This section gives you information to help you resolve your conflict through a Maryland District or Circuit Court. Unlike the other parts of the site that focus on the law itself, this section focuses on the legal process. It addresses the steps you need to go through to evaluate your situation , file (or respond to) a case , prepare for court , and even appeal or enforce a decision , as needed. It covers many key topics that you will need in order to be successful, such as how to draft complaints, locate the parties to include in the suit, find out more facts about the case, research the law, and present your case.
This section is only a very general guide and does not and cannot cover everything that might come up in every case. If you choose to go forward with your case, you will likely need to continue to research both the law and process for your case. Law libraries , self-help centers , and attorney advisors  can help you with information and advice as your case progresses.
A word about lawsuits: pursuing a case can be a very time and energy consuming process. Before you file, pay careful attention to the suggestions for resolving your conflict outside of the courts. Be realistic about how much time you are willing to put into pursuing your case. Finally, use all of the information on this site to learn as much as you can about both the law and procedure to prepare.
Knowing what type of case or issue you have will help you determine how to proceed.
Civil Cases: Civil cases involve a disagreement between two parties. One party, called the plaintiff, brings a lawsuit against another party, called the defendant. Often, if the plaintiff wins the lawsuit, the defendant must pay money to the plaintiff. Family law cases are included in the category of civil cases.
Criminal Cases: Criminal cases involve the violation of a criminal law. A Maryland criminal case starts with a written statement accusing a defendant of breaking the law. A private citizen (or a law enforcement officer) may ask a District Court Commissioner to file a statement of charges to start a criminal case against a defendant. The person asking for the statement of charges must provide a sworn affidavit, and the Commissioner must determine whether the affidavit shows probable cause that the defendant committed the offense. The State of Maryland is the party that prosecutes criminal charges in court. (Even if a statement of charges is filed, the State of Maryland may not choose to prosecute the charges.) A defendant who is found guilty will be punished by the State, often with fines or incarceration. Traffic cases are included in the category of criminal cases.
Juvenile Cases: Juvenile cases involve children. Juvenile cases include cases where a child is accused of breaking a law, as well as cases of child abuse.
Most of the information in the People’s Law Library is about the types of civil cases most frequently handled in state courts by self-represented parties. However, we also provide some very basic information, including links to other information sources, regarding Criminal Law and Victim’s Rights, as well as Youth Law.
The remaining information is about civil cases.
Your legal situation is important to you—and to the other party. The filing of a court case affects your legal rights and the rights and duties of the other party. For this reason, it’s very important that you stop and take the time to think whether or not a court case is the best way to resolve your dispute, and if it is how you plan to go forward with it.
The first step to think about is handling your dispute outside of court. Court cases take time, cost money and may cause some stress or disruption in your life. Some strategies to use in handling your problem outside of court are these:
If these strategies don’t work for you, then you might need to file a case in court.
Your next step is to think about whether filing a lawsuit is really “worth it.” You should think about whether or not you can really win your case. If you do win, you should make sure that the costs and time spent are in line with the amount of money you can actually receive from the other party.
In order to have a chance to win your case, you will need to make sure that you:
You will also need to make some personal decisions about costs. First, you need to think about how much you might receive if you win your case. You will need to consider what you are owed, of course. You also might deserve and additional amount from the other party to make you “whole” again and to get you back in the position you were in before the dispute (factors such as interest, court costs and attorney’s fees).
Second, you will need to make sure the other party has the ability to pay. For instance, the other party may have filed for bankruptcy. Or, sometimes the defendant just will refuse to pay. While you have rights in that instance, the practical problem for you is that you will need to spend more time to see your money judgment.
Finally, you will need to decide how you will handle your case—with an attorney or by yourself. An attorney is professionally obligated to do what is best for you, the client. For that reason, it is always advisable to use an attorney. You can find out how to hire an attorney here . Sometimes, especially if you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you might be eligible for free or reduced-cost legal services. Check here for more information. Still, attorneys may cost more than your budget will allow, even if you are not eligible for free or reduced-cost representation. If that’s your situation, courts offer some self-help services that will provide you with additional assistance and information that you can use to handle your own case. Check here for self-help services . To help you decide if you might be successful handling a case on your own, use this quiz .
When deciding whether to pursue a case incourt, there are a number of things to consider. For example:
Here is what the court staff see as the most common errors made by attorneys and members of the public when representing themselves. People often:
Tip on traffic accidents cases – Sue the driver who caused your injury or property damage, not the insurance company. District Court staff report that this is another common mistake. Other common mistakes to avoid include:
You have just been served with (given a copy of) a Summons and a Complaint to appear in court. You are now the defendant in a lawsuit. What are your options?
TIP: If you have been sued in District Court, but not in Small Claims Court, this section will still apply to you. However, since other District Court cases must follow more formal rules, you may want to consult a lawyer or do additional research.
Keep track of your deadlines and make sure you respond on time. Review your options in detail. Make sure to consider your personal goals along with all of the options. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of all of the options.
If you are not sure, seek some legal advice on what to do. Even if you handle the case yourself, it can be very useful to ask an attorney for some advice at key points where you need to make a decision. Working with an attorney as an advisor rather than as your full representative is sometime called “unbundled” legal services.
Do this only if you have no defense at all. Even if you owe the entire amount, it never hurts to make an offer to the other side. You may be able to get the judgment reduced or pay in installments.
If the other side requested an Affidavit of Judgment (see the complaint form  – bottom section on the first page) and you do not answer or show up, the judge may decide in favor of the other side. In fact, the Court may not even require the person who sued you to come to the hearing. The Court may simply send you a notice with the amount of the judgment and the date the judgment was entered into official court records.
TIP – The other side still has to prove its case. It is possible that the judge will not find that it has proved its case. But do not count on it.
If you have a low income and few assets, you may be collection proof (also called judgment proof). If you meet the criteria for being “collection proof” in Maryland, it will not make much difference right now if you have a judgment entered against you because the other side will not be able to collect. However, the judgment can be collected later, once your situation improves.
If you have a good case, you should present it to the court, even if you are collection proof.
TIP – If you have any defense at all, don’t rely on the fact that you are collection proof to protect yourself. Although it may prevent the other side from pursuing you now, a judgment in Maryland lasts for 12 years. In addition, the other side can renew the judgment for another 12 years. At some point, you may have a job or other assets that might be subject to a judgment entered now. If you can get the amount reduced, now is the time to ask the court to do so. Read the Rule and Law: Cts. & Jud. Prod. § 5-102(a)(3)  & MD Rule 3-625 
The judge will decide on the exact amount. Also, you may be charged for court costs or interest. By presenting a case and speaking with the judge at the hearing, you may be able to reduce the amount the judge orders you to pay.
These may be ways to delay the hearing, however, it is rarely a “winning” strategy.
Improper Notice - Read about service in Small Claims Court  (“Service Of Your Suit” Section pages 9-11). The person who started the lawsuit (the plaintiff) must make every effort to notify you about the lawsuit by making sure that you receive a copy of the Complaint and Summons and other papers filed with the court.
Were you served properly? For example – If the notice was left with someone else in your apartment building, that would not be proper.
If you were not served properly, you should contact the court  and tell the clerk about the problem.
You can ask that the case be dismissed. If the clerk does not allow this, you can show up in person and make the request. It is likely that the plaintiff will have you served again. You can ask to have the hearing postponed to allow you time to prepare.
Wrong Court – Usually the clerks will screen out cases that should have been filed in Circuit Court rather than District Court, but something may have happened that leads you to believe that Circuit Court is the correct place for the case to be heard. You can request that the case be transferred to Circuit Court. In addition, there are some cases that can be heard in either the Circuit Court or the District Court (called “concurrent jurisdiction”).
No Jurisdiction - If you do not live in Maryland or have a business here, it may not be appropriate to have a small claims case filed in Maryland. There are exceptions to this, such as:
You Want to Make a Demand for Proof - Maryland Court Rules say that you have the right to demand proof that the other side has done certain things correctly. For example, if the plaintiff sued you in your name and should have sued your business, you can make a “demand for proof”. You must raise this type of issue before the trial is held. Read the Rule: MD Rule 3-308 
This is a type of technical (procedural) challenge that you should not raise without talking to an attorney . This tactic is most likely helpful only to delay the trial, not to make the case disappear. You need to make clear to the court why this option would benefit you. Don’t raise it only to annoy the other side.
Wrong Venue - If the plaintiff filed in Dorchester County but you live and have a business in Talbot County where the dispute arose, the lawsuit may have been filed at the wrong court location. If a suit is brought in the wrong county, it can be transferred or dismissed. Cases will be transferred for the convenience of the parties or “in the interests of justice”. However, if you both appear for the hearing, the case can be heard, even if the county is not the correct one. MD Rule 3-326 allows for Dismissal or Transfer of Action. Read the Rule: MD Rule 3-326 
Do you owe money? Does the other side have a good case? They are clearly serious about going to trial. This is another opportunity to try to reach a settlement without going to court.
Then ask yourself – “Is there room to compromise?” There usually is some acceptable middle point, especially in money disputes. Remember that defending your case in court will cost you time off from work, possibly other costs and maybe attorney’s fees. The same is true for the other side.
Even if you and the other side tried negotiating in the past, you should still consider talking to your opponent to see what might be worked out at this point.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you will be able to “split the difference”, that is, agreeing to reduce the money claim by half. The fact that it has gone this far means that the other side thinks they have a good case. If you are able to reach an agreement to reduce the claim by 20 – 30%, many people would consider this a victory. Of course, if you believe that the other side is completely wrong and you owe nothing, this option is not for you.
Here are good reasons to consider this option.
TIP- If you are able to reach an agreement through your negotiation or mediation, it is a good idea to ask the judge to enter the agreement as part of the court order. Just in case the other side does not live up to their side of the agreement, you will find it easier to enforce a judgment than to try to enforce a private agreement.
If you want to defend yourself against the claims made by the other side, you should file a Notice of Your Intention to Defend.
You should file the notice within 15 days after the date you receive the Complaint. You have 60 days in certain circumstances such as you were served outside Maryland or your business received the Complaint through service on your resident agent. Read the Rule: MD Rule 3-307 
You have two choices. You can either:
TIP If you file a Notice of Intention to Defend, the court will notify the other side. You do not need to describe your side of the story but it may be helpful to do so. If you choose to respond, be brief but clear about your defense. State why the other side is wrong and mention the proof that you have.
There are many possible reasons why you would choose (or not choose) to describe your defense. Here are two ideas to consider.
If you do not file the Notice to Defend, you may still appear at the hearing and offer your defense. The judge will likely question you to see if you have a defense. If the judge believes you have a defense, he or she may go ahead with trial that day. It is also likely that other side will ask to postpone (continue) the hearing to a later date. The other side will ask for the postponement in order to have more time to prepare.
TIP - Check the Complaint to see if the other side indicated that they were asking the judge for an Affidavit Judgment. This means that they are asking the judge to make a decision without a trial. This will occur only if:
Making the Decision on Whether You Have Good Defense
Sometimes there are money and damage claims on both sides. If the plaintiff (the person who sued) owes you money, you can sue them for it. This is called a “counterclaim”.
MD Rule: 3-331(a) says that you can file a counter claim even if the other side owes you money from a different dispute. (You can also ask for other types of compensation but money is the most common.) Read the Rule: MD Rule 3-331 (a)
Timing - You must file your counterclaim within 10 days after the deadline to file the Notice of Intent to Defend. The Notice to Defend is due 15 days after you (a defendant) receive a copy of the Complaint.
If you choose this option, be clear and concise. Explain your story. This is not an opportunity to criticize the other side. It is not your chance to argue the whole case. Just include the highlights.
The original complaint and your counterclaim will both be heard during the same trial. (If there is a good reason, the court can order that the trials be held at different times.)
Is there someone else who caused all or part of the harm? Sometimes the person who files the lawsuit does not include someone who should have sued in the dispute. If a third-party was not named, you can “join” them in the lawsuit.
You can include this new person as part of a cross claim or a counterclaim. Read the Rule: MD Rule 3-331(c) 
Timing - You must file your counter-claim or cross-claim within 10 days after the deadline to file the Notice of Intent to Defend. The Notice to Defend is due 15 days after you (a defendant) receive a copy of the Complaint.
Service – You must make sure that you serve (give court papers to) this new party. You must serve them with a copy of “all pleadings, scheduling notices, court orders, and other papers [that have been] previously filed in the action”. Remember that you cannot personally give them a copy.
If you choose this option, be clear and concise. Explain your story about why this third party should be part of the lawsuit. This is not an opportunity to criticize. It is not your chance to argue the whole case. Just include the highlights.
Remember, you should prepare for the trial with this new party just as if you had filed the Complaint first.
Sometimes there is another defendant who was also sued by the plaintiff (the person who started the law suit). If the other defendant actually owes you money in the same dispute, you can file a “cross claim”. Read the Rule: MD Rule 3-331(b) 
Timing - You must file your cross claim within 10 days after the deadline to file the Notice of Intent to Defend. The Notice to Defend is due 15 days after you (a defendant) receive a copy of the Complaint.
If you choose this option, be clear and concise. Explain your story. This is not an opportunity to criticize. It is not your chance to argue the whole case. Just include the highlights.
Remember, you should prepare for the trial just as if you had filed the complaint first.
To prepare your case, use this Resource Guide  to walk through the same steps that you would have taken had you filed first.
You have been sued and you have no defense. You owe the money but you simply don't have enough money now to pay for the goods or services that you received from the plaintiff (the person who filed the law suit).
However, if there is even a chance that you do not owe the entire amount, you should defend yourself by proving you do not owe the entire amount.
There are two possibilities for arranging an installment agreement.
A good argument means a summary of why you need to pay in installments and how you will be responsible for paying.
For example – “I have just gone back to work after being out of work for 10 months. My bills are just about three quarters of my income. I can pay $30 every other week for 12 months to pay it off. I simply do not have the savings to be able to pay it all back now.”
A bad argument describes all of your personal problems but does not offer a clear plan for how the installment plan might work.
For example – “I have had a really hard time getting a job because of the problem with my leg and the buses do not go by my house. I have a lot of other debts and my daughter has been sick. My car was repossessed and now I really need to take the bus to my job. I can’t pay back the money but maybe I could pay something periodically.”
If someone sues you, you are the “defendant” in the case. The person who sues you is the “plaintiff.” If you want to fight the case in court, you have to tell the court in writing. The way to respond to the complaint depends on where the case was filed.
If the case was filed in Circuit Court, the defendant usually files an answer. (In some cases, the defendant may file preliminary motions before or instead of the answer.) If the case was filed in District Court, the defendant usually files a notice of intention to defend and should include a defense that has merit. (For example, simply stating that you cannot afford to pay a debt may not be a good defense in a case, but explaining that the plaintiff claimed the wrong amount of debt may be a good defense). The defendant’s response must be filed within the court’s time limits. If you don’t tell the court that you want to fight the case, or if you don’t show up at court, the court may presume you don’t want to participate in the case.
If the court thinks you do not wish to fight the case, it may enter an order of default or a default judgment against you, giving the other side some or all of what they told the court they should get. In other words, if you don’t file the correct response within the time limits, you may lose your case by default, and end up owing the other side money.
What is an Order of Default?
An order of default is a court order saying that one party (usually the plaintiff) has won the case, and the defendant has lost, because the defendant did not participate in the case. The order of default does not settle the issue of how much money is owed. It simply declares that the defendant is liable to the plaintiff.
Usually this happens when the person who is being sued (the defendant), does not tell the court in writing that they want to fight the case against them. However, failure to answer the complaint is only one way to get an order of default entered against you. Another common way is to not show up at court when you are supposed to.
If the court enters an order of default, and the defendant still does not respond, the plaintiff can ask for a default judgment.
What is a Default Judgment?
A default judgment is a court order giving one side (usually the plaintiff) an award (usually money) against the defendant because the defendant has not told the court that they want to fight the case, or responded correctly to the order of default.
A default judgment may be entered following an order of default. Sometimes, after entering an order of default, the court will hold a hearing to decide how much money the defendant should pay. After the hearing, the court may order a default judgment in that amount.
In District Court, if a plaintiff has given the court an affidavit saying how much is owed, and if the defendant does not file a notice of intention to defend, then there may not ever be a hearing. In this case, the defendant may get a default judgment or “Affidavit Judgment” instead of an order of default.
Not answering a complaint is just one way to get a default judgment entered against you. Another common way is to not show up to court when you are supposed to.
How did I get this Default Judgment?
Here is the ordinary flow of a court case, up to the point at which a default may be entered.
At the beginning of a case, one party files a “complaint” with the court. A complaint is a paper that tells the court what the other side thinks you did wrong, why they think they should win the case, and why they should get what they have asked for. Many times a complaint asks the court to give the plaintiff a judgment against the defendant. A judgment may require the defendant to pay money to the plaintiff.
The plaintiff must have the defendant “served” with the complaint and other important paperwork (a summons, and usually a court form). Once the plaintiff believes the defendant has been served with the papers, they tell the court.
If you want to fight the case, you have to tell the court in writing, within the court’s time limits.
The usual way to respond to a complaint in Circuit Court is to file an answer. (In some cases, the defendant may file preliminary motions before or instead of the answer. See Maryland Rule 2-322.) The way to respond to a complaint in District Court is to file a notice of intention to defend. Read all the paperwork with the complaint to see where the case was filed, and how many days you have to respond.
Generally, if you are served in the State with a Circuit Court complaint, you have 30 days from the date of service to file your answer. Generally, if you are served in the State with a District Court complaint, you have 15 days from the date of service to file your notice of intention to defend.
In some cases, the court may even immediately enter a default judgment.
What if I file my response late?
The Court may or may not accept an answer or notice of intention to defend that is filed too late. The other side will probably tell the judge that you haven’t filed your response, or filed it too late, and will ask the Court to rule against you. You must explain to the judge the reason why you filed your response late (or not at all). It’s then up to the judge to decide whether he or she will accept the late response.
How do I know if I have a Default Judgment?
There are a few ways you can find out if there is a default judgment against you:
a. You should receive some paper from the court where the complaint was filed that says either: Order of Default, Default Judgment, or Affidavit Judgment. This tells you that an order has been entered against you. The court will mail this paper to the address that it has for you, even if this is not your current address.
b. If you have access to the internet, you can do a case search of the court’s records at www.courts.state.md.us  under “search court records”.
c. You can call the clerk’s office for the court where the complaint was filed and see if they have record of any defaults against you.
How can I respond to an Order of Default from a Circuit Court?
Quickly. If you receive an Order of Default, and you want to fight the case, you can quickly file a “Motion to Vacate an Order of Default.” In this motion, you must tell the court that you want to contest the case and why you did not file your response in time. You must also state the legal and factual basis for your defense. In Circuit Court, you have 30 days from the date the order of default was entered (not from the date you received a copy of it) to file this motion. File the motion as soon as possible, because if you file it too late, you may permanently lose your opportunity to defend the case. In Circuit Court, if a final judgment has not been entered, the Court may or may not let you proceed with your case after the 30-day deadline passes.
What is a Motion to Vacate an Order of Default?
A Motion to Vacate is a written request, filed with the Clerk’s office, asking the court to undo the order of default and allow you to defend the case. In the motion, you must show the judge a good reason to allow your request and vacate the default. You must tell the judge why you did not file your response in time. You must also state the legal and factual basis for your defense.
How can I respond to a Default Judgment?
To challenge a default judgment, you can file a Motion to Strike a Default Judgment or a Motion to Amend a Default Judgment.
The rules for Circuit Court are different than for District Court.
If the Circuit Court correctly follows the rule and issues a default judgment against you, it cannot simply change its mind and decide to let you defend the case. However, if you file a motion within 30 days after the judgment is entered, you can ask the court to revise the relief it granted (for example, how much you owe the plaintiff.) In the motion, you must explain why the judgment should be changed.
In District Court, after the court enters a judgment on affidavit, the defendant has 30 days to file a Motion to Vacate a Judgment. The 30 days starts when the judgment is entered, not when the defendant gets notice of the judgment. In the motion, you must explain why the judgment should be changed.
What is a Motion to Strike/Amend/Vacate a Default Judgment?
A Motion to Strike a Default Judgment is a written request, filed with the Clerk’s office, asking the court to undo the default judgment. This is the same as a Motion to Vacate a Default Judgment. A Motion to Amend a Default Judgment is a written request, filed with the Clerk’s office, asking the court to change the relief granted in the default judgment.
If you file any of these motions, you must explain to the court why it should allow your request and change or undo the judgment. In other words, you will need to specifically tell the judge why the default judgment was entered wrongly, or was for the wrong amount.
My Motion to Vacate, or Strike, was Granted. What now?
If the court allows you to file an answer (in Circuit Court) or a notice of intention to defend (in District Court), file it right away. This is the way you tell the court that you want to fight the case, and the reasons why you don’t think you are responsible. The District Court may also reset your case for a trial and send you notice of the new date.
My Motion to Vacate, or Strike, was not Granted. What now?
If your Motion to Vacate Order of Default was not granted, you may still have an opportunity to contest the damages awarded to the other side. If you are successful, you may be able to reduce the amount of money the Court orders you to pay to the other side or negotiate a settlement with the other side.
If the court does not strike or vacate a default judgment, or change the relief granted, you have a judgment against you which you are legally responsible for paying.
One way to start the process of hiring a lawyer is to ask friends and family for recommendations. Also, most attorneys will offer a free consultation.
Before you commit yourself to a consultation, consider asking a few questions. The answers will help you choose the two or three lawyers you wish to interview. Since this is only a preliminary telephone conversation, ask questions that can be answered briefly. Here are some examples.
Regardless of why you are seeking a lawyer, you will be sharing details of your life. You will be relying upon this person's expertise and advice. Since this person will be acting on your behalf, it is critical that you feel comfortable with your attorney. You must have confidence that s/he will hear your concerns in an atmosphere of mutual respect. A personal interview is the best way to make this judgment.
Follow up your exploratory phone calls by scheduling interviews with at least two of the attorneys. Don't feel embarrassed about selecting only the best candidates. You may also need to cancel appointments with some of the attorneys after you complete all of your exploratory calls.
Come prepared with a brief summary of your immediate case (including dates and facts) as well as a list of general questions for the attorney. The purpose of your interview is to decide:
Since this a free consultation, it may not be a long meeting. Be concise and approach the interview in a businesslike manner. Be prepared to take notes. Listen carefully to the attorney. Observe the office.
What should I bring to the interview:
In addition to any unanswered questions from your telephone calls, ask the following questions:
These questions are particularly important to ask of attorneys practicing in large law firms where work is often delegated to associates and/or paralegals.
Observe How the Attorney Responds to Your Questions.
Finally, Observe the Physical Surroundings and Office Staff.
When you hire a private attorney, you have the choice on what kind of relationship you will have with your attorney. Read this tip sheet and decide what fits your situation.
The bottom line is that you are already deeply involved. The outcome of the case will inevitably affect you more than your attorney. No matter what role you envision for your attorney, you should be the decision maker on all major points in your case.
You hire an attorney for experience on legal procedures and familiarity with the appropriate court system. However, the more fully informed you are, the better prepared you will be to make the necessary key decisions and to oversee the work of your attorney.
At a minimum, many consumer advocates recommend that you learn some of the law relevant to your case. Look through the topic areas on this site. You can find out about courtroom procedures from staff at the court (although they may be reluctant), legal aid staff, the law library or your public library.
Beyond that level of involvement there is a fairly broad range of possibilities. The three general choices are:
Tip: No matter what role you and your attorney agree upon, maintain your own copies of all files and original documents in a fireproof box or bank vault. Do not rely upon your lawyer's file system as the only repository for these important papers.
Your relationship with your attorney can fall anywhere along the range of options described above. In making the decision about the degree of your involvement, ask yourself the following questions:
The final step in deciding the level of your involvement is a clear agreement and understanding between you and your attorney about your relative roles and expectations.
On the one hand, your involvement should not hinder the attorney from exercising the expertise for which you hired the attorney.
On the other hand, all options should be explained to you clearly. Ask questions about the details of a proposed action until you understand how it will affect your case. Be wary of an attorney making strategic decisions without you or presenting a proposed next step as necessary without explaining the merits and costs of the option.
It is possible to hire a lawyer to help you with part of your case, and to handle the rest on your own. This is called limited representation.
While it is usually helpful to have a lawyer’s help throughout the whole process, the Maryland Rules allow lawyers and clients to agree to limited representation.
If you and the lawyer agree, you can even hire a lawyer to appear for you in a specific court hearing, conference, deposition, or mediation, but not in the rest of the case. The advantage for you is that this may be more affordable than hiring the lawyer to represent you throughout the case.
Fees are one of the least discussed parts of any legal case yet are often of primary importance to both the client and the lawyer. Frequently fees are not discussed early enough, candidly enough, or in enough detail. Why?
