a conclusion
has been reached by a majority of the Court, assignment of the majority
opinion is made by the chief judge, if in the majority, and otherwise
by the senior judge among the majority. If a dissent is to
be filed, the dissenting judges (if more than one) decide among
themselves on one of their number to prepare the dissent; preparation
of the dissent must be afforded priority over the preparation of
majority opinions assigned to the dissenting judge.
Once the opinion of the court has been drafted, it is circulated
to each judge for review and study. If a dissenting opinion
is to be filed, no action is taken on the proposed majority opinion
until the dissenting opinion has been circulated. After a
predetermined period of time has passed for the judges to study
the proposed majority and dissenting opinions, the court holds a
"case" conference (at least once monthly) and considers all proposed
opinions then scheduled for final disposition. At this conference,
the chief judge inquires of the court's senior associate judge as
to that judge's vote on the case. The voting order then descends
in order of seniority to the court's most junior judge; the chief
judge is last to be heard.
Discussion of the majority and dissenting opinions is usually intense
and lively. The court's opinion is the product of considerable
toil and concerted effort on the part of each judge. When
a dissenting opinion ultimately captures a majority of the court,
a new majority opinion must be prepared and cycled through the foregoing
procedure before finally being adopted and filed.
Motions for reconsideration or reargument, though frequently filed,
are seldom granted. Where merit is found in the motion, the
court may grant reargument or it may modify the opinion and mandate
in response to the action sought by the motion.
Inner Workings of the Clerk's Office
of the Court of Appeals of Maryland
The clerk of the Court of Appeals of Maryland is appointed by and
holds office at the pleasure of the court in accordance with the
Maryland Constitution, Article IV, Section 17, and takes and subscribes
the oath of office before the Governor. The chief deputy,
deputy clerks and other employees of the office of the clerk are
appointed by the clerk with the approval of the court.
The clerk of the court is responsible for all the official records
of the court and all documents relating to cases filed in his or
her office. Some of the main duties of the clerk are the docketing
of cases, filing of motions and briefs received from counsel, scheduling
of cases for argument, filing opinions when released by the court,
and issuing mandates in the cases in accordance with the rules.
The clerk also administers the oath, prescribed in Maryland Code, Bus. Occ. & Prof. § 10-212, to all persons admitted to the
Bar of Maryland, and issues certificates evidencing their admission.
A Test Book signed by all attorneys admitted in Maryland is maintained
by the office, as is a master card file containing these names.
In order to accomplish these duties, the Office of the Clerk of
the Court of Appeals is divided into three sections:
1. Admissions to the Bar, Rules of court, personnel and fiscal
2. Regular docket and attorney grievance cases; and
3. Petition for writ of certiorari docket and related matters.