Generally, because the discussion can be uncomfortable for both the client and the attorney. Becoming knowledgeable about the types of fee arrangements can help you to feel more comfortable about this essential part of hiring an attorney. Again, the specifics should be in writing.
The market rate for any given legal service is generally a range of fees which varies by locality. A "fair" fee is an individual decision and is likely to be based on the following factors:
The type of fee arrangement that you make with your lawyer will have a significant impact on how much you will pay for the services. There are several common types of fee arrangements used by lawyers:
Again, you should ask what is included in the hourly rate. If other staff such as secretaries, messengers, paralegals, and law clerks will be working on your case, how will their time be charged to you? Costs and out-of-pocket expenses will usually be billed in addition to the hourly rate.
Timing of Payment of Attorney's Fee
|Fee Paid Before Expenses||Fee Paid After Expenses|
|$100,000 Award||$100,000 Award|
|- 33,333 1/3 fee*||-20,000 Expenses|
|= 66667||= 80,000|
|- 20,000 Expenses||- 26,666 1/3 fee|
|$ 46,667 Client's share||$53,334 Client's share|
A contingency fee is usually found in personal injury cases, accidental claims, property damage cases, or other cases where a large amount of money is in contention.
Referral fee On occasion, an attorney who has accepted your case may refer you to another attorney who is more experienced. Sometimes the first attorney will ask for a portion of the total fee you pay for the case.
Yes. Remember that it is your case and that the attorney is an expert who is assisting you to resolve a problem or prevent a potential problem.
Despite the importance of fees to both parties, consumers usually do not choose a lawyer based solely on price. Yet it is important to remember that a lawyer's fees are often negotiable.
Your lawyer is unlikely to invite you to bargain over fees. However, there are some common sense tips to consider that may allow you to negotiate without outright negotiation. For example, smaller firms usually charge less than larger firms. If your case is interesting or novel or extremely lucrative, an attorney may be willing to negotiate. If the firm is actively seeking more work or is new to your locality, it may handle a case for less as a way to build its caseload.
There are two general situations in which you may wish to raise the issue of lower fees.
First, if your case has the possibility of significant attorney's fees, you are likely to be in a strong position if you are willing to shop around and to negotiate. It's wise to negotiate, for example, in personal injury cases. Most lawyers will propose a standard contingency fee for usually one third of any damages that they win for you, nothing if they lose. Bear in mind, the contingency fee is designed to cover the risk the lawyer is taking yet some experts estimate that at least one out of every five contingency fee cases involves virtually no risk.
It makes sense to sit down with several different lawyers before choosing one. Ask each to assess the merits of the case and the likelihood that you will receive money if you are successful. The consultations will be free and you will come away with a more realistic sense of what fee arrangements you should agree to. Generally, the higher the likelihood of success in a case, the lower the contingency percentage you may be able to negotiate.
Some clients also prefer to pay their lawyers on a sliding scale. For example, 33 percent for the first $ 100,000 in damages, 25 percent for the next $ 100,000, and 15 percent above that.
Second, here are some examples of other cost-cutting fee arrangements that you may be able to negotiate:
When you need a simple transaction like a will, a real estate closing, or a power of attorney, you can comparison shop. Contracting for legal services is like any other consumer transaction in that the prices and the work product vary. Interview several attorneys and compare their answers. Only after you get a sense of the range of fees will you be able to determine which rate and which attorney best suit you and your budget.
A written agreement specifying the fee arrangement and the work involved is the best way of assuring clear communication between you and your attorney about the total cost of the case.
Asking a lawyer to bill at 6-minute instead of 15-minute intervals can save you hundreds of dollars. For example, if a lawyer's minimum billing unit is 15 minutes, each 5-minute phone call will be billed at one-fourth of the hourly rate. At 6-minute phone intervals, a 5-minute phone call costs just one-tenth of the hourly rate.
Choose a Lawyer with the Appropriate Qualifications
Many types of legal work can be relatively routine. It often has little to do with complex legal theory or constitutional analysis. Smaller firms, attorneys charging lower rates, and less experienced attorneys are often well suited for the broad range of legal work needed by many consumers.
Finally, if you have extremely limited funds, discuss the situation with your attorney. If you have a longstanding relationship, you may be able to work out a payment plan. If the situation is compelling, some attorneys may be willing to help someone in genuine need.
After you interview a couple of attorneys, review your notes. Look at the strengths and weaknesses of each of the attorneys you interviewed. Decide what is most important to you.
Sometimes there are reasons why you might want help from an attorney but not have them do your whole case.
This term refers to a special relationship with an attorney. It means that you hire an “attorney advisor” for part of your case while you handle other parts of the case yourself. In other words, you are not purchasing the entire “bundle” of legal services.
An attorney advisor can help with specific work on the case. You can ask an attorney to help you with:
You and the attorney agree on the specific tasks to be performed for the fee (or maybe for free – called ”pro bono”).
Before you sue, try to settle. Many cases come to trial needlessly because the parties have not attempted to communicate with each other.
Why it makes sense to talk first? There are serious drawbacks to going to court.
Tip – Keep in mind that you should keep good records of all of your attempts to resolve the problem in case that it is necessary to go to court later. “Good records” means that you should keep copies of all letters. Keep a written record of all phone calls. Even though many agencies may accept a complaint over the phone, submit your complaint in writing so that an accurate record exists of the dispute. Why it makes sense to talk first. There are drawbacks to going to court.
Talk to the other side. It is surprising how often the other side is willing to work out something if you approach them in an open fashion. Before you talk, read this Guide so you know what your other options are if the conversation fails.
Consider working with the agencies that offer assistance resolving problems without going to court.
If you have a consumer problem with a business, first try the local Better Business Bureau (BBB) .
BBBs are nonprofit organizations supported primarily by local business members. BBBs “promote an ethical marketplace by encouraging honest advertising and selling practices”. BBBs offer a variety of consumer services.
Companies carrying the BBB seal have been checked out by the BBB. They have agreed to work with the BBB to resolve customer concerns regarding goods or services.
BBBs can help you with certain types of consumer problems but not everything. BBBs can handle complaints relating to buying and selling goods and services in the marketplace, including advertising claims. BBBs will handle complaints involving all types of businesses - online, “bricks and mortar”, BBB members, non-members. They also accept complaints against charities and non-profit organizations.
Sample case types include: misleading advertising, complaint about a good or service, cell phone service, charity giving, complaint about how your private information collected online was used or a complaint about children’s advertising.
A BBB is not the right place to start your complaint process if you have a complaint about:
They can help by contacting the local business and passing on your complaint. The business does not need to be a BBB member. Details on how the Better Business Bureau process works 
Within a couple of days, your local BBB will then take the complaint to the company involved. Remember that the BBB does not represent you or take your side in the dispute. They will usually give the business 2 weeks to respond. BBBs report that they are able to resolve 70% of the complaints that they handle.
If the complaint cannot be satisfactorily resolved through contacting the business, the BBB may offer an alternative dispute settlement process, such as mediation or arbitration
The District Court coordinates a mediation program that differs from county to county. After a case is filed in the District Court, an alternative dispute resolution coordinator will screen the case to see if it might benefit from mediation. Most courts will offer a chance to mediate before the trial. Some courts offer same day mediation on the day of the trial. All programs are voluntary.
Wondering if your court will help you find a mediator? Contact the District Court of Maryland's Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Office  at 410-260-1676.
In addition, the District Court works with other mediation programs throughout Maryland. One such program is the Maryland Association of Community Mediation Centers (MACMC) . You may request mediation by contacting them. MACMC will help you decide if mediation is appropriate. MACMC will refer you to a local program that will contact all parties involved to discuss the mediation and make necessary arrangements.
Mediation Programs and District Court – Many of the District Court locations offer mediation programs – some before and some after a case has been filed. Check out what your county offers. More about mediation in District Court .
Many legal problems can be resolved through negotiation. Negotiating on your own behalf can be the solution to many minor disputes. Before negotiating a problem, learn how courts might handle your case, and figure out what your legal goals are by:
There are several ways to negotiate with the other side.
Also, consider preparing for a negotiation by doing your own legal research  on the topic.
Finally, you may want to consider hiring an attorney to review papers or provide advice rather than seeking full representation, sometimes called “unbundled legal services .”
You should be prepared before negotiating with the other side. Negotiations are an important tool you can use to save time and money while resolving your case. Keep in mind, going to court is costly. Some costs you are likely to have by going to court includes fees at almost every stage of the trial, court costs, potentially attorneys, lost money from time off work and is usually emotionally exhausting. Below are a few tips on conducting a successful negotiation.
The following points are examples of tactics you should avoid when negotiating with another party:
It can be very easy to personalize the situation. After all, you do not feel you were treated fairly. Even if you do not like the other side, approach the conversation with an open mind and listen carefully.
You are negotiating in order to address a problem. You have no doubt speculated about why the other side acted as they did.
The best advice you can give yourself is to put aside your dislike or strong feelings about the other side. Focus on the issues, not the person.
Don’t go into a negotiation with the mindset that you are completely right and the other person is completely wrong. Most disputes have some merit on both sides. Your job during a negotiation is to figure out if there is a fair compromise.
In a negotiation, your attitude matters. If you enter the negotiation with the intent to “win at all costs”, you are likely to fail. Try to find a solution where you each “win” something. Once you have the information on what all of this will cost (time and money), consider what you might give up to resolve it now. If your case is heard in small claims court, you will be in an informal setting where the judge will be more likely to consider a compromise solution.
Every contact with the other side is part of your negotiation. An angry phone call followed by an emotional letter will not help you when you finally sit down to talk. Each contact will influence whether the other side is willing to compromise.
The word “demand” is misleading. “Demand” makes it sound as if the best strategy is to be aggressive in your approach to the person or business with whom you have a dispute.
You should always try to resolve your dispute with the other side before going to court. And the best way to resolve a dispute is to approach it calmly. No matter how angry or hurt you are, yelling or saying rude things will not help to resolve the dispute.
It makes sense to talk to your friends or family about your feelings and then to logically work through the following steps to see if you can resolve the problem without going to court.
First figure out how you have been harmed and what is reasonable to fix it. Then, plan a few key points to discuss with the other side.
Second, go talk with the other side. If it is a business, talk to the person with the highest authority you can. You need to discuss it with someone who has the power to help resolve it. Ask for an owner or supervisor.
Third, if you are not able to reach a resolution or to talk to a supervisor, write a letter with the same information and approach. You will also want to say – in a business-like way – that you plan to go to court, if needed.
Wait until your deadline for a response has been reached.
If they make an offer that differs from your request, keep in mind that there will be court costs and time off from work to pursue the case in court. Maybe you can compromise.
If you are not successful in resolving the dispute, consider filing a claim in District Court.
1) Dates are important. Date the letter. Include the dates of the incident and the complaint.
2) It is useful to type the letter. Public libraries have computers you can use.
3) Be polite. You are trying to persuade the other side. It costs time and money to go to court.
4) Make sure that your letter gets to the other side. Spend the money for “certified mail, return receipt requested”
5) Include copies of relevant evidence.
6) Be specific. Even though the other side knows about much of the story, remember that you are building your case. Repeat the information anyway. You may need to show the letter in court. Plus it helps the other side to make their decision by seeing how good your claim is.
1) Sent by certified mail so you can prove it was received.
2) The letter is dated plus the story includes all of the important dates to show that the warranty is still in force.
3) Copies (not the originals) of the documents that support your story are enclosed.
4) You are polite.
5) You show how the amount that you want was calculated.
6) You point out why it makes sense to settle.
7) You collected the physical and written evidence to prove your claim.
There are a number of government agencies that can assist you with a complaint that you have. Some have their own mediation processes. These agencies resolve thousands of complaints each year, without using the courts. It is worthwhile to try these first before court.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 
Consumer Response Center
6th and Pennsylvania, NW
Washington, DC 20580
(877) 382-4357 (toll free)
The FTC is a federal agency responsible for preventing fraud, deception and unfair business practices in the marketplace. You can file a complaint about companies, credit reporting agencies, organizations and media violence, Internet scams, telemarketing complaints, identity theft, or any fraud or misrepresentation about products for sale. The FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection does not resolve individual consumer problems, but it compiles a list of complaints to be used to investigate fraud and can lead to law enforcement action. To report a credit card crime, you can call the Consumer Response Center at (877) 382-4357.
Consumer Protection Division
200 St. Paul Place
Baltimore, MD 21202
Tel: (410) 528-8662
If you are a Maryland consumer or if you have done business with a company, organization or individual in the state of Maryland, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division. Mediation is offered to work with you and the business in an effort to reach a mutually agreed-upon resolution to the dispute. You can report complaints about medical billing, health care, new car warranties, auto repair, new home construction, landlord tenant disputes and other business transactions.
Submit a Consumer Complaint Form .
United States Postal Service (USPS) Inspector 
Criminal Investigations Service Center
Attn: Mail Fraud
10500 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Ste. 200
Columbia, MD 21044-3509
Tel: (877) 876-2455
U.S. Postal Inspectors investigate crimes, (such as chain letters, free vacation scams or missing persons scams) which use U.S. mail. Postal Inspectors may take action against violators, but they cannot ensure you receive a refund for money lost.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) 
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E.
Washington, DC 20590
Tel: (800) 832-5660
The primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. The FMCSA receives complaints about motor carrier drivers and employers, household goods moving companies, brokers or carriers.
Baltimore Community Relations Commission 
10 N. Calvert Street, Suite 915
Baltimore, MD 21202
Tel: (410) 396-3141
The CRC receives and investigates complaints of alleged discrimination. You may file a complaint in person regarding unlawful discrimination in Employment, Public Accommodation, Housing Education, Health and Welfare Services.
Maryland Board of Physicians (MBP) 
4201 Patterson Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21215
Tel: (410) 764-4777
Toll-free: (800) 492-6836
TTY: (800) 735-2258
If you have a complaint about any health provider licensed by the state of Maryland you may submit a complaint for yourself or on behalf of a patient with the MBP. Your complaint may be related to health care services provided by a: Physician, Physician’s Assistant, Psychiatrist, Psychiatrist’s Assistant, Medical Radiation Technologist, Nuclear Medical Care Practitioner, or a Respiratory Technologist.
Board of Dental Examiners 
Spring Grove State Hospital
Benjamin Rush Bldg.
55 Wade Ave/Tulip Dr
Catonsville, MD 21228
Tel: (410) 402-8501
Toll Free: (877) 463-3464
The Board of Dental Examiners updates and informs consumers of regulations concerning dental hygiene. Consumers who wish to file a complaint against a dental professional (for concerns of sedation practices, dispensing of prescription drugs, unlawful sexual misconduct by a dentist, dental hygienist, or dental radiation technologist, dental licenses, unsanitary workplaces, unpleasant behavior etc.) may contact the Board of Dental Examiners Office or file a complaint form on-line.
Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) 
2310 Broening Highway, Suite 150
Baltimore, MD 21224
Tel: (800) 492-TIPS (8477)
This agency is responsible for the safety conditions of the state's highways, gas regulation and public transportation. Contact the MDTA for complaints about toll booths, E-Z Pass or propane regulations or to report suspicious or terrorist activity.
Maryland Insurance Administration 
200 St. Paul Place, Suite 2700
Baltimore, MD 21202-2272
Tel: (410) 468-2340
Toll-free: (800) 492-6116
TYY: (800) 735-2258
The Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) is an independent State agency that regulates Maryland's insurance industry and protects consumers by ensuring that insurance companies and health plans act in accordance with insurance laws. The MIA can assist you with your insurance inquiry or complaint about health, life, property and casualty insurance.
The MIA also established a Rapid Response Program designed to help certain consumers resolve property and casualty claims (such as auto and homeowners claims including those made under commercial lines policies) quickly and without having to file a formal written complaint. For more information about this program, please contact us at (410) 468-2340 or 1-800-492-6116 ext. 2340. Participation in the Rapid Response Program is voluntary and does not affect your rights to file a formal complaint.
National Credit Union Administration 
Region II - Capital
1900 Duke Street, Ste. 300
Alexandria, VA 22314
Tel: (703) 519-4600
The National Credit Union Administration regulates federal credit unions and insures the vast majority of all credit unions in the United States. While NCUA does not arbitrate member complaints, they following may be able to help with a complaint concerning a federal credit union, a federal savings and loan (S&L) or a federally-chartered savings bank (F.S.B.), a national bank (a bank with a name containing the word "national" or the initials "N.A."), or a credit reporting agency or lender other than a credit union, bank or savings and loan
Maryland Department of Agriculture 
50 Harry S. Truman Pkwy
Annapolis, MD 21401
Tel: (410) 841-5700
Pest control companies are licensed through the Pesticide Applicator's Section (410) 841-5710. To file a complaint against a firewood dealer contact the Weights & Measures Division at (410) 841-5790.
National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA)- Auto Safety Hotline 
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Toll-free: (888) 327-4236 or (800) 424-9393
TTY: (800) 424-9153
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration maintains a complaint database to determine if a safety-related defect trend exists in a motor vehicle or an item of motor vehicle equipment. If a safety defect exists the manufacturer must fix it for free. The NHTSA lists information about and receives complaints regarding safety problems in: motor vehicles, tires and automotive equipment such as child safety seats, recalls.
Maryland Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation 
500 N. Calvert Street Suite 402
Baltimore, MD 21202
Tel: (410) 230-6100
The MD Office of the Commissioner Financial Regulation is the primary regulator for financial instutions chartered in Maryland. These include state-chartered banks, state-chartered credit unions, and state-chartered trust companies. The Office can assist you by investigating complaints of questionable business practices involving financial institutions under its supervision and in related financial institutions.
Comptroller Of Maryland 
110 Carroll St.
Annapolis, MD 21411
Tel: (410) 260-7980
The Comptroller of Maryland allows consumers to file complaints regarding employers not withholding taxes on paychecks or about wages. The Comptroller of Maryland's Ombudsman's Office  can help with tax-related issues if you are unable to resolve them through regular channels.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) 
City Crescent Bldg
10 South Howard Street, 3rd floor
Baltimore, MD 21201
Tel: (800) 669-4000
This government agency enforces anti-discrimination laws and reviews complaints of employment discrimination.
Any individual who believes that his or her employment rights have been violated may file a charge of discrimination with EEOC. In addition, an individual, organization, or agency may file a charge on behalf of another person in order to protect the aggrieved person's identity. Discrimination types include: age, disability, equal pay, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, retaliation, sex and sexual harassment.
File a charge of discrimination. 
Food & Drug Administration (FDA) 
Consumer Health Information
Rm 5377, Bldg 32
10903 New Hampshire Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20993
Tel: (410) 779-5713
Consumers play an important public health role by reporting to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) any adverse events (unexpected side effects) after using a medical product, or other problems with any products that the agency regulates. Timely reporting allows the agency to take prompt action. There are a number of ways you can report problems to the agency, depending on the type of problem and product.
Maryland Attorney General
Health Education and Advocacy Unit 
200 St. Paul Place
Baltimore, MD 21202
Tel: (410) 528-1840
The Health Education and Advocacy Unit is a division of the Maryland Attorney General's Office. It helps consumers resolve billing disputes with hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and other health care providers and also helps negotiate funds for medical equipment that is defective.
File a complaint 
Mediation is a process in which a trained impartial person, called a mediator, helps people in a dispute communicate, understand each other, and reach agreement if possible. Mediation is voluntary, confidential, and lets the people in the dispute decide what works best for them.
Maryland Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office, Consumers’ Guide, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Services in Maryland, page 8 (5th Edition 2009, Online edition updated March 2011) www.marylandmacro.org .
If your case is referred to mediation by the court, or if someone suggests that you try mediation instead of going to court, it may be because:
Mediation can happen at any time: the moment a conflict arises, before and during a court case, and even during an appeal. Once a trial court has given a verdict, the issues for mediation change, but mediation is still an option. For more information regarding mediating during the appeal process, see the Court of Special Appeals Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs .
Mediators are people who have training in conflict resolution. They have experience helping people to communicate better with each other, even when it seems impossible for any agreement to be reached.
Facilitation is often used when there are many interested parties or stakeholders and it differs from mediation. Mediation tends to focus on a single-issue dispute between a small number of people (2-4 or so). The large group dispute resolution facilitator helps a large number of people work out a dispute. In this Directory, we define a "large" group as 6 or more people. The facilitator is part of a joint effect to design and oversee the process of resolving a dispute. The facilitator will help to set up the ground rules for how the dispute will be resolved. The goals of the facilitator are to:
Mediation is not about winning or losing. Mediation is about having an opportunity to find solutions that work for everyone.
Maryland judges recognize that in appropriate cases people may achieve more satisfactory outcomes in a less time consuming and less expensive manner by using mediation than litigation. The courts solve problems, but judges realize that the underlying problems in many disputes cannot be resolved by the decision of a judge or jury. Mediation provides the public with an opportunity to resolve many disputes permanently and effectively. It also provides the courts with a mechanism to relieve overburdened dockets and help prevent disputes from escalating.
For a family issue that is already in the courts, contact a Family Court Coordinator .
For other types of cases or problems that are not part of a court case, or for more information about mediation or assistance in finding a mediator, you can contact the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office or look at the on-line Dispute Resolution Practicioners Directory.
An arbitrator is a person who is neutral, that is, a person who does not have a stake in the dispute. A neutral party does not take the side of any of the people who have the dispute. Often the arbitrator is an individual who has specific knowledge about the technical issues involved in the dispute. Unless you and the other parties have otherwise agreed in writing, the arbitrator makes a decision for you about how the dispute will be resolved. One common type of arbitration is "binding arbitration". In this case, the arbitrator's decision is binding on you and the other parties. "Binding" means that you and the other parties must live with and follow the agreement unless you have agreed beforehand that the arbitrator's decision is not final.
|A mediator||An arbitrator|
|Helps the parties discuss their conflict with each other.||Listens to the arguments of each party about why s/he is right, but does not help the parties discuss their conflict with each other.|
Does not make a decision for the parties. A mediator helps the parties understand each other's side of the conflict.
If you and the other party(ies) want, a mediator helps you to work out a solution to the conflict.
Does not tell you his/her opinion about who is right or wrong, or about who will win and who will lose if a court is asked to decide the conflict.
|Makes a decision for the parties about who wins and who loses based upon information and arguments presented by each side.|
|In a mediation||In an arbitration|
|If the parties reach an agreement, they may choose to write it down or leave it unwritten. An agreement is between the parties and it is their responsibility to follow it.||If the arbitrator makes a decision about the conflict, the parties must follow the decision unless they have agreed beforehand that the decision is not final.|
|A court will not enforce a private mediation or an arbitrator's decision unless you or one of the other parties file a lawsuit asking the court to enforce it. The court will only enforce a signed mediation agreement.|
Mediation is a process in which a trained impartial person, called a mediator, helps people in a dispute communicate, understand each other, and reach agreement if possible. Mediation is voluntary, confidential,
and lets the people in the dispute decide what works best for them.
Maryland Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office, Consumers’ Guide, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Services in Maryland, page 8 (5th Edition 2009, Online edition updated March 2011) www.marylandmacro.org .
The goal for mediation is to set up a safe, confidential, and controlled environment. The participants and/or the mediator can set ground rules to maintain an atmosphere of mutual respect. If one side gets out of control verbally, the mediator will address the problem. If someone gets out of control physically, the mediator will take appropriate steps, most likely by terminating the session or calling the police.
If you and the other party(ies) feel uncomfortable around each other, it is possible for the mediation to proceed with the parties in separate rooms. The mediator meets with each side individually to discuss the conflict and carries the information back and forth without the parties meeting face to face.
If an agreement is not reached, there is no penalty. If no agreement is reached, the parties have several options.
The parties have the option to continue with the mediation sessions or discontinue them. In a court-referred mediation case, the mediation is simply reported as unsuccessful and the case moves forward in the courts.
Often participants will include in the agreement what is to happen if one side does not comply with the agreement. If the agreement does not include such a provision then you need to decide how important the failure to follow the agreement is to you. That is, is it only one small part of the agreement, or a major part of the agreement. If you decide that the failure to follow the agreement is important to you, there are several things you can do:
Yes, the four most common types of mediation practiced in Maryland are called “analytical”, “facilitative”, “inclusive” and
However, the role of the mediator is a bit different in each type.
Facilitative Mediation: Facilitative mediation is based on the belief that, with neutral assistance, people can work through and resolve their own conflicts. In a facilitative mediation, the mediator will take an active role in
controlling the "process." Process means things like setting the ground rules for how the problem will be solved. The mediator asks questions to identify the interests of the parties and the real issues in the disagreement. The mediator helps the parties explore solutions that benefit both parties (sometimes called "win/win" solutions). In a facilitative mediation, the mediator does not offer an opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of the parties' cases. The mediator does not suggest solutions.
Transformative Mediation: Transformative mediation is based on the belief that conflict tends to make parties feel weak and self-absorbed. Transformative mediators try to change the nature of the parties' conflict interaction by:
The mediator will intervene in the conversation between the parties in order to call attention to moments of recognition and empowerment. Ground rules for the mediation are set only if the parties set them. The mediator does not direct the parties to topics or issues. Instead, the mediator follows the parties’ conversation and assist them to talk about what they think is important. The transformative mediator
does not offer an opinion on the strengths or weaknesses of the parties’ cases. The mediator does not suggest solutions.
Analytical Mediation: Analytical mediation is based on the belief that mediators with expertise in the issues in conflict can help the parties to:
Individual meetings between the mediator and one party at a time (called "caucuses") are a major component of evaluative mediation. The focus of an evaluative mediation is primarily upon settlement. The mediators will make their best efforts to get the parties to compromise, if necessary, to achieve a result.
Inclusive Mediation: Inclusive mediation is based on the belief that, with support and guidance through a problem-solving process, the parties, not the mediators, will develop a solution that meets their needs. An inclusive
mediation is always done with two mediators in a co-mediator model.
Mediators focus on strategically listening for values, feelings, and topics and reflect these back to the participants using language that captures the intensity the participants expressed. Mediators follow a defined process that includes time for participants to talk about whatever they chose, build clarity as to what is important, identify topics participants want to resolve, identify the goals each participant has for each topic, brainstorm options, consider each of the generated options in terms of which would meet all participants’ goals, and determine areas of agreement, if any.
Maryland Program for Mediator Excellence,  Mediation Descriptions, (Approved May 19, 2010).
No one form of mediation is most commonly used. Some mediators prefer to use one approach exclusively in their mediation sessions. (In fact, some programs require that the mediators use only one style of mediation.) Many mediators can, and do, use many approaches. You may find that a mediator uses parts of some or all of the three approaches we discussed above (facilitative, transformative and evaluative).
This will depend on the type of case you have and the outcome that you are seeking. In many instances a mediator may be an attorney, just not your attorney. Mediators and attorneys have different roles.
Attorneys represent the interests of their clients and advise them on the best way to present their case. Attorneys can discuss with you what may happen in court and can discuss ways of maximizing your concerns. On the other hand a mediator doesn't give legal advice or recommend the terms of an agreement. A mediator does not represent either side of a dispute, even if the mediator is also an attorney. Mediators assist people in conflict to communicate with each other and try to reach lasting agreements that are satisfying to both parties. In mediation you speak for yourself rather than having a lawyer speak for you.
That depends. Mediation can be used to resolve a variety of disputes, from relatively simple small claims issues to more important ones, like those involving divorce. The more serious the conflict you have with another person, the more likely it is you may want an attorney to assist you.
If you decide to mediate you may not need to have an attorney to represent you. Instead an attorney can help you with a variety of tasks such as:
(This section is based upon the work of an experienced family law lawyer, Sue M. Talia, in her book, How to Avoid the Divorce from Hell)
Privacy - Courts are very public places and court documents are public as well. It is relatively rare to have a closed hearing or sealed court documents. Mediation, by contrast, involves closed proceedings, which offer the benefit of keeping your personal and financial affairs out of public view. It is important to note, however, that a final agreement made part of a court order will be a public document.
Creativity - Due to the nature of our legal system, judges must follow certain rules when deciding cases. The types of relief (solutions) that a judge can order as the result of litigation are limited. As family law attorney, Talia notes, "The truth is that on your worst day, you and your spouse can probably think of several better and more creative approaches to your problem than a judge is likely to impose." This isn't because judges can't think creatively - most judges would probably love to find the ideal solution to your problem. But some of the best solutions aren't available to a judge who must follow the written law and what other judges have decided. The flexibility you have to reach your own result is one of the greatest benefits of choosing mediation.
Fewer Costs - The role a consulting attorney plays in mediation is very different from litigation. Important steps, like the investigation and sharing of evidence, are more informal. This reduces the cost and complexity of a case. Consulting attorneys advise you about your legal rights and the consequences of mediated agreements. This requires less time (and fewer fees) than the traditional attorney role. There is no incentive for attorneys to litigate beyond what is necessary to satisfy both parties. Some estimate that the cost of mediation can be from one-third to one-half that of litigation. This can be particularly important in a case, such as divorce, where the costs of resolving the dispute are likely to be drawn from shared assets.
Faster Results - The formal procedures lawyers undertake in litigation are not only more costly, they also take more time. Built-in time delays can be kept to a minimum by informally sharing information. You can set the pace for the proceedings, rather than relying on a court, and mediators will have more time to handle your case than judges. Delays which can last for months are cut down, and there's no danger that your case will be continued for lack of a judge's available time.
Does this mean that mediation is always the answer? No, however mediation is generally worth exploring.
First look at your relationship with the other party.
Mediation – Probably YES - Family conflicts are often a good choice for mediation because the parties are usually linked by family ties (family ties of blood or shared responsibly or experience that will continue to exist once the current dispute is over). Therefore, custody and visitation, support and divorces involving children are often good cases to consider mediation. Disputes between neighbors, with businesses in the community or other one-on-one conflicts are often good candidates to consider for mediation because (1) the relationship is likely to be ongoing, (2) you are fairly equal in power and (3) the information about the dispute is likely to be known by all the people involved. Cost is another consideration. Mediation is often a much cheaper choice.
Mediation - Probably NO - Certain types of cases do not lend themselves to mediation. Cases where there is a significant difference in power between the two parties often are not the best choices for mediation. For example, cases of domestic violence, personal injury, cases against a large or distant company often involve significant differences in power where a judge or jury might offer the best outcome. In addition, cases where the other side has information that is needed to resolve the dispute. While litigation is usually a much more expensive choice, in some cases, the other side may be forced to pay your attorneys fees. (Usually this is only if you “win”.)
The key to your decision is to be realistic about a fair outcome. You can make a fair assessment by
Although a person with counseling credentials (a social worker, psychologist or other professional) may also work as a mediator, mediation does not substitute for therapy. The goal of mediation is to help parties focus on a mutual problem, talk about it, discuss possible solutions, and if they choose, agree upon a solution. an agreement on how to solve a mutual problem. People who resolve problems through mediation often report that they feel better after having solved it themselves without someone else making the decision. Therapy may help you gain some emotional distance and be better able to handle the conflict but it is a different process. You may decide to seek therapy before, during or after mediation. The role of a counselor, like that of a therapist, is very different than that of a mediator.
Some mediators are also attorneys. However when an attorney acts as a mediator s/he cannot provide individual legal advice or representation to one of the parties to the mediation. An attorney represents you. A mediator is a neutral third party.
If an agreement comes out of your mediation and you wish to have it entered as part of a court order in an ongoing case or if you wish to have it enforced by a court, you should consider hiring an independent attorney to review the agreement on your behalf.
Although many courts refer parties in a case (especially family law matters) to mediation, you may also use a mediator as an alternative to going to court.
If a dispute involves a business, you may also want to check with the Better Business Bureau  which provides an arbitration and mediation program for cases involving it's members.
If a dispute involves others in your neighborhood or community, consider contacting one of Maryland's Community Mediation Centers.
Mediation is a private matter. Everything that is said in mediation is confidential. Court is a formal system in which most of what is filed or said in court is part of the public record. Unlike court cases, the process and issues in mediation are between the parties and the mediator. A mediator is bound not to reveal what the parties have said in mediation except in a few limited situations. The exceptions are:
Read the Regulation: MD Rule 17-109 
Unlike court, the atmosphere is informal. The parties and the mediator often meet around a table. There is no additional person recording the session or outsiders witnessing the discussion. Parties can wear whatever feels comfortable. There are no formal court rules. General rules are established at the beginning of a mediation session.
In many cases, the parties are able to reach an agreement more quickly than if the matter was decided by the court. Unlike a crowded court calendar, the only calendar you need to consider is a convenient time for the other party(ies) and the mediator. In addition, the various court processes, such as the filing of complaints, and motions or discovery (formal fact finding by each side), are not a part of the mediation process. You and the other parties define the issues and the terms of the agreement.
Some services are free. Others are on a sliding scale. In other instances, the parties split the cost of a mediator. Since cost is largely a function of time, the quicker pace of mediation often means that the cost is less than if the case went to court.
Mediation is useful in a very broad range of circumstances; it can help resolve almost any civil (non-criminal) dispute that would otherwise go to court or arbitration. Here are some factors that should trigger thoughts of mediation instead of a lawsuit.
Although there are hundreds of thousands of laws on the books, many types of common disputes simply do not raise a legal claim that you can take to court. Disputes between family members, employees or neighbors are sometimes of this type. Fortunately, mediation is available even when courts are not.
For example, suppose a suburban homeowner finds that he has no legal recourse regarding lights around a neighbor's driveway that shine in his bedroom window. Mediation--which might bring to the surface other smoldering problems between the neighbors--would be a good way to tackle the dispute.
Does your dispute involve another person with whom--either by choice or circumstance--you need to remain on good terms? This may include family members, co-workers or business partners, your landlord, neighbors or others with whom you have a continuing personal or business relationship. Lawsuits polarize and ultimately ruin relationships. A huge advantage of mediation is its ability to get a dispute resolved without destroying a relationship.
One of the drawbacks to going to court is that, by and large, everything said or submitted in connection with a lawsuit becomes available to the public. Only by a special order of a judge can information be "sealed" from public exposure. So whether your desire is to protect trade secrets or just to avoid washing your dirty laundry in public, your privacy will be substantially greater with mediation rather than litigation.
Mediation is almost always far cheaper than litigation. A dispute that may take $20,000 per party to resolve in court typically costs less than $2,000 per party to mediate.
Lawsuits are incredibly time-consuming; it's not at all uncommon for them to drag on for years. Mediation, on the other hand, can be begun at almost anytime, and it may take only a few hours. Even small consumer disputes that might take three months or so to resolve in small claims court can be disposed of far more quickly in mediation.
Sometimes you may hope to negotiate a fair settlement to a dispute, but are just not able to get the attention of the other side to start the process. For example, maybe the other party is a large company or government agency that refuses to negotiate with individuals. Or maybe you fear you have poor negotiating skills or are a little intimidated by the other party.
Mediation may help in these kinds of situations. The mediator's presence can help provide a more comfortable environment for negotiations, and the mediator can help you get your points across clearly to the other side. On the other hand, if there is a serious imbalance in power between you and the other side, mediation may not be an appropriate way to resolve your dispute.
A family may include a wide range of interpersonal relationships. For example, a family could include:
Family mediation can be provided for any of the people indicated above. It may mean mediation between people who are divorcing or who are in a custody fight. However, it also may mean mediation between other family members such as a parent and a teenager or between parents and grandparents who wish to work out conflicts and improve their communication.
If you are divorcing, divorce mediation may help you resolve your case so you can have an uncontested divorce It can save you money and promote positive dispute resolution.
If you are contesting custody of your children, mediation provides an opportunity for you to focus on the needs of the children, and to avoid the often highly charged adversarial atmosphere of the courtroom.
In the state of Maryland, all cases involving contested custody or visitation matters are referred to mandatory mediation, provided that there is no allegation of domestic violence or child abuse.
However your particular family is structured, family mediation will focus on finding win/win solutions and allowing parties to go forward with more understanding of each other's points of view than they had previously.
Most courts in Maryland have a system for referrals to mediation in child custody and visitation cases. Questions? Talk to the Family Services Coordinator  for your court. Family Court Support Services can also offer referrals to a variety of types of resources for handling and custody related issues. The types of services and referrals vary by county.
Below is the current Maryland rule which establishes when and how mediation will be used in custody and visitation cases.
(a) Scope of Rule.- This Rule applies to any case under this Chapter in which the custody of or visitation with a minor child is an issue, including an initial action to determine custody or visitation, an action to modify an existing order or judgment as to custody or visitation, and a petition for contempt by reason of non-compliance with an order or judgment governing custody or visitation.
(b) Duty of court.-
(1) Promptly after an action subject to this Rule is at issue, the court shall determine whether:
(A) mediation of the dispute as to custody or visitation is appropriate and would likely be beneficial to the parties or the child; and
(B) a properly qualified mediator is available to mediate the dispute.
(2) If a party or a child represents to the Court in good faith that there is a genuine issue of physical or sexual abuse of the party or child, and that, as a result, mediation would be inappropriate, the court shall not order mediation.
(3) If the court concludes that mediation is appropriate and feasible, it shall enter an order requiring the parties to mediate the custody or visitation dispute. The order may stay some or all further proceedings in the action pending the mediation on terms and conditions set forth in the order.
With respect to subsection b (2) of this Rule, see Rule 1-341 and Rules 3.1 and 3.3 of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct.
(c) Scope of mediation.-
(1) The court's initial order may not require the parties to attend more than two mediation sessions. For good cause shown and upon the recommendation of the mediator, the court may order up to two additional mediation sessions. The parties may agree to further mediation.
(2) Mediation under this Rule shall be limited to the issues of custody and visitation unless the parties agree otherwise in writing.
(d) If agreement.- If the parties agree on some or all of the disputed issues, the mediator shall prepare a written memorandum of the points of agreement and send copies of it to the parties and their attorneys for review and signature. If the memorandum is signed by the parties as submitted or as modified by the parties, the mediator shall submit it to the court for whatever action the court deems appropriate.
(e) If no agreement.- If no agreement is reached or the mediator determines that mediation is inappropriate, the mediator shall so advise the court but shall not state the reasons. If the court does not order mediation or the case is returned to the court after mediation without an agreement as to all issues in the case, the court promptly shall schedule the case for hearing on any pendente lite or other appropriate relief not covered by a mediation agreement.
(f) Confidentiality.- Except for a memorandum submitted to the court pursuant to section (d) of this Rule, no statement or writing made in the course of mediation is subject to discovery or admissible in evidence in any proceeding under this Chapter unless the parties and their counsel agree otherwise in writing. Neither the mediator nor an attorney may be called as a witness in such a proceeding to give evidence regarding the mediation or custody or visitation.
See Code, Family Law Article, § 5-701 et seq. for provisions that require the reporting of suspected child abuse.
(g) Costs.- Payment of the compensation, fees, and costs of a mediator may be compelled by order of court and assessed among the parties as the court may direct. In the order for mediation, the court may waive payment of the compensation, fees, and costs.
"Mediation" means a process in which the parties appear before an impartial third party who has no authority to adjudicate the dispute but who, through the application of standard mediation techniques generally accepted within the professional mediation community, assists the parties in identifying the issues, and then interests, exploring settlement alternatives, and fashioning the basis of an agreement.
"Family mediation" means the mediation of disputes in actions for divorce, annulment, establishment of paternity, child custody or visitation, or child or spousal support.
Mediation programs can be very beneficial to people who are divorcing as well as to those who have long been divorced but who find themselves in a dispute in their post-divorce relationship. Not only can it save money but it promotes positive dispute resolution rather than adversarial procedures. That being so, it is well worth investigating by any couple facing divorce, a child custody fight, a visitation dispute or other interpersonal conflict.
Mediation is a process that may help you resolve your case so you can have an uncontested divorce. Mediation is particularly useful in situations involving children, since it is in the interests of the children that their parents "get along" even if they will no longer live together as husband and wife. In the State of Maryland, all cases that involve contested custody or visitation matters are referred to mandatory mediation, provided the parties are represented by an attorney and there is no allegation of domestic abuse.
Mediation attempts to change disputes from "win-lose" to "win-win." Mediation is a non-adversarial process of helping people come to agreement on issues like parenting arrangements, support of children and spouses, and division of real and personal property. Mediation occurs when a neutral third-party who has training in dispute resolution, assists you and your spouse and helps you resolve the issues that are causing conflict and to make cooperative, informed decisions.
Mediation can be used to resolve the entire range of family disputes either before a divorce takes place in order to consummate a marital settlement agreement, as well as after the divorce to resolve continuing disputes that might arise under a marital settlement agreement.
Under Maryland Rule 9-205, if the court orders mediation for child access cases, the issues are restricted to custody and visitation unless both parties agree to include other issues. A history of abuse or allegations of abuse may mean that mediation is not appropriate. Read the Rule: MD Rule 9-205 
There are private mediators who earn their living by providing mediation for divorcing couples. These mediators can be invaluable in helping couples resolve property and support issues as well as with regard to custody and visitation. Divorce attorneys and family counselors can often refer families to family mediators.
Under Maryland Rule 9-205, the circuit courts have developed mediation programs to assist parties in resolving custody or visitation issues. Only in custody and/or visitation cases may courts mandate mediation.
Two sessions are ordered with the possibility of ordering two additional sessions. Many people find that mediation empowers them to make decisions together.
It is helpful for parties to have an attorney, whether or not the attorney participates in the mediation sessions. Parties will be advised by the mediator to seek advice from their attorneys and it is recommended that an attorney review the final settlement agreement. Mediators may not give legal advice to the parties.
A mediated agreement which is signed by the parties is a contract, and as such, is binding. Some mediated agreements are incorporated as part of the parties court order.
One of the advantages of mediation is that it is confidential. The emotional and perhaps embarrassing issues that are raised in divorce and child custody difficulties will be kept private, as opposed to a trial where all of the proceedings are part of the public record. They are also confidential, meaning that the process doesn't become part of the public record as does a court tried divorce case. This is especially important when the mediation concerns children. The adversarial nature of a divorce trial can severely strain the ability of parents to communicate with each other and their children. Dealing with custody, visitation and child support in mediation can often short circuit much of the bitterness and support positive family interaction. This can really help the children who usually want a close bond with both their mother and father.
If you don't reach agreement, you can still go to court. You do not give up your right to litigate your dispute. What has occurred in mediation is confidential and is not admissible in court or through discovery. In a court-ordered mediation, the case will return to the court for a decision by the master or judge if the two parties cannot reach an agreement.
Mediation may sound to you like a good, sensible way to resolve a dispute. But what if you're also convinced that your opponent is not sensible and is determined to prolong the dispute or fight things out in court? The good news is that with a little help, you can probably get even an obstinate neighbor, a quarrelsome ex-spouse or an unresponsive business owner to mediate.
If you've been ordered into mediation by a court--many family law and small claims courts send people to mediation before allowing them in a courtroom--or because the terms of a contract require it when a dispute arises over the contract; there is usually little difficulty getting the other side into the mediation room.
But most often, if you get embroiled in a serious dispute there will be no court to prod you into mediation. If you want to mediate, it will be up to you to get the process started.
Unless you know for a fact that the other side is willing to mediate, expect some reluctance. If the dispute has gone very far, the other person may almost automatically oppose anything you propose. Although you may be able to break through this resistance easily, sometimes it may not look promising. What then?
The best way to coax a recalcitrant party to mediate is to do it indirectly. Have a mediation organization--not you--extend the invitation to mediate. This means your first step is to find a mediation organization that is appropriate for your dispute. (Although individuals also offer mediation services, organizations are generally more skilled at getting people to the negotiating table.) For neighborhood and personal disputes, community mediation boards are usually appropriate. For divorce and business disputes, you can usually find organizations in the yellow pages devoted to these specialties.
After you find one or two organizations, call them and explain your situation. If one of them seems to be a good choice to work with you to get the mediation started, the next step is to write a short, polite letter to the other side explaining that you want to mediate and will be contacting a mediation service. Avoid saying anything that is likely to trigger a defensive response. Here are some suggestions:
Once you tell the mediation organization to go ahead, it most likely will send a letter and supporting materials to the other side, emphasizing the benefits of mediation, including low cost, privacy and speed. If you use a private mediation company, the letter will also likely point out the high quality of the people on their mediation panels, the simplicity of the process and competitive pricing.
If the mediation organization doesn't get a response to this initial mailing within a week or two, a staff person, often called a "case manager" or "case coordinator," will usually follow up with a phone call to answer the other side's questions about mediation and review mediation's potential benefits. If the other side declines to participate based on a lawyer's advice, the staffer may ask permission to call the lawyer directly to be sure the lawyer understands mediation.
Before long, the case manager may report good news: the other side is willing and ready to mediate. If so, the two of you can select a mediator and schedule the mediation.
Being a mediator is stimulating and rewarding. Mediation allows for a deeper understanding of people and their needs. Mediators enjoy helping people resolve their disputes and improve their relationships for the future. However, developing a mediation practice requires a major time-commitment and is not a reliable source of full-time income in Maryland at this time. To avoid disappointment, we advise people that they are more likely to be satisfied if they are motivated by an interest in the process, rather than in the hope of achieving a livelihood through mediation.
The best way to begin is to take a forty-hour basic mediation course. Mediation courses are offered on a regular basis by private trainers and institutions around the state. A directory of Maryland ADR Practitioners  can help you find a trainer in your area. It may also be possible to take mediation training from a community mediation center and continue as a volunteer mediator in that program. After the forty-hour basic mediation course, there are additional mediation training courses you may choose, such as a course in custody/visitation mediation or marital property mediation. Some trainers also offer workshops on such topics as dealing with impasse in mediation, advanced mediation, and other mediator techniques.
Currently, there is no required certification to practice as a private mediator in Maryland. To mediate cases from the circuit courts, however, one must meet the requirements described in Title 17 of the Maryland Rules , which is included for your use as are the requisite application materials to be placed on circuit court mediation lists. Placement on the lists does not ensure that any cases will necessarily be referred to you. To mediate for one of the state's ten community mediation centers, one must go through that particular community mediation program's training; attached is a list of community mediation programs  in Maryland.
Observation and Co-mediation. Becoming a skilled mediator requires more than training; it requires experience and feedback. After you have taken training, the next best step is observation and co-mediation with experienced mediators. Some private mediators charge for this service and some provide it without charge, while the community mediation centers include co-mediation and mentoring as part of their program.
Mediation is both an art and a science. The process is deceptively simple and straightforward. However, good mediators are highly trained, experienced and skilled. We advise interested people to have patience and to take a long-term view of developing their mediation practice.
There are no national training requirements or credentials for mediators. States vary widely in their approach to regulating mediation. There are 5 general ways that people find a mediator. Each may tell you something about the experience and training of the mediator.
Any individual mediator may fit into any or all of the above categories. Many private mediators, and most of those who work for or are associated with mediation organizations and programs, have training, experience, or both. A mediator may have a certificate of training completed. While the certificate is a confirmation that the person has successfully completed training, it does not necessarily confirm that the person has attained any level of competence.
Certification means that a certain group has set a standard and that it conducts a screening process to identify people who meet that standard. The value to the certification for your case depends on the type of group giving the certification. Currently states do not offer certification. However, many courts and some professional organizations offer rosters or referrals to people based on the individuals having met
As in Maryland, most other states impose training or experience standards on mediators who practice in court-funded mediation programs. Likewise, in most states, a person can offer private mediation services without taking a class, passing a test or having a license or certification.
Currently, no state offers a statewide certification program for mediators.
What are the court ordered/appointed mediator training requirements for mediators in Maryland?
In Maryland, there is a list of mediators to which the court makes referrals. These “court registered” mediators must meet certain requirements.
Under Maryland Rule 17-104, “Court registered” mediators of non-domestic law matters must
To mediate in domestic law matters and be listed by the court, a mediator must have additional training.
What “court registered” does not mean - Being included on an approved list of mediators for a particular court does not mean that the person is an experienced mediator but only that the mediator has received the required training. Also any mediator can help you work out an agreement that you can file with the court as part of an ongoing case. “Court registered” simply means that the person is eligible to receive referral from the court.
As a dispute resolution professional offering services to the public, you can increase your ability to reach potentially underserved populations:
by considering some of the following practical steps.
Many, but not all, court forms are available through the Maryland Judiciary website. Below are the links to some of the most commonly used forms from Maryland's District and Circuit Courts, Maryland's Office of Register of Wills, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and selected other sources. Local public law libraries  can provide additional resources, including sample forms when there is not an official form for the legal action.
Filing Fee Waiver Forms
Maryland District Court
For a listing of all Maryland District Court forms go to http://mdcourts.gov/district/dctcivforms.html .
You can also use the Maryland District Court Interactive Forms Finder Tool .
Maryland District Court forms include:
Maryland Circuit Court forms include:
Family Law Forms
Civil Law Forms
The Court of Special Appeals publishes a guide for self-represented litigants seeking to file an appeal with the Court. The guide outlines the steps for filing an appeal and includes sample forms and notices and a sample brief and is available in PDF format at http://www.mdcourts.gov/cosappeals/pdfs/cosaguideselfrepresentation.pdf 
The Maryland Attorney General's web site had an excellent guide and blank form. The PDF file is available at http://www.oag.state.md.us/Healthpol/adirective.pdf 
Maryland's Power of Attorney forms are set by statute. Downloadable samples of Personal Financial Power of Attorney  and Limited Power of Attorney  are available from Maryland Office of the Attorney General.
The Maryland Register of Wills is responsible for appointing personal representatives to administer decedents' estates and for overseeing the administration of these proceedings. Forms can be found within its website . If you are unclear about which form to use, the Register of Wills publishes several guides  on administering estates and guardianship of minors.
Filing for bankruptcy is handled in Federal Court. Forms for The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland can be found on its website . The Bankruptcy Court also provides resources  for self-represented individuals who are facing bankruptcy.
The purpose of legal research is to find legal documents that will aid in finding a solution to a legal problem. One type of legal document which many courts will rely on when solving a problem is called “Primary Authority.”
Primary authorities are the laws that are binding upon the courts, government, and individuals. Examples are statutes, regulations, court rules, and case law. They are generated by legislatures, administrative agencies, and courts.
Secondary authorities are summaries and explanations of the law that do not have binding effect on the courts. Secondary authorities, however, are useful in explaining the law and pointing you towards primary authorities.
Statutes are laws made by legislatures. Most legislatures meet and make new statutes at least once a year.
Legislatures have the power to make laws because the state and federal constitutions give it to them, and because the citizens elect them to do so.
Statutes are published in subject arrangements. "Codes" are books where statutes on similar subjects are grouped together.
Some statutory codes, like the Annotated Code of Maryland, are "annotated." The word "annotated" refers to the fact that these codes include more than just the language of the actual statutes - they also provide features such as citations to and summaries of cases and journal articles that interpret the statutes. These extra features are written by the editors of the companies that publish the codes, not by the legislature.
Regulations are laws made by executive branch agencies. Examples of executive branch agencies include the Maryland Social Services Administration and the United States Social Security Administration. Executive branch agencies have the authority to make laws based on certain statutes passed by the legislatures. Agencies can only make regulations on the subjects that the statutes say they can. You have to read agency regulations together with the statutes they were made under. Regulations, like statutes, are published in subject arrangements called codes.
Maryland’s code of administrative regulations is called the Code of Maryland Regulations (“COMAR” for short), while the federal code of administrative regulations is called the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR” for short).
Policy materials aren’t lawsbut they may influence how laws are applied
, or they may help you to understand the laws. Policy material includes things such as internal agency operating manuals and written opinions that agencies issue to explain decisions they’ve made. For example, an internal operating manual might be issued to the workers in a local Social Security or Environmental Protection Agency field office. An operating manual would contain lists of operating procedures that tell agency workers how to go about making the legal decisions they have to make every day, such as whether an applicant is entitled to disability benefits or whether a factory has met the requirements to receive an emissions permit. An agency’s written opinions explain why they denied the disability benefits or the emissions permit.
Policy materials are sometimes available on an agency’s website. Look on the Peoples Law Library website first for the several user guides on state and federal policy materials. These user guides are usually not written for the general public so you may have to write or call the agency in order to obtain copies of them. You can also check your local public law library for additional help.
Case law is found in judges’ opinions, which are explanations for why the judges decided the case the way they did. These opinions are written by the judges after hearing a case. Case law is usually made by judges in the appellate courts rather than the trial courts. Examples of trial level courts include the Maryland District and Circuit Courts, while examples of appellate courts include the Maryland Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.
In making case law, judges apply relevant statutes, regulations, and prior case law to the factual situations brought to them by people who file and defend trial court cases. Applying statutes and regulations usually requires “interpreting” them, or deciding what they mean if their language is confusing (which it often is). Sometimes, the judges are required to interpret the law in a unique way and can seem like the judges are making up new law.
Case law is published in books called “reporters.” There are many different case law reporters in the United States; each different reporter publishes cases from a limited geographical area or government unit. For example, Maryland Reports publishes cases from the Maryland Court of Appeals and Maryland Appellate Reports the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
Court rules are rules that lay out the procedures that must be followed when conducting business with the courts. For example, court rules explain what must be done when you are serving a legal complaint on a person you want to sue. The court rules also set deadlines and procedures for responding to legal complaints filed against you, limit the kinds of evidence a court may consider, and regulate the process of selecting a jury.
Secondary authority are books and articles that attempt to explain or comment on the law. They are not law themselves, because they are not issued by law-making bodies in their official capacities. Most secondary sources are written by law professors or practicing attorneys. These secondary sources are written to help law professors, practicing attorneys and the general public. The articles on the Peoples Law Library are secondary sources which are written to help explain the law to the general public.
Courts are under no obligation to agree with or "follow" an interpretation of the law that appears in a secondary source. Secondary sources are very helpful in doing legal research because they are usually easier to look up by subject and read than the laws themselves. Secondary sources will also point you towards laws and other primary resources. They also tend to explain how several different types of law on a subject (for example, statutes, cases, and regulations) fit together. When possible, it is a good idea to begin legal research with secondary sources, then read and use the primary sources (statutes, cases, regulations, and court rules) they cite.
This is a quick overview of where to find the "law." This article is divided by the branches and levels of government. There are usually multiple sources of law that must be considered at the same time. It is important to read all of the available law on the subject you are interested in from all different sources. It is also important to look at how laws at different levels of government interact with each other.
When you are starting to research a legal topic, it is often a good idea to start by using a secondary source. The secondary source will explain how the different sources of law relate to each other.
The federal legislative branch is called the Congress and it consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Its responsibility is to make the laws (statutes) of the United States.
The laws of the United States are found in the U.S. Code. The Code is divided into 50 different titles covering many subjects. Learn more  about the U.S. Code.
The United States Government Printing Office (GPO) maintains a database of the text for all public and private laws.
The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates in the House and Senate.
Before a Bill Becomes a Law
When a member of Congress introduces a bill, the bill text itself may be found in several places. The least expensive and fastest way to find bills is by using the Congressional website, Thomas , which has archived bills since the 101st Congress in 1989.
The executive branch of the Federal Government is responsible for enforcing the laws made by Congress. Its agencies and departments make regulations to implement and enforce the laws.
Once a year, all federal regulations are compiled into the Code of Federal regulations (CFR). This Code is divided into 50 titles representing a variety of subjects.
Proposed and final regulations, executive orders, and other executive documents are first published in the Federal Register. Search  and Browse  the Federal Register issues from 1994 to the present.
The Federal Register is the official publication for the federal government’s administrative agencies. It is published every business day and includes updates, rules and proposed rules as well as notices.
Once each year the information is compiled into volumes called the Code of Federal Regulations. If you see a legal citation that looks like this -- 20 CFR § 416. 112 -- this means that you are being referred to title 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 416.112. There are 50 titles and the CFRs are updated once each year, which means that any changes since that date will be in the Federal Register.
To be accurate, you should look at the CFR and the Federal Register.
Each volume of the CFR is revised once each calendar year and is issued on a quarterly basis.
The judicial branch is responsible for interpreting the laws enacted by Congress.
Judges may interpret a law or statute by considering the intent or goal of the legislature that created and passed the law. These interpretations and other judicial decisions are called Common Law or judge made law. Common law is usually found in documents called Opinions. Judges use Opinions and the rules of law established in them, called precedent, to decide the present issues in the cases they hear.
The federal district courts are the courts where federal cases are filed first. There are 94 federal judicial districts. The Districts are organized into 13 circuits: 11 regional Circuits, the D.C. Circuit, and the Federal Circuit. Each Circuit has a U.S. Court of Appeals to hear appeals from the District Courts located within their circuit.
Court cases in the federal system are appealed to one of the 13 United States Circuit Courts of Appeals. Maryland is in the 4th Circuit. More  about the Circuit Courts of Appeals.
The United States Supreme Court only accepts cases of the highest importance. More  about the Supreme Court.
The Legislative Branch is called the General Assembly  and it consists of the Senate and the House of Delegates and is responsible for making the laws (statutes).
The Maryland Code  (from Michie's Legal Resources) contains the laws of the State of Maryland.
What are annotations?
"Annotations" are legal research aids that can be found after each section of a law. Legal publishers do some of the legal research for you. Annotations often list certain important case law decisions from the past that mention the section of the law you are looking at. Sometimes, the annotations will describe the history of how different laws have evolved into the section of law you are looking at. Annotations are an important starting place for your legal research. You can read these decisions to see how judges have applied this section of the law in certain situations. Reading these new decisions will help you to understand how different courts may have decided what this section of the law means.
Annotated Code of Maryland: Sessions are arranged by subject or "codified" and placed in a volume of the Code.
Tip: Some volumes are republished; others get a pocket part or supplement. Maryland Code is in the process of being revised: "Red" volumes and "Black" volumes.
Maryland Code in print: Red Volumes have titles, ex: "Real Property" and Black volumes are arranged by Article Number.
The executive branch of the state government contains a variety of agencies and departments that make regulations to help implement Maryland law.
Not all states list their administrative regulations on the internet.
Twice a year, all state regulations are compiled into the Code of Maryland Regulations  (COMAR). This code is divided into 35 titles representing a wide range of subjects. COMAR includes many documents "incorporated by references." This means that the documents are not included in the COMAR text but that it is officially part of the COMAR.
Proposed and final regulations, executive orders, Attorney General opinions, and agency hearing and meeting notices are published in the Maryland Register .
The judicial branch  is responsible for interpreting the laws made by the General Assembly. It handles civil and criminal court cases.
State Judges make their decisions based on what they believe was the state legislature's intentions for enacting the law. State rules and regulations may differ from those of the Federal government; however, they may not undermine federal authority.
Do not overlook the importance of the rules (procedures) required by the state courts. If one does not follow the proper procedures, your case can be dismissed without having your "day in court." Therefore, it is important that you read and understand the rules of the courts and follow them.
The Md District Courts  handle landlord-tenant cases, motor vehicle, misdemeanors, some felonies, and all civil cases for amounts less than $5000. District Court opinions are not found online.
The Md Circuit Courts  handle all major civil cases, most serious criminal matters, and appeals from the District Court.
The Md Court of Special Appeals  reviews appeals from the Circuit Courts.
The Md Court of Appeals  is the highest court in Maryland and hears only the cases it deems most important.
Local government legislatures consist of city and county councils. Their job is to make local laws and ordinances.
There are twenty-four main local jurisdictions in Maryland (twenty-three counties and one municipality Baltimore City) In addition, one-hundred-fifty-seven(157) towns and cities have their own governments.
All cities and counties in Maryland maintain a code of their local laws and ordinances. Many of these codes cannot be found online. However, here are some tips on starting your search for local codes.
Starting your search for local codes
It is a good idea to search the website of your particular city or county for information on where to find their legal codes.
The executive branch of city or county governments make some regulations to help implement local laws. These regulations are usually not found online. To find more specific information on local regulations, it is best to go to the city or county website. A list of these sites can be found here .
Local governments do not maintain separate court systems.
The General Assembly  is the official body with the ability to create laws in Maryland. The General Assembly consists of 47 Senators and 141 Delegates each serving a 4 year term of office. These representatives are elected from 47 districts across Maryland. You must be at least twenty-five years of age (at the time of election) to be a Maryland State Senator. To be a Maryland State Delegate you must be at least twenty-one.
Sponsors are the representatives who signed the bill and promoted it during the General Assembly session when the bill was considered. Sponsors will be listed at the top of each bill.
If a bill originated in the House, the number will start with “HB”. If it originated in the Senate the number will start with “SB.”
Legislative history is the record of what happened during the making of a law. It includes the:
It depends. Case law represents a particular decision based on a specific set of facts and circumstances. If you are looking to apply case law to your particular legal situation, keep this in mind. It is unlikely that your case will be exactly like any other. To get the most out of case law remember the following:
Case Law is made by judges. It is the published opinion of a court on a particular case. It is the court's explanation for why it made its decision. Nearly all case law is made by appellate courts, not the "lower" trial courts. An example of an appellate court would be the Maryland Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Along with relevant statutes and regulations, courts rely on past case law as precedent for how they will make decisions in present and future cases. Not all case law, however, is used as precedent. A court does not have to rely on past case law to make a decision if any of the following conditions are met:
Case law is published in periodicals called reporters. All federal and state court systems publish some form of reporter. Inside a reporter are cases from a limited geographical area or government unit. For example, Maryland Reports publishes cases from the Maryland Court of Appeals and Maryland Appellate Reports publishes the cases from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. These publications can be found in law libraries  throughout the state.
There are 4 major ways to find case law based on the subject. Searching for cases using some of the following methods can be pretty complicated. It may be a good idea to seek instruction from a knowledgeable librarian before you try any of them.
The first way is to read articles or books about the subject you are researching to see if they refer to cases. For most people, this is the best place to start your research. Look for articles or books by reputable authors who are attorneys or judges. Read the article carefully. Usually, the articles will discuss one or more cases and explain the patterns of the law applied to the cases. The closer that the facts in a case match your situation, the more likely the case will be helpful to you. The benefit of using an article/book to start your case research is that the author presumably has done some analysis and research on the topic. Be careful with the date of the article. You can assume that the author last did his/her research at least a month or two before the publication date. No cases since that day will be included, meaning, any cases that have been heard since the article was written which changed the law will not be reflected in the article.
Some of the articles on the Peoples Law Library identify relevant cases. Law libraries have books and encyclopedias that talk about many other areas of law not covered here.
The second way, if you have already found a relevant statute, is to look at that statute in an annotated version of the statutory code for the jurisdiction you are researching.
The third major way to find case law by subject is to use a case digest. A digest is basically a subject index to case law that also gives you summaries of the cases indexed. There are different case digests for different legal jurisdictions. For example, if you want to find Maryland case law, you should search the Maryland Digest. If you want to find federal case law, you should search the Federal Practice Digest, which is now in its fourth series.
The fourth major way to find case law by subject is to search a full text database of case law from your jurisdiction. In order to do this, however, you will have to find a library that has a publicly accessible subscription to such a database. Most public law libraries  have such subscriptions. Be careful with the free case law databases that you find on the Internet, most of them only include cases decided in the last 6 to 8 years. Cases decided more than 8 years ago may still be binding law. Cases remain valid until they are overruled or the statute or regulations change.
Once you have found cases that apply to your legal problem, you have to make sure that they have not been reversed or overruled since they were originally decided. To do this, you will need to use a "citator" - a service that lists cases that have cited your case since it was decided. The most popular citator service is Shepard's Citations, which is available in print and on the web. The print version of Shepard's is extremely difficult to use and generally several weeks out of date. The web version is much easier to use, but requires a subscription or payment by a credit card. Many, but not all, public law libraries have subscriptions to the web version of Shepard's that allow members of the public to use the service from a library computer. Before you go to the library, call to see if your local library has the web version of Shepard's available to the public.
Court rules set out the procedures that govern how the court will operate. Procedural rules include topics such as how and when to file documents, which court can appropriately hear certain cases, and what types of evidence can be presented.
Different rules apply in different types of courts. In addition, the rules for criminal cases are different than the rules for civil (non-criminal) cases.
Before you begin searching for court rules, you should figure out which court your case will be in and what type of case (civil or criminal) it is. For example, there are different rules of civil procedure for the Circuit Courts and District Courts. There is also a separate set of rules of criminal procedure that apply in criminal cases for both the Circuit and District Courts.
If you are representing yourself in Maryland, the most likely set of court rules that you will need are the procedural rules for civil cases in the Circuit Court and the District Court.
The federal legal system has its own system of courts that is completely separate from the state court systems.
All of the U.S. Circuit and District Courts have to follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretations of federal law. All of the U.S. District Courts within a given circuit must also follow that circuit’s U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals interpretation of the law. Maryland is in the Fourth Circuit, so the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland must follow the interpretations of law from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
|Court||Opinions are published in...||Percent of Opinions that are Published|
|U.S. Supreme Court||
|U.S. Court of Appeals||Federal Reporter, which is now in its third series. (Abbreviations for each series: First – “F.”; Second – “F.2d”; Third – “F.3d”.)||50%|
|U.S. District Courts||Federal Supplement, which is now in its second series (abbreviations “F. Supp.” And “F. Supp. 2d”)||10%|
A citation to a federal case from the Fourth Circuit might look like this:
Finding Federal Case Law: Unfortunately, the free case law databases for the U.S. Circuit and District Courts only have cases dating back a few years. No matter how old they are, cases remain binding law until they are overruled by other cases or until the law is changed by statute or regulation. Therefore, you can’t rely on free Federal case law databases for a complete search. You can go to your local public law library  and search their subscription case law databases. Ask a reference librarian if you need any help searching for a case. If you prefer print, you can search their Federal Practice Digest, which is a subject index to federal case law.
Regulations created by federal agencies are published in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"). The CFR is available in print at many local libraries or electronically on the internet. Both the electronic and print versions of the CFR are not always up-to-date, so it is necessary to update the regulations you find in either version using the List of C.F.R. Sections Affected and the Federal Register.
The CFR has an index volume that allows you to search by subject. To search the index volume, look up key words related to your problem then look up the CFR sections to which you are referred.
Once you have found a federal regulation that applies to your problem, you will need to update it. To update a CFR section in print, begin by finding the latest issue of the List of Sections Affected ("LSA"). The LSA will probably be on a shelf nearby. The best way to explain updating CFR regulations is to use an example.
Suppose you wanted to update 38 C.F.R. § 14.634. You will have to pull the latest available issue of the LSA from the shelf. Next, look for the beginning of the list of sections in title 38. Then you would scan the list to see if section 14.634 was listed. If the number you are looking for is not listed, it means that the CFR’s version is still correct and there is no amendment to that particular rule.
In the image above, you can see that the LSA does list an amendment to 38 C.F.R. § 14.634. The number 8547 on the right side of the column tells you what page of the current year's Federal Register you would the updated regulation is on. You would then look for the issue of the Federal Register that includes that page number. In most libraries, the Federal Register will be shelved near the CFR.
Checking the LSA is not the last step in updating a federal regulation. Notice in the illustration above that the latest available LSA at the time this page was created covered changes made to federal regulations from July 1, 2002 through March 31, 2003. You would still need to check for changes that occurred after March 31, 2003. To do this, you would next look at the last issue of the Federal Register for each month that has passed since March 31, 2003. For example, if you were conducting your research in the middle of May, 2003, and using the LSA shown above, you would next need to find the April 30, 2003 issue of the Federal Register and the last issue published in May 2003. You would then check the "List of CFR Parts Affected during April" in the April 30 Federal Register and the "List of CFR Parts Affected during May" from the last May issue to see if any additional changes had been made to 38 CFR part 14 since March 31, 2003.
If you know which agency regulates the area of law you are researching, one of the easiest ways to find federal regulations is to look at the website of that agency. You can find a list of federal agencies with links to their websites at USA.gov.  Many federal agencies publish their regulations on their websites behind a link called “Laws and Regulations,” or something similar. If you don’t know which federal agency regulates your area of law, you could try searching the U.S. Government Mannual at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual/index.html.  The Manual gives descriptions of federal agencies.
If you can’t figure out which agency regulates the area of law you are researching and that type of law is not discussed on the Peoples Law Library, you will probably have to search the Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”). You can search the CFR on the web for free at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/ecfr/index.html . To search the full text of the entire CFR, click the link labeled “Simple Search,” then enter your key words in the "Search for" box and click the “Submit search” button. For example, if you wanted to find regulations about veterans’ benefits, you might type the words veterans benefits in the search box and click submit.
To browse or search the CFR one title at a time, click the “Simple Search” link as mentioned above, type your search terms in the "Search for" box, and type the title number in the "Enter a Title Number" box.
Before you search for case law, you need to know a little about the court system for that jurisdiction. Most importantly, you need to know: the hierarchy of the various courts within that system (that is, which courts can overturn the decisions of other courts), and which case reporters publish the opinions from those courts. Not all decisions are published.
In Maryland, the highest court is called the Court of Appeals  (1776 to date). Below the Court of Appeals is a mid-level appellate court called the Court of Special Appeals (1967 to date). The Maryland District and Circuit Courts, are trial courts, the lowest courts in Maryland’s court hierarchy. "Trial courts" are the courts where cases must begin. The "appellate courts" hear appeals from other courts. An appeal is where the court hears arguments on a case after it has gone through the District and/or Circuit Court. A case is usually appealed when the party believes a mistake was made at the trial court level. The Court hierarchy means that if a higher Maryland court disagrees with a lower Maryland court about the meaning of Maryland law, the higher court’s interpretation is used.
For example, The Court of Special Appeals issued an opinion interpreting Md. Real Property Code § 8-213. A judge on the Maryland Circuit Court was later trying to interpret the same statute. The judge on the Circuit Court would have to follow the interpretation of the Court of Special Appeals.
On the other hand, the Court of Appeals might decide that the Court of Special Appeals interpreted the statute incorrectly. When this happens, all lower Maryland courts looking at the same statute must follow the same interpretation of the law used by Court of Appeals.
In Maryland, only selected cases decided by the two appeals courts are published. Decision from the trial courts are not published at all. The published decisions include only about 15% of cases decided by the Court of Special Appeals. Those appellate opinions that are published appear in the following books called "reporters":
A citation to a Maryland case published in Maryland Appellate Reports might look like this:
Or, a citation to the same case published in the Atlantic Reporter, Second Series would look like this:
Unfortunately, the free Maryland case law databases on the web only have cases dating back a few years. No matter how old they are, cases remain binding law until they are overruled by other cases or until the law is changed by statute or regulation. Therefore, you can’t rely on free Maryland case law databases for a complete search. You can go to your local public law library  and search their subscription case law databases; a reference librarian can show you how.
If you prefer researching in print, most public law libraries also subscribe to the Maryland Digest, which is a print subject index to Maryland case law.
Regulations created by Maryland state agencies are published in the Code of Maryland Regulations ("COMAR"). If you don't have a citation to a specific regulation and you are researching an area of Maryland law that is not covered on the Peoples Law Library, you will need to search COMAR using key words related to your problem. There are two ways to do this: (1) search the print edition of COMAR at a public library using the print indexes or the COMAR Deskbook; or (2) search the free COMAR database on the Division of State Documents home page at http://www.dsd.state.md.us/COMAR/searchall.aspx . It is a good idea to use the print version of COMAR if you can, because that is the "official" version - the version relied upon by Maryland's state courts.
Searching and updating the print edition of COMAR can be complex. You will probably want to ask a librarian for help, but here is some basic information about how it works.
COMAR is divided into 35 numbered titles. Most state agencies have their own title. For example, regulations created by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are published in Title 10 of COMAR. However, several smaller independent agencies share a single title, Title 14. Before you begin searching for state regulations, it may be helpful to know which agency regulates the area of law you are researching If you know which agency regulates the law you are interested in, you can limit your search to the COMAR title containing that agency's regulations using the title’s subject index. If you don't know which agency regulates your area of law, you may be able to find out by searching the Maryland Manual Online . The Maryland Manual describes each state agency's functions and lists the agency’s major officials.
If you can't figure out which state agency regulates the area of law you are researching, or if there is more than one agency involved, you can search a subject index to the entire COMAR. The Division of State Documents, which publishes COMAR, doesn't publish an overall subject index. However, there is a separate, commercially published index called Michie's Index to the Code of Maryland Regulations. There is also another separate, commercial publication called the COMAR Deskbook that includes a very basic subject index and several other finding aids. Most libraries that subscribe to COMAR will also subscribe to one or both of these commercial publications.
Once you have found print regulations that relate to your problem, you will still need to update them. This is because each title of COMAR is updated only once a year. To update COMAR regulations in print, you must use a separate print publication called the Maryland Register . The Maryland Register is published every two weeks and contains the text of proposed new regulations, as well as notices saying when a proposed regulation will become final. A table appearing near the beginning of each issue of the Maryland Register lists regulations adopted, repealed, and amended in each COMAR title since that title's last annual update.
The easiest way to explain searching COMAR on the web is with an example. Suppose you wanted to know how to legally home school your child in Maryland, you could go to the COMAR page, click the “Search on a word or phrase, or enter the codification number” link, type the words home school in the search box, and click “Search.”
Another way to search COMAR online is to browse its table of contents. You should use this method if you are not familiar with the exact words used in the regulation. Using the home schooling example again, you might browse like this:
COMAR online is relatively up-to-date, but sometimes it takes a few weeks for the Division of State Documents to post new regulations to the database. For this reason, you need to update the regulations you find in COMAR by browsing the last couple of issues of the Maryland Register .
Regulations, like statutes, are published in subject arrangements called codes. Regulations explain the details necessary to implement laws.
To find any specific regulation in a code, you need its citation. You may have seen citations to both COMAR and the CFR on the Peoples Law Library.
A citation to COMAR looks like this:
A citation to the CFR looks like this:
All the public and permanent statutes currently in effect are published by subject in arrangements called "statutory codes." This is true for the various states and for the United States as a nation.
Many Maryland libraries, both law libraries  and general public libraries , subscribe to the Annotated Code of Maryland and at least one version of the United States Code. To find any specific statute in a code, you need a "citation." A citation tells you how to find the code you are looking for. One way to find citations is to read the People’s Law Library articles on the legal subject you are interested in.
A citation to the Annotated Code of Maryland in one of those explanations might look something like this:
A citation to the United States Code might look something like this:
Secondary sources are resources that you can use to aid your understanding of the law but are not themselves considered law. There are several different types of secondary sources, including books (sometimes called "treatises"), articles, encyclopedias, and form books.
For most people, this is the best place to start your research. Look for articles or books by reputable authors who are law professors, attorneys or judges. Read the article carefully. The closer that the facts in a case mentioned in the article match your situation, the more likely the case will be helpful to you. The benefit of using an article/book to start your case research is that the author has presumably done some analysis and research on the topic. Make sure to look at the article was written. You can assume that the author last did his/her research about a month or two before the publication date. No cases since that day have been updated or included.
Keep in mind that interpretations of the law found in secondary sources are not binding on the courts. You should only use secondary sources to help you find and understand the primary sources of law - statutes, regulations, and cases. When trying to find answers to your legal questions, you should always read the actual statutes, regulations, and cases that are discussed in these secondary sources.
The methods used to find secondary sources by subject vary depending on which type of secondary sources you are looking for. For example, if you want to find books about divorce law in Maryland, you should probably begin by searching a library catalog. On the other hand, if you want to find journal articles about divorce law in Maryland, you need to use a periodicals index, because searching the library catalog would only tell you which journals that library has, not what articles are contained in each journal. Find law libraries  in Maryland.
Finding a book on the area of law you are researching can be an excellent first step in legal research. In particular, practice guides and continuing legal education texts for attorneys can be surprisingly helpful to non-lawyers representing themselves. They often contain explanations of the meanings of various laws, as well as practical aides such as checklists (for example, lists of questions to ask witnesses or lists of steps to be taken before you file a court complaint) and forms.
Tip: When you need the name of a book/article on your specific subject of law, the best way to find the book you need is to search a library catalog using the "keywords" field, rather than the subject field. When you do a keyword search, the computer looks for all the words you’ve included in all parts of the catalog entry for each book, including the subject and the title. This increases your chances of finding a relevant book.
A good example of a keyword search for state-specific books that include forms is divorce Maryland forms. You can easily adapt this search to other subjects and jurisdictions. For example: custody Virginia forms or civil rights federal.
Using forms can be problematic for a non-lawyer. Forms are useful when you are unsure of the format or content required for documents that you are submitting to the court. You should be careful when using forms because they are based on someone's review of the statute and the court's procedural rules and may not be entirely accurate.
Generic forms can only give you general guidance on what should be submitted to the court. Use them carefully. You may wish to consult an attorney after you have completed an unfamiliar form. Many attorneys (although not all) will review a form for you for a minimum fee, even though you do not hire them to represent you. A notable exception are the Domestic Relations forms prepared by the Maryland Courts for the members of the public who choose to represent themselves.
Form Booklist -If the books you find on your subject don't include adequate forms, there are two major sets of form books to look for: American Jurisprudence Legal Forms and West's Legal Forms. Each of these sets has a subject index that allows you to find sample form language by topic. Be careful when you use forms from these sets, however, because they may not satisfy the law of your state. You should always research your state's legal requirements for the type of document you are trying to write and then adapt any sample forms you find to those requirements.
One of the easiest types of law-related secondary source for the public to use is the legal encyclopedia. Legal encyclopedias work like regular encyclopedias.
Tip: If you are researching a state law problem, such as divorce or custody law, it is best to use a state law encyclopedia. A state law encyclopedia will be more helpful because the law of your state may be different from the "majority" rules typically discussed in the national legal encyclopedias.
Books and legal encyclopedias cover a broad range of subjects, but are usually not updated more than once a year, and may be updated even less often. To find more current information, it is probably a good idea to look for journal articles. There are many different subject indexes to legal periodicals. Some are in print, and others are electronic databases. Probably the most popular electronic index to legal periodicals is called LegalTrac. Many general public libraries, as well as many public law libraries, subscribe to LegalTrac, and a reference librarian can show you how to use it. Unfortunately, there may not be any journal articles about your specific legal problem.
Legal research can be a complicated process. Although there is a lot of free legal information on the Internet, the information may not all be accurate or detailed enough to answer all of your questions. If you are serious about handling your own legal problems, it's a good idea to go to a law library and seek research advice from a law librarian. Below is some information and tips for getting the most out of your relationship with these professionals.
Although it is frustrating to hear, "I'm sorry, I can't tell you what that word means. You'll have to look it up," you should keep in mind that a librarian who does give you legal advice is not doing you any favors. Usually, the librarian will not have any formal legal education, meaning there's a good chance that he or she doesn't know the answer to your question. While they can be extremely helpful in researching your issue, librarians are limited to helping you use the resources in the law library.
Many public libraries  in Maryland subscribe to the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. This print version of the Code is the version you should use if possible for two reasons: (1) It is the official version, the one most accepted by Maryland's courts; and (2) at the end of each statute section, the Code's editors will list, summarize, and provide citations to cases that have interpreted that statute section. These case annotations will give you a head start on finding primary sources related to your problem. Here are the steps for using the Annotated Code of Maryland in print:
It may not be a good idea to rely completely on free web versions of the United States Code because they are not necessarily accurate or completely up-to-date and they do not provide annotations. Annotations are summaries of cases and articles that discuss that specific statute. Cases are extremely important in understanding statutes because the statutes themselves are often vague or ambiguous. You might begin your federal statute research in a reliable free electronic version of the U.S. Code, such as that available from the Government Printing Office  or Cornell Law School web site . Before you consider your research complete, however, you should go to a library that has an updated, annotated edition of the United States Code.
Once you get to the library, you will find that it subscribes to one or more of the three print editions of the United States Code. Those three versions are the official United States Code (published by the Government Printing Office ), the United States Code Service (published by LexisNexis), and the United States Code Annotated (published by Thomson Reuters Westlaw). If you have a choice, it is probably best to use either the United States Code Service (“USCS”) or the United States Code Annotated (“USCA”), because both of these are updated much more often than the official United States Code. They also provide case annotations, which will help you find cases that interpret the statutes relating to your legal issue.
Here are the steps for using the USCA or the USCS when you don't have a statute citation:
These special legal Research Guides help you find the law on some of the most popular Peoples Law Library Topics. To get the most out of this section:
Adoption and foster care are largely governed by state statutes. In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. This guide provides links to Maryland's family law statutes in a free web database maintained by the General Assembly . You can also navigate through the codes structure at the Westlaw website . Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful in your research because it provides summaries and citations to cases that have interpreted each statute. The free web version does not give summaries of case law.
Citations to selected Maryland Family law statutes:
The Maryland court rules applying in adoption law cases are found in Title 9 of the Maryland Rules . The court rules applying in foster care cases are found in Title 11 . The print version of the court rules, like the print version of the statutes, provides summaries of cases that interpret the rules.
The five largest Circuit Court jurisdictions in Maryland (Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County) have Family Divisions. These Divisions strive to provide a fair and efficient forum to resolve family legal matters in a problem-solving manner, with the goal of improving the lives of families and children who appear before the court. In Maryland's smaller cities and counties, there are Family Services Programs which serve the same purposes. For more information on the Maryland Judiciary's Family Divisions and Family Services Programs, see the Maryland Judiciary Department of Family Administration home page .
The Maryland Department of Human Resources makes regulations relating to adoption and foster care. The Department's regulations are published officially in Title 7 of COMAR  (the Code of Maryland Regulations), the print version of which is available in all Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR ). The Administration's regulations are also available electronically on the Division of State Documents home page: Subtitle 2 - Social Services Administration  and Subtitle 5 - Private Child Placement Agencies .
Because family law is mainly based on statutes, you will probably want to look for cases that interpret Maryland's family law statutes. The easiest way to do this is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland, then look at the case summaries that follow them. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain Maryland family law and noting the cases they cite. See "Resources for More Help" below for a list of books to get you started. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, which is a subject index to Maryland case law. The topics "Adoption," "Infants," and "Parent and Child" would be good places to start in the Maryland Digest.
The resources below may help you to understand Maryland adoption and foster care law. Keep in mind, however, that books that explain the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.
Bankruptcy law is governed primarily by federal statute, however, state statutes also play a role. Depending on the specific problem you are trying to research, you will probably need to research both federal and Maryland law.
The United States Bankruptcy Code is found in Title 11 of the United States Code, and is divided into eight parts:
The official source of the federal statutes is the United States Code. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the United States Code in print. Many of the same libraries also carry the unofficial versions, the United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Service. You should research the federal statutes in one of these unofficial print versions of the Code first because they are both more up-to-date than the official Code. Also, unlike the version linked above, the unofficial versions include case summaries that interpret each statute.
In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. For your convenience, this guide provides a link to a free database of Maryland's statutes maintained by the General Assembly . Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful in your research because it provides case summaries and citations that interpreted each statute. The free web version does not give summaries of case law.
Citations to selected Maryland bankruptcy-related statutes:
The resources below may help you understand bankruptcy law. Keep in mind, however, that books explaining the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.
There are several ways to begin researching bankruptcy case law. One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation is to search in the United States Code Annotated, the United States Code Service, the Annotated Code of Maryland then look at the case summaries following them. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain the law and noting the cases they cite. Another method of finding cases is to search in the Federal Practice Digest, which is a subject index to federal case law, or search the Maryland Digest, which is a subject index to Maryland case law. Many, but not all, law libraries also carry a specialized Bankruptcy Digest that summarizes only cases about bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Digest would probably be the most helpful digest if you have access to a library that carries it. The Digests arrange summaries of published cases by legal issue using the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination for your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest and you should find a list of summaries of cases that discuss your issue. Each summary includes a citation to the full text of a case.
Family law is mainly governed by state statutes. In Maryland, the official source of the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print.
Custody in Maryland is also controlled by federal law, meaning you must look at the federal law before deciding whether you can file for custody in Maryland (jurisdiction).
Maryland's Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act  is Maryland's version of the uniform law. This is the law that determines when the Maryland courts have the power to hear and decide a child custody case (jurisdiction). This law tells you whether Maryland is the "home state" for purposes of a child custody case.
Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act of 1980 (PKPA)  is a federal law that says the home state, or the state with child custody jurisdiction (power to hear and decide the case) is the only state that can decide the custody status of the child.Every other state is bound by the home state’s decision. This law prevents a parent who does not have legal custody from kidnapping their child from a state in hopes of winning legal custody in another state. This law does not apply to international cases.
The Maryland court rules applying in family law cases are found in Title 9 of the MD Rules . The print version of the court rules, like the print version of the statutes, provides summaries of cases that interpret the rules.
The five largest Circuit Court jurisdictions in Maryland (Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County) have Family Divisions that strives to provide a fair and efficient forum to resolve family legal matters in a problem-solving manner. The Division’s goal is to improve the lives of families and children who appear before the court. In Maryland's smaller cities and counties, Family Services Programs are committed to the same purposes. For more information on the Maryland Judiciary's Family Divisions and Family Services Programs, see the Maryland Judiciary Department of Family Administration home page. 
The Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration makes regulations relating to the collection of child support. The Administration's regulations are published officially in Title 7, Subtitle 07 of COMAR (the Code of Maryland Regulations). This is a print version which is available in all Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR ). The Administration's regulations are also available electronically on the Division of State Documents  home page. For more information on researching Maryland administrative regulations, see Finding Regulations.
Because family law is largely a matter of statute, you will probably want to look for cases that interpret Maryland's family law statutes. The easiest way to do this is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland, then look at the case summaries following them. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain Maryland family law and noting the cases they cite. See "Resources for More Help" below for a list of books to get you started. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, which is a subject index to Maryland case law. The topics "Child Custody" and "Child Support" would be good places to begin your search in the Maryland Digest.
The resources below may help you to understand Maryland family law. Keep in mind, however, that books explaining the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms. For Maryland family law forms, use the official court self-help forms  if they are available.
International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993 : This international law imposes a fine and/or imprisonment to any parent who removes a child from the United States when they have not been permitted by the court to do so. A non-custodial parent who steals their child away from the custodial parent and takes the child outside of the United States may be criminally prosecuted. This option depends on whether the other country involved has signed an international treaty called the "Hague Convention."
The primary source of information and help is:
Department of State, Office of Children's Issues
2201 C Street, NW
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
1-888-407-4747 (8 a.m. - 8 p.m.)
Debt and credit law are governed by both state and federal laws. Depending on the specific problem you are trying to research, you may need to research Maryland state law, federal law, or both.
In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful in your research because it provides summaries of and citations to cases that have interpreted each statute. The free web version does not give summaries of case law.
Citations to selected Maryland debt and credit law statutes:
The official source of the federal statutes is the United States Code. All Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries carry the United States Code in print. Many of the same libraries carry one of the unofficial print versions, the United States Code Annotated or the United States Code Service. You should research the federal statutes in one of these unofficial print versions of the Code first because they are both more up-to-date than the official Code. Also, the unofficial print versions include summaries of cases that interpret each statute. Below are quick links to a few important federal debt and credit-related statutes:
USC Title 15 Chapter 41  includes most major consumer credit and debt laws.
The Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation  regulates and investigates complaints against credit reporting agencies, retail installment sellers, mortgage lenders, and credit unions in Maryland. The Department's regulations are published officially in Title 9, Subtitle 3 of COMAR  (the Code of Maryland Regulations). The print version of is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries. The Department's regulations are also available electronically on the Division of State Documents  home page.
The Federal Trade Commission  ("FTC") and the Federal Reserve Board  regulate consumer lending, credit reporting, and debt collection practices. The FTC's regulations are published officially in Title 16  of the CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations), the print version of which is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries. The Federal Reserve Board's regulations are published officially in Title 12 Chapter II  of the CFR. They are also published electronically on the Government Printing Office's web site.
The Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education ("OPE") regulates student loans. The OPE's regulations are published officially in Title 34, Subtitle B, Chapter VI of the CFR.
The resources below may help you to understand debt and credit law. Keep in mind, however, that books explaining the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.
There are several ways to begin research into debt and credit case law. One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland, the United States Code Annotated, or the United States Code Service then look at the case summaries that follow them. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain the law and noting the cases they cite. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, which is a subject index to Maryland case law, or the Federal Practice Digest, which is a subject index to federal case law. The Digests arrange summaries of published cases by legal issue using something called the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination that represents your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest and you should find a list of case summaries that discuss your issue. Each summary includes a citation to the full text of a case.
Divorce law is mainly governed by state statutes. In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. For your convenience, this guide provides links to Maryland's family law statutes in a free web database maintained by Westlaw. Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful in your research because it provides case summaries and citations that have interpreted each statute. The free web version does not give summaries of case law.
Links to the Code of Maryland: Citations to selected Maryland Family law statutes:
The Maryland court rules  applying in divorce law cases are found in Title 9 . The print version of the court rules, like the print version of the statutes, has the advantage of providing case summaries that interpret the rules.
The five largest Circuit Court jurisdictions in Maryland (Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County) have Family Divisions that strive to provide a fair and efficient forum to resolve family legal matters in a problem-solving manner. The Division’s goal is to improve the lives of families and children who appear before the court. In Maryland's smaller cities and counties, Family Services Programs set in place to serve the same purposes. For more information on the Maryland Judiciary's Family Divisions and Family Services Programs, see the Maryland Judiciary Department of Family Administration home page .
Because divorce law is largely a matter of statute, you will probably want to look for cases that interpret Maryland's family law statutes. The easiest way to do this is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland, then look at the following case summaries. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain Maryland divorce law and noting the cases they cite. See "Books for More Help" below for a list of books to get you started. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, which is a subject index to Maryland case law.
The resources below may help you to understand Maryland family law. Keep in mind, however, that books explaining the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.
Domestic violence law is governed primarily by criminal and family law statutes. In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. For your convenience, this guide provides links to Maryland's domestic violence statutes in a free web database. Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful because it provides summaries of and citations to cases that interpreted each statute. The free web version does not give case summaries.
Citations to selected Maryland Family law statutes:
The Maryland Judiciary provides informational forms on petitioning for protection from domestic violence on its home page. See Petition for Protection from Domestic Violence . The page includes a glossary of legal terms and a brochure describing the petitioning process.
Petitions for protection can be filed in either Circuit or District Court. You may therefore find it helpful to review the court rules for the court you will be filing in:
The print version of the court rules, like the print version of the statutes, has the advantage of providing summaries of cases that interpret the rules. You may, therefore, wish to visit a library to do your rules research in print, instead of relying on the web version.
There is also a good book on handling domestic violence cases in court, written by the House of Ruth  Domestic Violence Legal Clinic: Domestic Violence Cases : Handling Them Effectively in Maryland District and Circuit Courts . 2003 ed. Baltimore, Md.: Maryland Institute for Continuing Professional Education of Lawyers, 2003. Check your local library for availability.
The State of Maryland provides several assistance programs that could be helpful to victims of domestic violence. The legal rules governing the operation of these programs are called regulations.
The Maryland agency that manages programs for victims of domestic violence is the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence  within the Department of Human Resources . Programs that might be helpful to victims of domestic violence include the Domestic Violence Program, the Adult Protective Services, Rape Crisis, Displaced Homemaker, and Homeless Women Crisis Shelter programs. Regulations are published officially in Title 7, Subtitle 1 of COMAR  (the Code of Maryland Regulations). The print version of which is available in all Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (SAILOR ).
There are several ways to begin research into domestic violence case law. One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland, then look at the case summaries following them. You can find additional cases by reading books explaining Maryland family law and noting the cases they cite. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, which is a big subject index to Maryland case law. The Maryland Digest arranges summaries of published cases by legal issue using something called the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination that represents your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest and you should find a list of summaries of cases that discuss your issue. Each summary includes a citation to the full text of a case. The topic and key numbers that are most likely to lead to cases about protection from domestic violence are “Breach of the Peace” k. 15 through 21.
Employment wage and hour law is governed by both state and federal laws. Depending on the specific area of law you are interested in, you may need to research Maryland state law, federal law, or both.
In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print.
Citations to selected Maryland employment law statutes:
The official source for the federal statutes is the United States Code. All Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries carry the United States Code in print. Many of the same libraries also carry one of the unofficial print versions, the United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Service. It is a good idea to do your federal statute research in one of these unofficial print versions of the Code, because they are both more up-to-date than the official Code. The print versions also include summaries of cases that interpret each statute. Below are quick links to some important federal employment-related statutes:
The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation's Division of Labor and Industry  regulates wages and working hours in Maryland. The Department's regulations are published officially in Title 9, Subtitle 12 of COMAR (the Code of Maryland Regulations). The print version of the COMAR is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries. The Department's regulations are also available electronically on the Division of State Documents  home page.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division ("WHD") regulates minimum wages, maximum hours, and other related employment conditions. The WHD's regulations are published officially in Title 29 of the CFR  (the Code of Federal Regulations). The print version of the CFR is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries.
The Employee Benefits Security Administration ("EBSA")  regulates employee benefit plans such as pensions, 401(k)s, and health plans. Its regulations are officially published in Title 29 of the CFR. They are also available electronically on the EBSA web site .
The resources below may help you to understand employment law. Keep in mind, however, that books explaining the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.
There are several ways to begin research into wage and hour case law. One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland, the United States Code Annotated, or the United States Code Service then look at the case summaries following them. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain the law and noting the cases they cite. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, a subject index to Maryland case law, or the Federal Practice Digest, a subject index to federal case law. The Digests organize summaries of published cases by legal issue using something called the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination for your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest and you will find a list of case summaries that discuss your legal topic. Each summary will include a citation to the full text of a case.
In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. For your convenience, this guide provides links to Maryland's statutes in a free web database maintained by Lexis-Nexis.
Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful in your research because they provide summaries of cases interpreting the statute and their citations. The free web version does not give summaries of case law.
Citations to Maryland selected housing law statutes:
The official source for the federal statutes is the United States Code. All Maryland law libraries  (list) and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the United States Code in print. Many of the same libraries also carry one of the unofficial print versions, the United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Service. It may be more helpful to do your federal statute research in one of these unofficial print versions of the Code because they are both more up-to-date than the official Code. The print versions also include summaries of cases interpreting the statute. There is no up-to-date free version of the United States Code on the web, therefore, we will not link to it here. However, below are some important federal housing-related statutes that you might want to look up in print:
The Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation ("SDAT")  appraises taxable property at market value and certifies property values to local governments for tax purposes. The SDAT's regulations are published officially in Title 18 of COMAR (the Code of Maryland Regulations). The print version of COMAR is available in all Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (SAILOR ). SDAT's regulations are also available electronically here .
The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development ("DHCD")  offers assistance to persons developing or improving housing. The DHCD's regulations are published officially in Title 5 of COMAR. DHCD's regulations are also available electronically here .
The Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation  regulates mortgage lenders, bankers, and brokers. The Commissioner's regulations are available in the print version of COMAR, and electronically here .
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development  offers grants, loans, and other assistance to persons purchasing, developing, or improving houses. It also investigates complaints against deceptive contractors and housing discrimination. The Department's regulations are published officially in Title 24 of CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations). The print version of the CFR is available in all Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (SAILOR ). The Department's regulations are also available electronically on the GPO Access  home page.
Zoning laws (laws about where, when, and how different types of structures may be built) are controlled by local laws. Your local law library or public library will probably have a copy of your city's or county's ordinances, in which you can research zoning issues. Ordinances are another word describing local laws. The Baltimore City Code is available on the web . A list of other Maryland municipal codes  are also available online. You can also find contact information, including links to web sites, for many local government offices by checking the Maryland Manual Online .
The resources below may help you understand home ownership law. Keep in mind, however, that books explaining the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.
There are several ways to begin your research on home ownership case law. One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland, the United States Code Annotated, or the United States Code Service then look at the case summaries following them. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain the law and noting the cases they cite. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, a subject index to Maryland case law, or the Federal Practice Digest, a subject index to federal case law. The Digests arrange summaries of published cases based on their legal issue using the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination for your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest to find a list of case summaries that discuss your legal topic. Each summary includes a citation to the full text of a case.
Immigration law is primarily governed by a federal statute known as the Immigration and Naturalization Act, 8 U.S.C. Sections 1101-1775 . Although we have linked to an electronic version of the Act above, you should consider researching these federal statutes in print. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry one of the commercial print versions of the United States Code: the United States Code Annotated or the United States Code Service. You should do your federal statute research in one of these unofficial print versions of the Code, because they are both more up-to-date than the official Code. Also the print versions include case summaries interpreting each statute. Free web versions of the U.S.C. do not provide case summaries and may not be completely up-to-date.
These statutes authorize U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)  and the Department of State  to make legally binding regulations and implementing the purposes of the statutes. Regulations made by the BCIS can be found in Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations . Those made by the State Department, which deal primarily with foreign diplomats in the United States, can be found in Title 22 of the C.F.R .
In addition to regulations, the USCIS and other federal agencies (including the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement  and the Executive Office of Immigration Review ) issue other documents to help with the interpretation of immigration laws. These include Operation Instructions, Interpretations, Administrative Decisions, and decisions from the Board of Immigration Appeals. Operation Instructions (OIs) and Interpretations supplement and clarify the provisions of the statute and regulations. They are not included in the regulations because they deal generally with procedural matters. The OIs do not usually deal directly with application and benefit requirements. Administrative Decisions are opinions issued by local and regional USCIS offices when a decision is made on individual immigration applications. These decisions also provide clues as to how the USCIS is likely to rule on similar applications in the future, but are not binding.
The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) issues appellate administrative decisions that are binding on USCIS offices responsible for enforcing immigration laws. BIA Decisions are binding on all USCIS officers and Immigration Judges unless they are modified or overruled by the Attorney General or a federal court. The USCIS and its sister agencies have also published several handbooks on various aspects of immigration law.
Annotated versions of the court rules applicable to all federal courts are available in the United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Service. Both are available at many Maryland libraries. Each specific federal court has local rules that supplement these general rules. Links to the local rules of federal courts with jurisdiction in Maryland appear below.
The courts also provide some forms on their web sites:
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services requires the use of its own forms for most purposes. Forms can be downloaded from the USCIS "Forms and Fees" page .
There are several ways to begin researching immigration case law. One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the United States Code Annotated or the United States Code Service, then look at the case summaries following them. You can find additional cases by reading books explaining immigration law and noting the cases they cite. Another method of finding cases is to search the Federal Practice Digest, a subject index to federal case law. The Federal Practice Digest arranges case summaries by legal issue using the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination for your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest and you will find a list of case summaries for your issue. Each summary includes a citation to the full text of a case.
Juvenile delinquency law is largely governed by state statutes. In Maryland, the official source for state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. For your convenience, this guide provides links to Maryland's statutes in a free web database maintained by Lexis-Nexis. Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful in your research because it provides case summaries and citations interpreting each statute. The free web version does not give case summaries or citations.
The court rules governing juvenile proceedings appear in Title 11 of the Maryland Rules of Court . The print version of the court rules, like the print version of the statutes, provides case summaries interpreting the rules. You may, therefore, wish to visit a library and use the print version for your research.
The Maryland Department of Juvenile Services has made extensive regulations concerning the construction and management of juvenile facilities, as well as the provision of services to youths in the juvenile justice system. The Department's regulations are published officially in Title 16 of COMAR  (the Code of Maryland Regulations). The print version of COMAR is available in all Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries . The Department has also issued several policy documents, including statements on the use of force and the prevention of suicide in juvenile facilities. These policy statements are available on the Department's home page, here . Other policy documents of interest include the following:
There are several ways to begin research into juvenile justice case law.
Landlord-tenant relations are governed mainly by state statutes and case law. Depending on the specific issue you are facing, you may need to research Maryland state law, federal law, or both.
In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print.
Citations to selected Maryland landlord-tenant law statutes:
The official source for the federal statutes is the United States Code. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the United States Code in print. Many of the same libraries also carry one of the unofficial print versions, the United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Service. You should research the federal statutes in one of these unofficial print versions of the Cod because they are both more up-to-date than the official Code. Also, the unofficial versions include summaries of cases that interpret each statute. Two sources for the federal code online are GPO Access  and the Cornell Legal Information Institute , however both of these sources are frequently out of date. Below are some important federal statutes that you might want to look up in print:
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development  investigates complaints against landlords in federal housing, and complaints of discrimination in private housing rentals. The Department's regulations are published officially in Title 24 of CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations). The print version of the CFR is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries. The Department's Fair Housing regulations are also available electronically on the GPO Access home page .
The resources below may help you understand landlord-tenant law. Keep in mind, however, that books explaining the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.
There are several ways to begin researching landlord-tenant case law. One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain the law and noting the cases they cite. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, which is a subject index to Maryland case law. The Digest arranges summaries of published cases by legal issue using the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination for your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest and you will find a list of case summaries discuss your issue. Each summary includes a citation to the full text of a case.
In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. Statutes can be found in the Maryland Housing and Community Development  section and Real Property  section. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print.
The official source for the federal statutes is the United States Code. All Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries carry the United States Code in print. Many of the same libraries also carry one of the unofficial print versions, the United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Service. You should research the federal statute in one of these unofficial print versions of the Code because they are both more up-to-date than the official Code. Also, the unofficial versions include summaries of cases that interpret each statute. There are at least two important federal housing-related statutes that you might want to look up in print, and we provide links to them here:
The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development  offers assistance to persons developing or improving dwellings. It also provides rental assistance programs such as Section 8. The Department's regulations are published officially in Title 5 of COMAR (the Code of Maryland Regulations), the print version of which is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries. The Department's regulations are also available electronically on the Division of State Documents  home page.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development  offers grants, loans, and other assistance to persons developing or improving low-income housing. The Department's regulations are published officially in Title 24  of CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations). The print version of the CFR is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries. The Department's regulations are also available electronically on the GPO Access  home page.
The resources below may help you understand subsidized housing law. Keep in mind, however, that books explaining the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.
There are several ways to begin research into case law. One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland, the United States Code Annotated, or the United States Code Service then look at the case summaries following them. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain the law and noting the cases they cite. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, a subject index to Maryland case law, or the Federal Practice Digest, a subject index to federal case law. The Digests arrange summaries of published cases by legal issue using the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination for your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest and you will find a list of summaries of cases that discuss your issue. Each summary includes a citation to the full text of a case. Topics and key numbers that are likely to lead to cases about subsidized housing law include United States k. 82(3) (in the Federal Practice Digest) and Municipal Corporations k. 717.5 (in the Maryland Digest).
Workplace safety law is governed by both state and federal laws. Depending on the specific issue you are facing, you may need to research Maryland state law, federal law, or both.
In Maryland, the official source of the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries  and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR , Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. For your convenience, this guide provides links to Maryland's statutes in a free web database maintained by the Maryland legislature. The links are to the first section of the title. Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful in your research because it provides summaries of and citations to cases that have interpreted each statute. The free web version does not give summaries of case law.
Citations to selected Maryland workplace safety law statutes:
The official source for the federal statutes is the United States Code. All Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries carry the United States Code in print. Many of the same libraries also carry one of the unofficial print versions, the United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Service. You should research the federal statutes in one of these unofficial print versions of the Code first, because they are both more up-to-date than the official Code, and because they include summaries of cases that interpret each statute. However, below are quick links to some important federal workplace safety statutes that you might want to look up in print:
The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation's Division of Labor and Industry  regulates workplace safety in Maryland. The Department's regulations are published officially in Title 9, Subtitle 12 of COMAR (the Code of Maryland Regulations). The print version of COMAR is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries. The Department's regulations are also available electronically on the Division of State Documents  home page.
The Maryland Workers Compensation Commission regulates compensation and insurance for workplace injuries. The Commission's regulations are published officially in Title 14, Subtitle 9 of COMAR .
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA")  regulates general workplace safety. OSHA's regulations are published officially in Title 29 of the CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations). The print version of the CFR is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries. OSHA's regulations are also available electronically on its web site .
The Mine Safety and Health Administration ("MSHA")  regulates mine worker safety. MSHA's regulations are published officially in Title 30 of the CFR. They are also available electronically on the Government Printing Office web site .
Other federal workplace safety regulations can be found in Title 20 CFR  (various worker compensation programs).
The resources below may help you understand employment law. Keep in mind, however, that books explaining the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.
There are several ways to begin researching workplace safety case law. One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland, the United States Code Annotated, or the United States Code Service then look at the case summaries following them. You can find additional cases by reading books explaining the law and noting the cases they cite. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, a subject index to Maryland case law, or the Federal Practice Digest, a subject index to federal case law. The Digests arrange case summaries by legal issue using the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination for your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest and you will find a list of case summaries that discuss your issue. Each summary includes a citation to the full text of a case.
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Filing a case requires four steps: 1) the writing and filing of the complaint; 2) the payment of the filing fee (or a waiver); 3) the notification of the party you are suing (this is usually called “service of process”); and 4) proof to the court that the defendant has been served.
1. The first step—writing and filing the complaint—is the most complicated. This is because you will need to make the following decisions:
If your suit is asking for more than $5,000, or if you want a jury to decide your case (instead of the judge), then you may file the complaint in the Circuit Court for the county where the defendant lives, works or conducts business. In many cases, you can also file your complaint in the county where the dispute arose. The dispute often is called “the cause of action.” There are other rules about special types of cases, like protective orders in domestic violence situations, so be sure to find out if your type of case might be subject to special rules. Your local law library may be able to point you in the right direction.
Sometimes, your case will not be heard in a state court. For example, if you are involved in a bankruptcy, a Federal Bankruptcy Court will hear your case. If your case involves residents from other states or concerns a Federal law, then a Federal Court might hear your case. The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland might provide additional information, and your local law library also may be able to point you in the right direction.
How you write your complaint to make sure you include all of the necessary points.
If your case is heard in District Court, it is likely that you will be able to use an official court form to file your complaint. Many forms are available here . If your District Court case is a “small claim” for less than $5,000, then you should review the Court’s “How To File a Small Claim ” guide. Additional information about filing a small claim can be found on the Maryland Judiciary's small claims website .
If you are filing a complaint in Circuit Court, there are fewer “official forms” to use, but the points that your complaint must cover will be similar. Forms exist for most family law matters and may be found here or at your court's self-help center. Because there are fewer forms to use, you might want to look at sample complaints. Your local law library has some books, but you should remember that these samples do not fit every individual case. You will have to write your complaint on your own.
Effective July 1, 2013, Maryland Court Rule 1-322.1 instructs persons who file documents with a court to keep certain unnecessary personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers, out of the court records unless there is a legal obligation to include such information.
The Rule sets forth exceptions, as well as alternatives when it is necessary to include personal identifier information. Read the Law: MD Rule 1-322.1 
2. Next, you file your complaint and pay the filing fee. You can find the list of all District Court fees here . You can find a basic list of Circuit Court fees here and a county-by-county chart of fees here . In addition to the cost of filing the case, there is also a fee if you want the court to have the defendant served (either by mail or by constable/sheriff).
If you cannot afford to pay the fees up front, you can file a form explaining your need, and asking the court to let you pay later. You will attach your complaint to this request. If the court grants the request to let you delay payment, the complaint will be considered filed. If the court denies your request to let you delay payment, you will have ten days to pay the fees. If you pay in that time, your complaint will be considered filed. If you do not pay in that time, your complaint will be considered withdrawn. At the end of the case, if you still owe any court fees that you cannot pay, you can ask the court to finally waive those costs.
3. The next step is to notify the defendant of the lawsuit. Once the court has accepted your complaint, a Writ of Summons will be issued and you must be sure the defendant is notified of the case through a legal procedure called “service of process.” The Writ of Summons has an expiration date, so pay close attention to the date by which you must have the defendant served. There are 3 ways to do this: by Certified Mail; Private Process; or by the Sheriff (or Constable). It is important to note that YOU CANNOT SERVE THE OTHER SIDE YOURSELF. Whichever method you choose, proof that the other side was served must be filed with the court. A person can be served at home, at work, or anywhere else the person happens to be. Read the Rules: MD Rules 1-321 , 2-123 , 3-123 .
If you plan to notify the defendant by mail, the complaint must be sent through certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested (also called “registered mail” or “return receipt requested”). You may not send the mailing yourself. Anyone over the age of 18 who is not a party to the case may send the mailing for you. The mailing should include the copy of the Writ of Summons you received from the Court along with the complaint you filed. It is important that the person mailing the documents use certified mail, return receipt requested, because this is the only way to get a “receipt” that the mail was delivered to the defendant. If the defendant does not accept and sign for the certified mail, then service is not complete. Once the person mailing the form receives that return receipt, you may file that along with their Affidavit of Service with the Court to prove that the other party has been notified. Save copies of all documents sent by mail, as well as the postal receipts from certified letters and packages.
Private Process Server
A “private process server” is a person who hand delivers court documents (such as complaints, summonses, and subpoenas). If you choose to serve the defendant by private process, the Court will mail you a copy of the Writ of Summons. Any person, 18 years or older, who is not party to the lawsuit may serve the defendant. This individual will sign a document (called the “Affidavit of Service”) stating that the Complaint, Summons, and supporting documents were served on the defendant. The Affidavit of Service is the proof you need to send to the court showing that the defendant has been properly served. There are many companies in the business of serving defendants in civil claims. You can find such companies by looking in the business yellow pages or even by calling a local law firm and asking for a reference. You should always ask about the rates before you hire. You may also use a family member or friend to privately serve the defendant with the papers as long as they are not a party to the lawsuit.
Sheriff or Constable
One of the county sheriff’s responsibilities is serving defendants in civil cases. (Constables can serve papers in District Court cases.) Check the District Court fee schedule for sheriff or constable service costs. Contact the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office for information on fees for service of process in Circuit Court. The Court will deliver the Writ of Summons, Complaint Form and supporting documents to the sheriff for service on the defendant. After serving the papers, the sheriff returns a second copy of the Writ of Summons to the Court, certifying that the defendant has been served.
4. Finally, you need to prove that you have actually served the defendant with a notice of your lawsuit. If you had someone send the Complaint and Summons by certified mail, you must give the court the receipt of delivery along with the Affidavit of Service. Mail the completed form back to the court along with a cover letter confirming that you are enclosing proof of service for filing in this case. If you used a private process server, that person must sign a document, called the “Affidavit of Service,” stating that the papers were served on the defendant. You must send the affidavit to the court. If you had the defendant served by a sheriff or constable you will receive notification that the defendant was served.
If the Court does not receive Proof of Service, you may not be able to present your case on the trial date. There are rules to follow in case service does not happen on time. Because these rules are specialized for each court and your situation, you should check with your local court’s “self-help center” or law library.
After a plaintiff files a complaint, the defendant has an opportunity to respond. The time period for responding is different in certain situations.
In District Court cases, a defendant must respond in the following ways in order to have his or her day in Court:
A defendant may decide to file a motion, in addition to the responses above. For example, a defendant could do the following:
A defendant could also choose to ignore the summons. However, if the defendant fails to respond within 15 days of receiving the summons, he or she may lose the case automatically (called a default judgment).
Finally, a defendant may try to settle the case out of court. If one party has an attorney, the other party must always contact their attorney and not the party. Otherwise, if both parties are self-representing their own cases, they may be able to work to settle the case themselves. Still, it’s a good idea to use mediation services whenever possible.
In Circuit Court, there are more rules to follow for answering a complaint. In most cases, if the defendant does not file an answer or counterclaim within 30 days of service of process, he or she may be unable to present a defense. Maryland Rule 2-321 does list a few exceptions to the 30-day rule, so it is important for defendants to review that Rule as soon as they are served with a complaint. Read the Rule: MD Rule 2-321 
Answers in Circuit Court are more formal than in District Court. An answer must follow the format and captioning stated in Rule 1-301. In the answer, a defendant must admit or deny the facts the plaintiff gives in the complaint and contain any legal defenses listed in Maryland Rule 2-323. In Circuit Court, a defendant may also file certain procedural motions before filing an answer. Some of these motions, which are listed in Maryland Rule 2-322, must be made at this point in the case or they cannot be used. Finally, in some instances outlined in Maryland Rule 2-323(h), a defendant may need to file a Case Information Report. It is important to consult the Maryland Rules when answering a complaint filed in Circuit Court. Your local law library also may have additional books and sample forms on answering complaints. Read the Rules: MD Rule 1-301 , 2-322 , 2-323 
Start by gathering as much information as you possibly can. Begin with basic information, (name, age, social security number) and then expand from there. The more information you can gather the better. Good places to start looking are old bank statements, loan applications, bankbooks, and financial records. These documents are often treasure troves of information, such as a social security numbers or a date of birth.
Once you have this information, you should write it all down so that you have easy access to it while you are tracking down the person. Use a Data Collection Worksheets (see sample below) to help you organize the information you have collected. When the form is completed, keep it with you when you contact anyone. The worksheet will serve as an easy reference and a place to add any additional information you obtain during the discussion.
Ask friends, relatives, old employers, social clubs or religious institutions. You may be surprised at who has continued to keep in touch with your missing person.
We suggest that you initially attempt to locate the person by calling friends, relatives, and employers. Some people will not take the time to respond to a letter, so you may get a quicker answer by telephone.
However, letters are a more "official" approach and can be used to document your attempts to locate the person when you are having difficulty finding him or her.
No matter how you start your search, be sure to record dates and whom you spoke with. (It is not necessary to contact all of the people on this list, but do especially try the ones that may be closes to the person you are seeking.) Use this Tracking Log to document your efforts.
If you know a recent (within one year) address of the person you are seeking, you may be able to locate them if they have left a forwarding address. To try this approach, address a letter to the most recent address you have. Add the phrase “ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED / DO NOT FORWARD” to the front of the envelope. If the post office has a forwarding address, they will place a correction label on the envelope and return it to you.
If you are afraid the person you are looking for may get your address from the return address, you can use “General Delivery” to avoid this. In the return address location write your name as usual, but where you normally place your street address, write “General Delivery.” Under that write, your city, state and zip code as normal. The letter will be returned to your Post Office and must be picked up by you within 30 days. There will be no way to figure out your exact address from the letter but if you are listed in the phone book, they will have the town in which you live. The U.S. Post Office’s description  of “General Delivery.”
If you are using the U.S. Mail to show an attempt at serving someone on the other side of a case, you will generally have to use “Certified Mail - Return Receipt Requested”. The rules on what a court finds to be adequate service vary.
Keep track of everyone you speak with and everything you do. It’s always a good idea to keep records of whom you have talked to. Use the Tracking Log below to document your efforts.
Whenever a phone call is made, or a letter is sent enter it in the log. Record what happened to each attempt at contact. If you are searching for someone in order to serve them, it is a good idea to keep a log of your attempts. If you still cannot locate the defendant after an exhaustive search, a record of all the steps you have taken could be enough evidence to prove to the court that you have tried. Remember that the court will have specific rules about what an adequate search might be. This will vary by your type of case, however, a well documented search is always helpful to show the efforts you have made.
If the person you are searching for is a member of a regulated trade or profession, such as a barber, hair stylist, cab driver, undertaker, paramedic, nurse, doctor, lawyer or private investigator, they will be certified, licensed, or registered through a state agency.
If the person whom you are searching for has (or should have) a state professional license, you can check that online for most states. For a complete list of links to professional licensing, just go to the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation . Their web site contains over thirty professions in which licensing or certification is involved and provided contact information for most of them in each of the 50 states.
The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation  also has a very useful database. If the person you are looking for is employed in Maryland, and is legally practicing in one of these fields, the database will have their name and address:
Architect, Barber, Certified Interior Designer, Certified Public Accountant, Cosmetologist, Examining Engineer, Forester, A Home Improvement Contractor, a HVACR Contractor, Landscape Architect, Land Surveyors, Master Electricians, Pawn Broker, Plumber, Real Estate Appraiser, Real Estate Agent, Professional Engineer, or a Second hand precious metal object dealer.
Vital records can be a good place to start building your stockpile of information on the person you are looking for. Marriage, divorce, birth and death certificates are available from the Vital Statistics Administration .
Marriage certificates are useful for finding information about a missing spouse. They may also help you with information you may no longer recall such as birth dates or middle names or maiden names. The marriage certificate will be located in the state in which you were married.
Divorce records can be useful in a variety of situation, including determining if someone is actually divorced. You will have to look for the divorce certificate in the state and county where the divorce was filed.
Birth certificates can be used to locate an individual if you know or have heard that the person has had a child. If you know where the child may have been born, you may get some clues about the parent from information on the certificate. Information on the birth certificate can lead to more searchable information such the mother, father, or child.
Death certificates can be used to show evidence of death.
The Maryland State Archives  contains a great deal of information, which could be useful in locating a person. The organization serves as the central depository for government records such as marriage and divorce information, family histories, county records, church records, newspapers, land records and many other sources of information. The Archives contain a surprising amount of information, most of which is somewhat old, but it could possibly contain relevant information to your case.
UCC Filing Records
When someone obtains a secured loan, there is usually a Uniform Commercial Code file that indicates that there is a lien on the goods. This is done on a county level and can be hand searched at the local county courthouse. The information is also forwarded to state records. Most states now permit access of UCC records online. In Maryland this information is available online at the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation . Information on liens, real property and other information is available.
If you think that the person you are looking for may have been released from prison and on parole, you can attempt to find out by contacting the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation .
Because of the large volume of requests that each service locator receives, this is a slow process. If you think it will yield results, try this first. It will most likely take four weeks processing time per request. See Request for Military Mailing Addresses . Please note, the Army no longer provides this service.
You can search the Social Security’s master death list  online. This will provide you with the month and year of a person’s death. There are at least five versions of the Master Death List online. Read the description of each one. Some are updated monthly, others less often.
The records you will typically need include birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records, and divorce records. The records are maintained by the state or local government, where the event took place. Getting copies of these records can be a lengthy, frustrating, and even costly process. This is especially so if you need to hire someone to find them for you. Here is how to do it yourself.
A private investigator can help you find information and people. S/he can find documentation such as court records, government agencies' filings, vital statistics, property ownerships, vehicle and vessel records, photographs, witness statements, etc.. The duties of private detectives and investigators depend on the needs of the client. Legal investigators specialize in cases involving the courts and are normally employed by law firms or lawyers. They frequently assist in preparing criminal defenses, locating witnesses, serving legal documents, interviewing police and prospective witnesses, and gathering/reviewing evidence. Legal investigators may also collect information on the parties to the litigation, take photographs, testify in court, and assemble evidence and reports for trials. This general overview was taken for the Department of Labor’s collection of job descriptions. If you are interested, also see the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Book  for a good overview of the profession.
Usually businesses and attorneys hire investigators. Publications used by private investigators mention the fact that some investigators are concerned about representing individuals in personal matters. They note, however, that most will not turn down a legitimate personal matter such as locating a runaway child or locating a defendant in a law suit. The requested service must not appear to violate a law or compromise the ethics of the investigator. You should be clear about the full circumstances of your request.
If you need help finding a private investigator, you may want to ask around for suggestions first. Most people find investigators through others who have used their services. Consult the trade organization for private investigation and security professionals in Maryland, Professional Investigators Alliance of Maryland , which lists (by county) contact information for its members.
Consult an attorney - Most successful private investigators whom are experienced in finding documents or missing persons work closely with attorneys in your area. An attorney may well be the best source for finding a private investigator.
Just like hiring any professional, you should learn something about the profession and be cautious.
First, you should make sure that the person or firm is licensed in Maryland. Private investigators or private investigation agencies in Maryland must be licensed by the Maryland State Police. Private investigators or private investigation agencies are issued a Maryland Private Detective License. This license must be renewed annually and must be displayed in a conspicuous place in the Private Investigator’s office. For more information on the licensing of private investigators in Maryland, call the Maryland State Police in Pikesville, MD at 410-653-4500.
Interested in the law that covers the qualifications and licensing of private investigators in Maryland?
You can find it at Title 13  of the Maryland Business Occupations and Professions statute. This state law regulates private investigators in the entire state of Maryland. There is no local city or county ordinance regulating private investigators.
Consider the education and experience needed for your task. Remember that the rate you pay will be partially determined by the experience and background of an investigator. You will want to hire someone with experience in your type of case but not someone who is overqualified or with a specialist in another area. For example, you would not want a highly experienced securities fraud specialty to try to locate a missing spouse. Generally, there are no formal education requirements for most private detectives or investigators, although many private detectives have college degrees. Almost all private detectives and investigators have previous experience in other occupations. This is especially true in a state such as Maryland which requires significant experience (3-5 years in full time investigation work) to receive a license. Past experience includes work as a police officer or detective, fire investigator, retired military or government intelligence or insurance investigator.
Interview the investigator. Be very clear and tell him/her exactly what you expect. There is so much information available and the needs of each client are so specific to each case, that a consultation can be very helpful. There are no standard operating procedures for an investigation.
Ask for the following:
Read the Law: MD Code Bus. Occ. & Prof. § 13-604 
Make sure you have a written contract that you understand. Set a cap on expenses and fees. Set “benchmarks” (previously agreed upon times during which you and the investigator evaluate what has been done and whether it is worth proceeding).
Trust your instincts. If the investigator doesn't seem 'right', don't hire the person.
Fees in Maryland range from $40.00-$75.00 per hour and sometimes more. Investigators often have a specialty and like most services, you will pay a higher fee for the work of people with more experience and training. Also many will require a retainer or deposit to be applied against fees for services rendered and expenses. You may pay from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on your case.
If you want to complain about the conduct of a private investigator or believe that an investigator is operating without a license, contact the Maryland State Police.
The District Court in Maryland is a single statewide court with 34 court locations  in 12 districts.
Small Claims Court - This is often a relatively fast way to have a case heard by a Judge. (There is no jury in Small Claims Court). The proceeding is informal. Many people handle their own cases without an attorney.
Types of cases heard in District Court
The District Court hears both criminal and non-criminal (civil) cases.
The types of civil cases include money claims up to $30,000, domestic violence cases, landlord-tenant problems, motor vehicle and boating violations
That will depend on the type of case, how comfortable you are representing yourself, and how much you have to lose. The best way to decide whether you need a lawyer is to take our quick interactive quiz  designed to help you answer just that question.
There are filing and service fees  and there is the possibility of attorney fees. If you hire an attorney, you and the attorney will decide on the amount of the fees. Should I Represent Myself? If you file your claim in any court, you will need to pay a filing fee (except if you are the petitioner in a domestic violence case). If you ask the court to take some action later in the case, there may be a separate fee. If the sheriff or the court clerk helps you serve the court papers to the other side, there will be an additional fee. The fees in District Court are generally modest, ranging from $2 to $38. More details about the court fees  from the District Court.
Particularly in small claims cases, it makes sense to try to resolve a dispute before going through the expense and time required in taking a case to court. More  on how to find alternatives to court.
Once you have explored the alternatives, it may still be necessary to go to court. When you file in District Court (including small claims court and landlord-tenant court), the following will
Visit the District Court Self-Help Website  for additional information.
The person who filed the lawsuit (the plaintiff) and the person who was sued (the defendant) are the parties to the lawsuit. Both are entitled to appear in court. There will be a judge but no jury in small claims cases. If you request a jury trial (and your case is eligible for a jury trial), the case will be transferred to Circuit Court. Both parties are allowed to speak and to present documents, drawings, photographs and other evidence as well as witnesses.
IMPORTANT TIP There are differences in the rules for how the hearing will be conducted in small claims cases (up to $5,000) and large claim cases (over $5,000 to $30,000). The rules are much more formal in large claim cases, and the advice or representation of an attorney is likely to be very helpful.
If you win, the next step will be to collect the amount ordered by the Judge. You will need to collect the funds on your own. The court will not collect it for you, however, if you do not receive the amount due to you in 30 days (unless there was an agreement to pay in installments), you can go back to court. You can try to have the money taken out of the other person’s pay check or try to claim some of that person's personal property. For this part of the process, you will need to research the other person’s ability pay the amount ordered by the court.
All of the information in this section of the website is important to help you win your case. Here are few key pieces of general information that every person involved in a District Court case should know.
Visit the District Court Self-Help Website  for more information.
Whether your case is in the general District Court caseload or one of the special proceedings such as small claims court or landlord-tenant court, understanding the law and the rules is critical. The “law” will tell you about your rights and obligations. The “rules” will tell you how the case will be handled in the courts. You need to be familiar with both in order to be successful with your case in court. If you have a sense of your chances of success, it will help you in negotiating as well.
Small claims court is informal. Meaning that many of the rules on how you must present testimony and evidence do not apply. Your rights and obligations under the law, however, remain the same. The more you understand, the better your chances of proving your case.
Don’t rely only on what others say. Read the law and rules yourself. For example, MD Rule 3 – 701(f)  discusses the rules of evidence in small claims court. You can compare it with the general rule in District Court Rules Title 5 – Evidence . You can find good information on websites like this but you still have to do additional research in order to strengthen your chances of winning.
Lawyers and judges use a number of special terms to describe certain concepts in the law. Many of the terms are in Latin.
In addition, words that have a plain English meaning may also have a very special legal meaning.
This means that legal terms can be confusing at first. But keep in mind:
The Peoples Law Library website has a good directory of legal terms and their definitions. It also includes links to other reputable legal terms dictionaries.
Many people think of there is one special set of books that are “the law.” Instead, the law is a combination of rules that have been created by different levels and branches of government as well as our combined history. You must consider the combined influence of all of these when looking at the facts in your case.
Beginning your legal research is pretty straightforward. The Peoples Law Library website has explanations of many common areas of legal problems and disputes. In addition, there are several good guides that can help you understand the law that applies to your case. Start with this website in order to:
You can also visit your local law library  where a librarian can help guide you to appropriate resources. Keep in mind that the librarian cannot provide legal advice on your situation.
Your local public library can also assist you with finding legal resources and locate legal help. Read more about this special project, “Get Ready for Your Day in Court @ Your Library ” and locate your local library.
The details on how the court process will work (called “procedure”) are found in the Maryland Court Rules . The Maryland Court Rules that apply to cases described in this Guide are called “Title 3 Civil Procedure – District Court.” In other words the Rules for criminal cases and for the Circuit Courts are found in other places. Small claims and landlord-tenant cases are considered “special proceedings“ under the District Court Rules.
Here is why this is important for your research. Under the general District Court Rules, there are several types of legal disputes that are considered “special proceedings.” In some areas, these special proceedings each have their own rules. You will find the special rules for small claims (under $5,000) in MD Rule 3-701. You will find the special rules for landlord tenant in MD Rule 3-711. Read the Rules: MD Rule 3-701 , 3-711 
Generally the District Court Rules apply to every case in District Court, except where the rule says otherwise under the section in these “special proceedings”.
For example, Special Rule MD 3-701(e) says that there will be no discovery allowed in small claims cases (i.e. $5,000 or under is in dispute). If your claim is for only $50 more ($5,050), however, discovery is allowed under the regular District Court rules. See Chapter 400-Discovery  of Title 3 Civil Procedure – District . What this means is that much more complicated rules will apply to your case. You need to be prepared.
Your local law librarian  can help to a limited extent.
You can contact a Maryland-licensed attorney for more thorough advice.
Your local public library on the Eastern Shore can assist you to find legal resources and locate legal help, if needed. Read more about this special project, “Get Ready for Your Day in Court @ Your Library ” and locate your local library.
It is important to know where the information is coming from and how recently it has been updated. This site has some quick tips on how to evaluate any legal website – including this one.
The phrase "statute of limitations" refers to the limited period of time within which you can file a lawsuit against someone who harmed you. By default, in the state of Maryland, you have a period of three years, after the act which caused you the harm, to file a civil lawsuit. (The clock usually starts running on the date you were harmed, but not always: see below regarding an exception.) Read the Law: MD Code Courts & Jud. Proc. 5-101 
HOWEVER, some types of cases have a different limitation period, by law. For example, the limitation period for assault, libel, or slander is one year. Read the Law: MD Code Courts & Jud. Proc. 5-105 
Failure to file the lawsuit within the allowed period of time can result in permanently losing the ability to bring that lawsuit. If you have questions about your suit or its timing of filing, contact an attorney for advice.
Once you have found out how the “statute of limitations” applies to your case, you need to decide when your right to make the claim for damages in court will expire. In most cases, the statute of limitations period starts running on the date you were “harmed.” It is like the “sell by” expiration date on a quart of milk. You cannot “sell” your claim to the court after the time period has expired.
For example - You are harmed on August 1, 2006. You consult an attorney and find out that the statute of limitations for your case is 3 years. You will have until August 1, 2009 to file a claim in court. If you file on August 21st and the other side claims that the statute of limitations has expired, or “run,” the case is likely to be dismissed. The time frame for you to file your claim has expired.
The date you were “harmed” refers to:
An exception that delays the start of the limitation period
However, there is an exception to this rule if you did not know that you were harmed. In this case, you may be allowed extra time to file in court. This extra time is calculated by deciding on which date the statute of limitations period should start. There are three possibilities. If you think that this might apply to your case, consult with an attorney.
|Statute of Limitations Start Date: Which one applies to my case?|
|Earliest Possible Date <||> Last Possible Date|
|The date that you or your property were harmed.||The date the judge says that you should have discovered that you had been harmed (even if you did not know about it).||The date that you actually discovered that the harm had occurred|
General Statutes of Limitations for Some Common Situations:
Please note, the following are only general limitation periods. The specific circumstances of your case may change the time period you are allotted to bring a claim. While we strive to keep all content up to date, rules on the above time limits change from time to time. Make sure to verify the deadline to file your claim with the Maryland statutes.
Type of Claim, and Time Limit
Civil Claim - 3 years
Defamation, libel, slander - 1 year
Fraud - 3 years
Assault and other Intentional Torts - 1 year
Judgments - 12 years
Written Contracts Under Seal - 12 years
Recover Land Trespassed Upon - 20 years
Wrongful Death - 3 years from date of death
Personal Injury - 3 years from date of injury
Written Contract - 3 years
Oral Contract - 3 years
Trespass - 3 years
Collection of Rent - 3 years
Knowing whom to sue may not be as easy as you think. It is essential that you sue the right person or legal entity. You can lose your case if you sue the wrong person. According to some District Court judges, suing the wrong person on behalf of a business is a common mistake for self-represented persons. Visit the District Court website  for more information. Here are some guidelines on suing the right party.
First, look at any receipt or agreement that you have with the other side. This is a good place to start when deciding who you should sue.
If you are unsure, consult a private attorney. Bring all of the research you have done. It will save the attorney time and save you money. Many attorneys will assist you without representing you in the entire case. This arrangement will give you expertise when you need it. You may still choose to handle the rest of the case by yourself.
|Deciding Who to Sue in a Business|
|Type of Business||Who You Need to Sue/Serve with Papers|
|Corporation||The corporation is a legal “person.” Be sure that you use the full name, including the special abbreviations that indicate the status of the business such as Inc. or LLC. You should not sue the owners or managers. You can sue in Maryland, even if the headquarters of the corporation are in another state. There will be a “resident agent” on whom you should serve the court papers. You can find this information on the SDAT Website  by searching the name of the corporation or LLC. Use the same process for a limited liability company.|
|Limited Liability Company (LLC)|
In a general partnership, all of the partners are liable for actions of the business. This is true even if you dealt with only one of the partners. You should name all of the partners in your lawsuit. You must name all the partners to the business and you must name the business itself when filing the lawsuit.
For example – Anne Franklin and George Norton d/b/a Mill Street Pots and Things. (d/b/a = "doing business as")
|Limited Liability Partnerships||
In this type of partnership, certain partners are protected from lawsuits. (These are the “limited liability” partners. These are usually people who invested money in the business.) You should sue the business and name the general partners. You must name all the general partners to the business and you must name the business itself when filing the lawsuit.
For example – Anne Franklin d/b/a Mill Street Pots and Things. (d/b/a = "doing business as")
Name the person who owns the business, even if the person uses a fictitious name or trade name. You must name all individuals who own the business and you must name the business itself when filing the lawsuit.
For example – Anne Franklin d/b/a Mill Street Pots and Things. (d/b/a = doing business as)
If you need to sue a business, you must determine exactly who owns it. This will help you decide on the legal entity/
District Court Judges report that failing to sue the proper legal party is a common mistake for self-represented persons
”In Maryland, businesses must pay an annual tax based on the value of their personal property (furniture, fixtures, tools, machinery, equipment, etc.). The Department of Assessments and Taxation (DAT)  administers the valuation process. The counties and towns collect the tax based on the location of the property.” DAT contact information 
”The Department of Assessments and Taxation automatically registers
when these legal entities form.”
“All other businesses (sole proprietorships, general partnerships) that own or lease personal property or need a business license are required to:
The DAT database  shows the business's principal office and other contact information such as the resident agent. The resident agent is the person designated to accept service of a lawsuit.
Tip - When you look up a business, you will find a principal office listed. This may not be the same location as the one where you conducted your business transaction. To find out if this is the same business, contact the resident agent or owner. Ask if they have a business at the location with which you are familiar. The database lists an address but not a phone number. You can find the phone number by searching the Internet or calling Directory Assistance.
Businesses can (but are not required to) register a "trade name" with the Department of Assessments and Taxation.  “A trade name is the name by which a business is known to the public to distinguish it from another business or person.” For information on trade names, contact the State Department of Assessments and Taxation, Trade Name Search and Registration.
“A trademark is a unique graphic symbol or logo associated with a business, which distinguishes it from another business or person.” For more information on trademark registration, contact the Trademark Division of the Office of the Secretary of State .
Contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court  in the county in which the business is located. Regulatory licenses are issued by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR). The DLLR website has information on licensed individuals and their locations. You can also call the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing  at (410) 218-5925.
“Individuals working in the following areas need to obtain occupational or professional licenses in addition to State and local business licenses:”
"The MD Division of Financial Regulation  (410) 230-6100 regulates and licenses, the operation of: banks, credit unions, consumer loan companies, sales finance companies, mortgage companies, and collection agencies."
See their website for official address information on these regulated institutions.
A fictitious business name is the name of a business that is different than the owner’s name. If a person is operating a business under the name "Elf Web Design," Maryland requires that person to call the Department of Assessments and Taxation  to reserve a business entity name and to provide the following information:
If you are representing yourself in District Court, some of the judges in District Court say that the difference between “small” and “large” claims is perhaps the most important information you need to know about the legal process. Understanding these important differences will help you prepare and present your case in the District Court.
|Legal Cases in District Court|
|Topic||Small Claim||Large Claim|
|Amount of Claim||
The maximum amount of money you can try to recover in small claims court is $5,000 (excluding interest, costs and attorneys fees, if any). A small claims action can only request a money
|A large claim is for any amount more than $5,000 but less than $30,000 (excluding interest, costs and attorneys fees, if any). Large claims may also include demands for orders protective order.|
Small claims are considered a “special proceeding.” This means that the district courts set aside a certain day or time for small claims cases. District courts may also set aside a certain location for the small claims docket if there is more than one District Court location in your area.
For more information, call the court clerk .
The District Court schedules large claim cases to be heard throughout the week during regular court hours.
For more information, call the court clerk .
|Court Rules of Evidence||Small claims are handled in an informal manner. The formal rules of evidence do not apply. Md Rules 3-701(f)  This means that non-attorneys will have an easier time in preparing and presenting small claims actions for trial. For additional assistance on how to prepare your case, more information can be found in the links below to other People’s Law Library Articles and on the District Court of Maryland’s website on small claims .||You must follow the formal rules of evidence found in Md Rules Title 5 . It is important that you read and understand these rules so that all of the testimony, documents, or other materials you need to prove your case are admitted as evidence during the trial. An attorney can help.|
|Discovery||“Discovery” is legal term that refers to ways in which one side can find out more information about the other side’s case. This might include interrogatories or depositions.|
|No discovery is allowed in small claims court. Md Rule 3-701(e) ||Limited “interrogatories” are allowed in large claims. This means no more than 15 written questions. Md Rule 3-421(b)  You may also conduct a deposition if the other side agrees in writing (a stipulation). Md Rule 3-401(a) |
Appeals of large claims
cases from the District Court to the Circuit Court are on the record appeals, which means no new evidence may
be added to the case on
appeal. Md Rule 7-102(b)(3) .
|Location||Your local district court |
The details of how the court process will work (called “procedure”) are found in the Maryland Rules.
Different rules apply to different types of cases.
The rules that generally apply to civil cases in Circuit Courts are found in Title 2 of the Maryland Rules. Read the Rules: MD Rules Title 2 
The rules that generally apply to civil cases in District Courts are found in Title 3 of the Maryland Rules. Read the Rules: MD Rules Title 3 
Small claims and landlord-tenant cases are considered “special proceedings" under the District Court Rules. Certain aspects of these special proceedings have their own rules.
In order to prove your case in District Court, you must be prepared to prove certain legal elements. How you prepare to prove your side of the case will depend on whether:
There are many types of cases in District Court. For each type of case, it is critical that you organize your case based on the specific legal elements needed to prove your particular case.
See the examples of specific case types below for more details (Contracts and Negligence).
A contract  can be written or oral. A contract is an agreement between two or more parties. One party agrees to do something for another party in exchange for something in return. For example, you agree to give a friend $450 if she will paint your bedroom with paint that you select.
In order to be a contract, your agreement must have the following legal elements:
What if I do not have my agreement in writing; can I still enforce a contract?
Yes – if your agreement meets that same contract standards described above. In addition, to be able to enforce a contract dealing with the sale of goods in court, your oral agreement must also be:
If your agreement was for $500 or more, look at the exceptions to see if you might still be able to enforce your agreement.
Negligence is a complicated legal concept. At the most basic level, negligence is: (1) when one person is careless and that carelessness harms another person; or (2) the carelessness of one person harms the property of another person.
Like contracts, there are certain legal elements that you must prove in order to show negligence. For example, say you had gone to the corner grocery store, while there, a box of jam jars fell in the aisle when you walked by and you fell. You sprained your ankle and the jam from the broken jars stained your expensive coat.
In Maryland, you must be age 18 or older in order to have the legal authority to enter into an agreement that can be enforced in court. If you are under age 18, you can still make an agreement and if both parties honor it, there is no problem. If the minor fails to honor the agreement and the other party tries to sue the minor in court, the court will not enforce the agreement. (MD Code –Title 1, Commercial Law §1-103(a) )
If you are a minor (under age 18), you will need to have an adult sue on your behalf. A parent or guardian has “standing” (the recognized right) to file a lawsuit for you. You can use the following format to describe the relationship when you fill in the top of the complaint form  where it asks for the name of the plaintiff: “John Cleveland (parent) on behalf of Janelle Cleveland (minor).”
There are many different types of cases. The legal elements that you need to prove will be different for different types of case. Here are some common types of cases.
You need to understand the law and what the plaintiff (the person who sued you) must prove. You can prepare in advance, but be prepared to react to what the other side says during the trial. Your job is to show one or more of the following.
In a legal case, “damages” refers to the money that you are seeking in order to compensate you for some legal wrong that was committed by the other party. The court may award you “damages,” which will be paid by the other side, if you can prove that you were harmed and the other party caused it.
A lawsuit in District Court usually involves “actual damages.” Actual damages are the amount of money the Court will allow for the actual harm that you have suffered because of:
Actual damages are also called “compensatory damages.” This type of money award is designed to “compensate” you by returning you to the position you were in before the harm occurred. Usually damage awards cover items such as the cost of repairing or replacing your property, lost wages, or other expenses.
There are other kinds of damages, including:
If you think that one of these other kinds of damages might apply to your case, contact an attorney for advice. It will depend on your type of case, the facts of your case and whether you are suing in small claims court. You may decide that the case should be heard in Circuit Court. An attorney can help you to decide.
More about “actual” damages
It is not enough to go into Court and simply demand money damages. If you are the plaintiff (the person who started the case), then the law says that you have the "burden of proof." This means two things:
In a non-criminal case like the case you have in District Court, you need to prove your case by a “preponderance of the evidence." This means that you must persuade the court that your version is more likely to be true than not to be true. Here is another way to look at this. You must show that over 50% of the believable evidence is in your favor.
The Court will consider whether:
It will depend on the type of case you have and the facts of your case. Here is some general information.
First, research the law on your type of case. You have to understand the elements that are needed to prove your case.
Next, look at the facts of your case. What evidence can you collect to persuade the judge that: (1) you were harmed and that (2) the other side caused this harm directly or hurt you via their failure to act?
Remember that proving you have been harmed in some way is not necessarily the same as proving how much you should be compensated. It is your responsibility to prove to the judge that the amount you ask for is justified. It is up to the judge to decide damages, however, you should be prepared to make an argument for the amount that you think is fair.
If you are the defendant - You need to understand the law and what the plaintiff (the person who sued you) must prove. You can prepare in advance, but plan on being able to react to what the other side says during the trial. Your job is to show one or more of the following:
The most important information you need to know is that the person who claims damages must prove the amount of damages.
First you must prove that you have been harmed. Then you must prove how much you have been harmed. The judge will expect you to have a clear explanation of how you arrived at the amount of damages you are requesting.
Here are some tips on how to calculate the amount of damages.
Tip #1 – If you are not sure, estimate the damages on the high side. Remember that you must have some sort of proof for how you calculated the damage amount that you claim. If you need to make an estimate at the time that you file the complaint, however, estimate a bit high. The judge cannot award you more money than the amount than you request but they can award you less.
Tip # 2 – Be reasonable. Do not estimate damages too high. Again remember that you will need to show how you calculated the amount. If you estimate too high, the other side may be less likely to negotiate or settle. Requesting a high amount of damages may cause the other side to become too angry with you to work out an arrangement in advance. (And a settlement agreement may be the best solution.) Also, the judge has seen many more of these cases than you have. If your damage claim is outrageously high, the judge may find it harder to believe the other parts of your case, especially where the judge needs to rely on your opinion.
Tips # 3 - The monetary limits in District Court does not include interest, costs or attorneys fees. The maximum amount that can be claimed in small claims court is $5,000. But this does not include interest, attorneys’ fees or court costs. The maximum amount you can sue for in District Court is $30,000. Again, this limit does not include interest, attorneys’ fees or court costs. Review the difference between small and large claims . If the amount of damages is close to the small claims limit, you may decide to reduce the amount in order to have your claim heard in the more informal small claims court.
Tip # 4 – How to calculate the interest owed on a loan debt:
If you have a loan agreement, the first place to look is at the actual agreement. Some agreements include an interest rate that is due as part of the regular payments on the loan. If your agreement notes an amount of interest, calculate the money owed to you by looking at what is past due. You cannot claim money that is not yet past due, however, some loans have a special section that says if any one payment is missed, the entire amount of the loan is due. If this clause is in your agreement, you can claim the entire amount that is left on the loan.
Many agreements do not include an interest amount. If your agreement simply says that the other side will pay you back the amount that you lent, you are not entitled to claim interest.
Read the Law: Court and Judicial Proceedings §11-106 
Any “prejudgment” interest will be listed separately in the decision issued by the judge.
Read the Rule: MD Rule 3-604(a) 
Interest owed after a court judgment - The judge has the authority to order that the losing party will pay interest on the amount of the damages. This interest is calculated from the date of the judgment until the amount of the judgment is paid. The maximum amount allowed is 10% per year, except for a judgment on residential rent, which is 6% per year.
Read the Law: Court and Judicial Proceedings §11-107 
The damages include the principal owed plus the pre-judgment interest (if any).
If, however, the loan maturity date has not yet been reached, the interest rate from the loan contract will continue to apply until the maturity date is reached. For example, Joe loaned Mary $4,500 for two years with an interest rate of 7%. When Mary stopped paying on the loan after 1 ½ year, Joe sued her in small claims court. Joe won but the loan still had 6 months to go. Mary is entitled to have the 7% interest rate applied to her judgment damages for the 6 months. Then the 10% rate will apply.
Tip # 5 – Always include all of your court costs. Since bringing the case to court costs you money, you should ask the judge to include the court costs as part of the judgment against the other side.
Tip # 6 – Claiming contract damages & “mitigating” damages. The terms of the contract usually lay out the amounts that you will need to consider in making a damage claim. Both sides should review the terms carefully and then decide what the real damages were.
You also might be able to “mitigate the damages.” This means that you have an obligation to do your best to minimize the harm to you. In this case, if you were able to find other work for those two days, then you had an obligation to take the work. The judge is likely to ask you about this. If you used the same two days to build a fence next door to the homeowner who canceled, she could show the judge that you did not lose two days of work because of her cancellation. Therefore the judge may decide that you will not be awarded the entire amount for the lost job. The judge is likely only to award the amount for the tiles and the labor involved in purchasing and returning the tiles.
Do you need help with English in order to make sure that your story is told accurately in court?
Ask the court clerk for a form or help in getting an interpreter. If the court decides that an interpreter is needed, the court will provide one, however, the court will need at least 5 days notice.
The court will help you to find an interpreter.
To request a spoken language interpreter, please submit a Request for Spoken Language Interpreter  (Form CC-DC41) to the court where the case will be heard. Requests for interpreter should be submitted to the court no less than thirty (30) days before the proceeding for which the interpreter is needed.
If you have a lawyer, ask the lawyer to arrange for an interpreter.
If the clerk does not speak your language, s/he can call a special phone number where an interpreter can assist the two of you to make the arrangements for free.
The court will appoint an interpreter for free if one of the following is true:
Sometimes a clerk or someone else may have told the court that you need an interpreter, or it may be marked on your court file. If this is the case, no questions will be asked. However, if the court is unaware of your need for an interpreter, the court staff may ask you some questions in English. Here are some examples of questions that you may be asked:
You will be asked these questions to help the court decide if you need an interpreter. This is not the beginning of your testimony but you should answer truthfully.
Yes, along with any other "reasonable accommodation."
"Service of Process" is making sure the other side gets a copy of the papers you are filing (for example, a complaint). If you are starting a case, your case cannot go forward until the other side is served with your complaint. Someone who is over 18 years old and is not a party to the law suit may give service. The person who is responsible for service must physically give a copy of all necessary forms to the person whom you filed a complaint against in court (the defendant).
It is very important that you serve the defendant properly. If you do not, the court may dismiss your case. The statutes on service are in MD Code, Courts & Judicial Proceedings, Title 6, Subtitle 3. The rules for service are in MD Rules, Title 3, Subtitle 1 for District Court and Title 2, Subtitle 1 for Circuit Court. Read the Law: MD Rules 2-101 , 3-101 ; Courts and Judicial Proceedings 6-301 
NOTE: Throughout the rest of the case, you will also be required to make sure that all other parties are "served" with copies of almost any document you file in the case. For more information about ongoing service requirements, see Service and Certificates of Service. 
The court will issue a Writ of Summons, 5 to 10 days after you file your Complaint or Petition. The Clerk of the Court will send the Writ of Summons to your mailing address, if you are the person who filed the document.
You will have to attach the original copy of the summons to the packet of forms that you filed with the court (Complaint, Domestic Case Information Report, Financial Statement, etc.). You must make sure that the Writ of Summons is attached to a copy of the complaint, petition, or motion. These papers must be served on the other side. Read the Rules: MD Rules 2-112 , 2-113 , 2-121 , 3-112 , 3-113 , 3-121 
Service can be made in one of the following ways:
YOU CANNOT SERVE THE OTHER SIDE YOURSELF. Whichever method you choose, you must also provide the court with proof that the other side was served. A person can be served at home, at work, or anywhere else the person happens to be. Read the Rules: MD Rules 1-321 , 2-123 , 3-123 
One of the county sheriff's or constable's responsibilities is serving defendants in civil suits. The fee for this service is usually about $40.00. Service fees are located on the Maryland Judiciary Website . If you decide to pay for this service you can ask the Clerk of Court (person with who you will file your complaint) what the cost for the service is. It is your responsibility to find out whether or not the person has been served. The sheriff will send the clerk a "return of service" to prove the sheriff served the papers. You may have to call the Clerk several times before the other party gets served.
There are two ways to serve someone by private process: (1) by a private process serving company for a fee or (2) by an adult over the age of 18 who is not a party to the suit. You CANNOT serve the papers yourself.
This method is often fast and is especially helpful if the other side is hard to locate. Ask the Clerk of Court to send you the Writ of Summons in the mail. If you are representing yourself in a case of divorce, custody, visitation, child support, alimony, name changes or contempt, you need to give an additional form to the process server. Give the process server the papers to be served. Ask the process server to return the completed Affidavit of Service to you once the other side is served. Once you have all the necessary documents, you must go back to the court and file the completed Affidavit with a copy of the Writ of Summons attached with the Clerk of Court. For each return of service, you MUST provide the Court with the following:
If the Private Process Server name is unreadable, service will be considered unacceptable.
If you are representing yourself in a case of divorce, custody, visitation, child support, alimony, name changes or contempt, you must use the domestic relations forms CCDR 55  and CCDR 56  located on the Circuit Court website .
This is an inexpensive way to serve someone. THE PRIVATE PROCESS SERVER CANNOT BE YOU. The adult serving the papers must give the papers directly to the other side. The adult serving the papers may NOT leave the package on the other side’s doorstep, however you can leave it at the opposing party's home with a roommate or with a relative if they are over 18 and reside in that home. Use discretion. It’s better to serve someone who is close to the opposing party rather than someone who is not, even if they live at the same residence. When serving the opposing party directly, the service package need not be placed in the other side’s hands, they just need to be given notice that they are being served and given the documents. Not holding the documents or dropping them is not a defense to service. With this method, you can even leave the documents at their feet. The person who served the other party must complete an Affidavit of Service (Private Process, CCDR 55  for cases of divorce, custody, visitation, child support, alimony, name changes or contempt). You must file the Affidavit of Service along with a copy of the Writ of Summons with the Clerk of Court in order to prove the other side was served.
This is a good method of service if the other side lives far from you. It does require that the other side accept the papers and personally sign the receipt (green card). The adult serving the papers (other than you) should take the papers to the Post Office and follow the instructions for mailing by certified mail, restricted delivery, return receipt requested. The adult must fill out an Affidavit (the judiciary has a form for self-represented litigants in domestic relations cases - CCDR 56 ) indicating that he or she mailed the papers and the other party received them. If the other side receives the papers, the receipt (green card) will be returned to you with the other side's signature. Attach the receipt (green card) and a copy of the Writ of Summons to the completed Affidavit, and file the Affidavit with the Clerk of Court as proof that the other side received the papers.
There are some problems with this type of service. Hostile opposing parties will not want to, and may refuse to sign for the letters or will simply not go to the post office to pick them up. In these cases, other service methods such as by sheriff or by private service would be preferable.
If the receipt (green card) is returned with the wrong signature or if the entire envelope comes back undelivered, you will have to make another attempt at service or see an attorney. Make sure to keep notes and records for your attempts to serve the party, whether these attempts are successful or not.
If you have problems serving a party by certified mail you can contact the sheriff of the county where the party lives. You should explain to the sheriff that you have been unsuccessful at serving the party by mail and request their help. Ask the sheriff what the cost is for this service and if there are any other requirements. A blank certificate of service and or certificate of evasion of service may have to be mailed to the sheriff.
You must mail a copy of the Answer and a copy of everything you are filing to the other side. Fill in the Certificate of Service at the bottom of the Answer. Do not forget to file your answer with the Clerk of Court.
If you are serving a counterclaim with your answer, you may serve the counterclaim (including all other domestic relations forms you have attached to the counterclaim) by mailing copies of everything to the other side. Fill in the Certificate of Service at the bottom of the counterclaim. Do not forget to file the counterclaim and all the forms attached to the counterclaim with the Clerk of Court. Read the Rules: MD Rules 2-321 , 2-323 , 3-307 
If the person you are serving is currently incarcerated you must obtain their inmate number. You can obtain this by calling the jail with the inmate’s social security number. You will need to have the person’s inmate number on all necessary documents.
You should not serve an inmate by certified mail. The inmate will not be able to sign for the package and the court may find that the service was not valid.
You should serve an inmate by a sheriff or private process server. If you do not have the money to pay for this type of service you may want to have someone you know over the age of eighteen serve the papers. If someone you know is planning on serving the inmate s/he must do the following things:
You must then file this affidavit with the court.
You may have made several attempts to serve the other side using different methods. A Writ of Summons is only good for 60 days, this means you must have the other party served within those 60 days. You will have to ask the Clerk of Court in writing to issue a new Writ of Summons if the other side has not been served within 60 days. If after several attempts to serve the other side you still are not successful you may have to consider serving the other side through alternative methods, such as Posting or Publication.
Service by Posting or Publication is only done when the person who has filed the documents has shown by affidavit that the whereabouts of the opposing party are unknown. Additionally, the person who has filed must show that reasonable efforts have been made in good faith to locate the opposing party. After those criteria have been satisfied, the court may order service by mailing a notice to the opposing party's last known address and by posting the notice by the sheriff at the courthouse door or on a bulletin board within its immediate vicinity. The court may also order the notice to be published at least once a week for three weeks in one or more newspapers circulated in the county where the action is pending.
The person served has 30 days to answer if he or she is served in Maryland, 60 days to answer if he or she is served out of state, and 90 days to answer if he or she is served outside the United States. Read the Rules: MD Rules 2-321 , 2-323 , 3-307 
On the day your case is scheduled, make sure you are there early. Often you will need to check in with the court personnel in the courtroom prior to your hearing. If you are not there when your case is called, your case could be thrown out or the court could rule in favor of the other side. If you have to miss your court date because of an emergency, contact the court BEFORE you hearing is scheduled.
You may be able to show the court documents or other evidence, such as pay stubs or pictures. On the date of your hearing, have your documents and other evidence with you, in order, and have extra copies (3 copies of each document is usually a safe number).
The other side and his or her witnesses will also have a chance to tell his or her story and can present the same kinds of evidence. You will have a chance to cross-examine the other side and his or her witnesses.
If you want additional information, print this page out and show the citation below to your local law librarian. He/she should be able to help you find this resource.
18 Md. L. Ency., Process.
Sometimes when you file Motions or responses to Motions with the court, you may say things that the court does not yet know. This is probably because the statement you are making has never been mentioned in any papers filed with court. Nor has it been mentioned in any of the other court proceedings.
When this occurs, Maryland law says that you have to file an affidavit along with your Motion or Response. An affidavit is basically a document used to support what you are saying in your Motion or Response, stating the facts and information not yet known by the court. It must be signed by you and say that you swear (or affirm) under the penalties of perjury that what you are saying is true.
Sometimes you may also have to attach documents such as letters or school or medical records to your Motion or your Response. These additional documents may be needed to show that what you are saying is true. When you attach these additional documents, you have to state in your affidavit that the documents you are sending are genuine and not altered in any way. It would be helpful for you if you could produce certified copies of the documents and submit those copies to the court.
For school or medical records, you can ask the records clerk at the school or hospital to certify your records. Generally, there is a small fee for certification. The certification process usually consists of the official record keeper for the institution stamping the document to show that the document is a true and complete copy of the original. This may take anywhere from 1 to 14 days, so make sure you give yourself enough time to get the certified records.
If you plan on using any letters to support your case, it would be preferable if you could find the originals. If you have certified, return receipts for the letters, those would be even better for your case. You may still use copies, but if you do, make sure you state in your affidavit that the copies are not altered in any way. You should also explain in your affidavit why you do not have certified or original copies of the documents and what you have done to try and get the originals.
What is a motion?
A motion is a request asking the court to give an order that the court or another party must do something. During a hearing or trial, you can make a motion verbally. At any other time, you must make your motion in writing. Your motion must say what you are asking the court to do.
What do I do with the motion?
You must file your written motion with the court. You must also give or mail a copy to the other parties in the case. If another party is represented by a lawyer, you must give or mail that party’s copy to their lawyer. After being served with a motion, another party has a set amount of time, usually 15 days, to file a written response with the court. Generally, the court will not decide your motion until the other party has had this chance to respond.
How can I respond to a motion by the other party?
Generally, other parties have to send you a copy of any motion they file against you in your case. Read the motion, and if you wish to, write a response. You must send the other parties a copy of your response, and file your response with the court. After being served with a motion, you must file your response with the court within the set time limit, usually 15 days.
If the other party served you with a motion by mail, the court will allow you 3 extra days to file your response. In other words, you must usually file your response within 18 days of the date on which the other party mailed you the motion.
Read the Rules: Rule 1-203  ("Time")
Is it possible to change the deadline for a response?
In some circumstances, the court may be willing to issue an order shortening or extending the time allowed for a response to a motion. To ask the court to shorten or extend the time, you must file an additional motion.
This additional motion might be called a “Motion to Extend [or Shorten] Time Requirements to Respond to [Title of Motion].” You must go through all the necessary steps to file and serve this additional motion.
As with any motion, the court may grant your motion to change the deadline, or the court may deny it. If you are asking for more time to respond to another party’s motion, be sure to file your motion to extend time before the original deadline passes.
Read the Rules: Rule 1-204  ("Motion to shorten or extend time requirements")
What should I include in a motion or response?
1. Case caption. Every paper you file must have a caption with the names of the parties (or, in some cases, the name of the case), the case number, and the name of the court hearing the case. This should appear at the top of the first page of your motion or response. Rule 1-301  ("Form of court papers"). See sample caption below:
2. Title. Give your motion a short title describing the nature of the request. If you have no idea what to call your motion, you can call it “Motion for Appropriate Relief.” If you are responding to a motion, use a title like “Response to [Title of Motion] filed by [the party who filed the motion].” If you are requesting a hearing on the motion, you must state that in the title. The responding party can also request a hearing.
3. Facts. State the facts that show why the court should grant the order you are seeking (or should not grant the order requested by the other party). It is not enough to write down your allegations and conclusions – you must include particular facts.
4. Law. State the legal authority that supports your motion or response. This authority can consist of any kind of law, including a statute, a court rule, case law, or a previous court order in this case.
5. Optional request for hearing. If you want a hearing on your motion or response, you must request a hearing under the heading “Request for Hearing.”
6. Signature. If you are not represented by a lawyer, you must sign any paper you file with the court. You must also include your address and telephone number. Rule 1-311  ("Signing of pleadings and other papers")
7. Certificate of service. In order to file your motion or response with the court, you must include a signed certification stating that you gave or sent a copy to the other parties to the case, and stating the manner in which you did so (for example, by hand; by first-class mail, postage prepaid; by certified mail; or by another specified method). Include the name and address of any parties you mailed a copy to. Rule 1-323  ("Proof of service")
Click here for a blank certificate of service. 
8. Affidavit. If your motion or response is based on facts that are not contained in the record, you must also file an affidavit to support those new facts. Rules 2-311  ("Motions") , 1-304  ("Form of Affidavit")
9. Exhibits. If your motion or response is based on other papers or documents, or if you believe the court needs to consider another document in deciding the motion, attach that document as an exhibit.
How will the court handle the motion?
In many cases, after leaving time for the other parties to respond, the court will simply read the motion and response(s) and issue an order. In some cases, the court will schedule a hearing, to give you and the other party a chance to explain your arguments further. In most cases, the court does not have to grant a hearing.
Remember, if you want the court to hold a hearing before deciding your motion or response, you have to ask for that. First, the title of your motion or response must state that you are requesting a hearing. Second, in the body of your motion or response, you must request a hearing under the heading “Request for Hearing.”
The Maryland State Law Library and many local or Circuit Court law libraries have form books with examples of motions that you can edit to meet your needs. Here are some frequently used Maryland form books:
Maryland Civil Procedure Forms: with Practice Commentary, Robert Dale Klein (LEXIS Publishing).
Maryland Practice: Civil Procedure Forms, George W. Liebmann (West Publishing Co.)
Practice Manual for the Maryland Lawyer, Maryland State Bar Association, Young Lawyer' Section.
Maryland Practice Forms, Paula M. Junghans, David McI. Williams (Eds.) (Maryland Institute for Continuing Professional Education of Lawyers & Young Lawyers Section of the Bar Association of Baltimore City)
American Jurisprudence Pleading and Practice Forms, annotated (Lawyers Co-operative Publishing Co.)
In addition to these titles, there are also form books with motions that are focused on specific areas of law (family law, landlord-tenant, employment law, etc.). Your local law library will also be able to help you identify these sources. To find information about your local law library visit: http://www.lawlib.state.md.us/researchtools/otherlibraries.html 
"Discovery" is a general word that describes the process by which you will find information to support your lawsuit. The purpose of discovery is to obtain the information necessary to prove your case or defend against the claims being made against you. You must determine who you believe knows information that may be important to your case.
Using several discovery "devices," or methods, you can ask the opposing party questions about the relevant facts and the opinions of any experts. You may learn about the identity of fact witnesses and expert witnesses and their knowledge through interrogatories to the opposing party. You will also want to locate documents or tangible items that are important to your lawsuit. You can obtain the information through requests for production of documents to your opposing party. If you believe that there are facts about which both you and your opponent agree, you can serve your opponent with request for admissions. You may decide that you would like to find out in detail what the opposing party and his witnesses know and what the opinions the opposing party’s experts hold. You may explore their opinions and knowledge through depositions. During discovery, your opponent will also ask you questions, which you will have to answer.
These articles will describe the discovery devices and explain how you can use them. In addition, you will learn about your obligations during discovery.
There are detailed rules about discovery practice and procedure in Circuit Court. You can find them in Chapter 400 of Title 2  of the Maryland Rules. You can find the rules in paper format at a law library or electronically here . This article will touch on the rules. However, you should still read those rules carefully and make a copy with you so you can refer to it when you have questions.
You should read the Maryland Discovery Guidelines . They are prepared by the Maryland State Bar Association. They are not the law, but they contain the best practices for conducting discovery and for resolving common problems that occur during discovery. You should follow the Guidelines.
Some courts will issue a scheduling order with the deadlines. In other jurisdictions, the court will ask the parties to agree to deadlines for "designating" expert witnesses, for completing the depositions of witnesses, and for concluding discovery. You may have noticed that the discovery rules include details about dates and deadlines. You should communicate with your opponent to resolve any problems meeting deadlines. If you need more time to answer discovery, you may ask the opposing party for an "extension." Be sure to get opposing party’s agreement to extensions in writing. The Maryland Rules encourage the parties to work together to schedule and complete discovery. See Md. Rule 2-401(c) .
It is important to understand what information is "discoverable." If information is "discoverable," your opponent must share it with you if you ask for it in the proper way. Similarly, if information is "discoverable" and your opponent asks you for it, you must disclose the information. The Maryland Rules encourage broad discovery. Generally, information that is "not privileged" and "relevant to the subject matter involved in the action" is discoverable. Md. Rule 2-402(a) .
Information may be "privileged" – and not discoverable – under some circumstances. Volumes of books have been written about the many types of privileges. The most commonly-asserted ones are the attorney-client privilege and the work-product doctrine. The attorney-client privilege protects communications between a party and her attorney. The work-product doctrine, which is discussed below, protects the mental impressions of counsel and work prepared in anticipation of litigation. If you would like to invoke these privileges, make sure you have a solid basis for doing so because the party asserting the privilege bears the burden of proving the existence of the privilege. Most information will not be privileged. Information is "relevant" if it will help you prove your case or if it will help you defend against the lawsuit against you. Almost all information will be relevant.
All types of information may be discoverable, including documents (e.g., contracts, deeds, photographs), electronically-stored information (e.g., emails, word processing documents, spreadsheets, accounting books), tangible items (e.g., shoes and clothes worn in a slip-and-fall case, the automobile involved in a car accident), and knowledgeable persons (e.g., witnesses to accidents). See Md. Rule 2-402(a) .
Discovery "devices" are the different tools you can use to get information. The most common devices are oral depositions, written interrogatories, and requests for production of documents. Other less frequently used devices are written depositions, requests to enter land or property, requests for mental or physical examinations, and requests for admissions. See Md. Rule 2-401(a) .
Many cases will require the help of experts. For example, in a slip-and-fall case, a plaintiff may claim that she suffered permanent physical injuries for which she needs future medical care. In such a case, the plaintiff will likely support her case with a physician’s testimony. The defendant may use his own physician expert.
There are special discovery rules that apply to experts, which are set forth in Maryland Rule 2-402(g) . There are also evidentiary rules that apply to an expert’s qualifications, opinions, and bases. Those will not be discussed in this article but you should familiarize yourself with the rules, which can be found in Chapter 700 of Title 5  of the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure.
There are two types of experts: "consulting" experts who are not expected to be called at trial and experts whom you intend to call as witnesses at trial. If you hired an expert as a consulting expert and do not intend to ask the expert to testify at trial, it is unlikely that you will have to disclose the expert’s identity and her opinions. Md. Rule 2-402(g)(2) . Under rare circumstances, you may have to disclose the expert’s identity and opinions in discovery, such as when the opponent shows that he has "substantial need" for the information and "is unable without undue hardship to obtain the substantial equivalent of the materials by other means." Md. Rule 2-402(d) . That is a high bar to meet.
The identity and opinions of experts expected to be called at trial is discoverable. In interrogatories, you may ask your opponent to identify his expert witnesses, to state the subject matter on which the expert is expected to testify, to state the expert’s findings, opinions, and the grounds for each opinion, and to produce a written report, if one was authored. Md. Rule 2-402(g)(1)(A) . You may also ask in interrogatories that the opposing party summarize the qualifications of the expert witness, produce the list of publications written by the expert, and state the expert’s fee schedule. Md. Rule 2-402(g)(1)(B) . You may depose the experts. Md. Rule 2-402(g)(1)(A) . If you wish to depose an opposing party’s experts, keep in mind that customary practice requires you to pay the expert for the time she spends attending the deposition and for travelling to and from the deposition, unless the opposing party agrees otherwise. Md. Rule 2-402(g)(3) .
Do not ignore discovery requests! The Rules require that you respond. Remember to be timely in your response. If you cannot meet the deadlines for responding, request a reasonable extension. Do not forget to supplement your discovery responses if "material" information changes. Do not try to hold back information so that you can "surprise" the opposing party later. If there are witnesses you would like to call at trial, be sure to disclose their identity. Courts do not like it when parties spring surprises on each other.
Linda M. Schuett & Paul V. Niemeyer, Maryland Rules Commentary (3d ed. 2003)
Paul W. Grimm, Charles S. Fax, & Paul Mark Sandler, Maryland Discovery Problems & Solution (MSBA 2008)
A deposition is a question-and-answer session during which the witness provides her testimony under oath. There are two types of depositions – written and oral. Because written depositions are so rarely used, this article will address only oral depositions. You should consult Maryland Rule 2-417  if you receive written deposition questions.
You may depose opposing parties, witnesses with personal knowledge of the events in the litigation, and expert witnesses. Depositions are a useful tool for learning what the witness knows and her opinions. In addition, a witness’s deposition may be used for a number of purposes. See Md. Rule 2-419 . For example, if the witness later testifies at trial, the deposition transcript may be used to contradict or impeach the deponent. Md. Rule 2-419(a)(1) . Unlike most discovery devices, which are answered with the lawyer’s help, a witness must answer questions during depositions personally. Generally, a witness may only be deposed once, so you should prepare thoroughly for a deposition. See Md. Rules 2-411 , 2-415(i) .
Before the deposition, the parties will work together to find a mutually convenient date for everyone involved. The party that wants to depose the witness will then contact a court reporting agency to arrange for a court reporter. At least ten days before the deposition, the party will also send a “Notice of Deposition” to the opponent and the witness. Md. Rule 2-412(a) . You may also choose to subpoena the witness. Md. Rule 2-412(a) . The notice must include the deponent’s name and address. It should also include the date, time, and location of the deposition. If the deposition will be recorded, the notice should also state whether the recording will be by videotape or audiotape. Md. Rule 2-412(b) . If you would like the deponent (the person being deposed) to bring documents or other tangible things to the deposition, you should include the list of requests in the notice or issue a subpoena to the deponent. Md. Rule 2-412(c) . If your Notice includes a request for documents or tangible items, it must be served at least thirty days before the deposition. Md. Rule 2-412(c) .
In a typical deposition, the parties’ attorneys and the deponent will appear before a court reporter. The parties may also choose to attend depositions if they wish. At the start of the deposition, the court reporter will ask the deponent to swear an oath to tell the truth. See Md. Rule 2-415(a) . Whoever asked for the deposition will ask the deponent questions, which the deponent will answer. Then, the other party or her attorney will have an opportunity to ask the deponent questions, too. The entire deposition will be recorded and the testimony will be transcribed. See Md. Rule 2-415(a) . If the deponent refers to documents during the deposition, those documents should be marked as exhibits and made a part of the deposition record. Md. Rule 2-415(c) .
During the deposition, you may have objections to some of the questions being asked. If you have an objection, after the question is asked and before the deponent answers, state, “Objection.” The court reporter will record your objection, and the witness will answer the question. Some objections are preserved even if you do not say, “objection,” which means you can later object to the question that was asked. Other objections are waived unless you voice the objection during the deposition, meaning that you lose the chance the challenge the testimony later. For example, if you have an objection to the form of a question because it is compound (asks more than one question at a time), you must object during the deposition or your objection will be waived. Maryland Rule 2-415(g)  explains which objections are waived if not timely made during depositions, and you should consult the rule. Generally, you do not need to state the reason for the objection unless requested by the other party. If you do state the grounds for your objection, you should do it in a way that does not suggest an answer to the witness. If you feel that the reason you provide for your objection will improperly suggest an answer to the witness, you should ask the witness to be excused while you state the reason on the record. As a general matter, the deponent should not refuse to answer questions and the opposing attorney should not instruct the witness to not answer questions.
At the end of the deposition, the court reporter will ask the deponent if she wants to waive reading or signing. If the deponent agrees to waive reading or signing, she will not have an opportunity to review the transcript and verify that it accurately contains her testimony. If the deponent does not agree to waive, after the court reporter finishes transcribing the testimony, she will send the transcript to the parties and the deponent. The deponent will then have thirty days during which she may review and correct any inaccuracies in the transcript. If the deponent is making changes, she will attach to the transcript a correction sheet with the corrections and the reason for each change. The deponent will also have to sign the transcript. Md. Rule 2-415(d) .
Interrogatories are written questions that you serve on the opposing party. Unlike depositions, which may be directed toward non-parties, interrogatories may only be served on parties to the lawsuit. The Rules allow you to serve thirty interrogatories against each party. Thus, if you have two opponents, you may serve thirty interrogatories to one opponent and another thirty to the other opponent. In addition, the Maryland Rules do not require you to serve all interrogatories to a party at the same time. Therefore, you may serve some interrogatories to a party at the beginning of the lawsuit and the remainder at a later time.
Do be aware that an interrogatory that contains many subparts may count as multiple interrogatories. When drafting interrogatories, make sure that each interrogatory asks a single question. There is an exception to this Rule: the Appendix to the Maryland Rules has “form” interrogatories. Maryland Rule 2-421(a)  specifically states that “[e]ach form interrogatory contained in the Appendix” counts as a single interrogatory. You should consult the form interrogatories and use those applicable to your case.
Interrogatories are generally served early in the lawsuit. Some plaintiffs will even serve interrogatories with the Complaint. The party answering must serve the answers to interrogatories either thirty days after the service of the interrogatories or fifteen days after the date on which the party’s initial pleading or motion is due, whichever is later. The answers must be in writing under oath and signed by the party answering. Md. Rule 2-421(b).  To the extent possible, you must answer the interrogatories. If you object to any interrogatory, you should state the grounds in the answer to the interrogatory. See below for a discussion of valid objections.
You may ask your opposing party to produce documents, tangible things, and electronically-stored information (“ESI”), and to permit you to enter land or property. See Md. Rule 2-422(a) . The Rules do not set a limit on the number of documents you may request. However, you should be reasonable in your requests. Each request should describe the individual item or category. If you would like to inspect a tangible item or examine land or property, you should specify a reasonable time, place, and manner for inspecting.
Just like answers to interrogatories, written responses to request for production should be served within the later of thirty days after service of the request or within fifteen days after the party’s initial pleading or motion is required. Md. Rule 2-422(c) . If you have objections to a request, you need to respond and explain the reason for your objection.
It has become increasingly popular for parties to ask each other for ESI. Consult Maryland Rule 2-422(d) . If your opposing party asks for ESI, you must produce them either “as they are kept in the usual course of business or organize and label them to correspond with the categories in the request.” Md. Rule 2-422(d)(1)(A) . If your opponent asks you to produce the ESI in a specific form, you should produce it that way. If the request does not specify, you should produce the documents how they are normally maintained or in a format that is reasonably usable.
This device is not used as commonly as others, so you should review Maryland Rule 2-423  before you make such a request. When a party’s mental or physical condition is in controversy in a lawsuit, the Court may order the party to undergo a mental or physical examination by a professional. If you want your opponent to undergo a mental or physical examination, you must make a motion to the Court and demonstrate good cause. If the Court agrees that an examination is appropriate, it will enter an order permitting the examination. This device is only used when a party’s mental or physical condition is at issue and must not be used to harass or embarrass the opposing party. For example, if a plaintiff claims to have suffered permanent physical injuries following a motor vehicle accident, the defendant may seek to have an independent physician to conduct a physical examination of the plaintiff.
The parties will agree to a suitable time and place for conducting the examination. They will also reach agreements about the scope of the examinations and the person who will conduct the examination. Of course, the person conducting the examination will have to be paid, and the parties will have to reach an agreement about payment of the fees.
There are two types of request for admissions. The first type asks the opposing party to admit or deny the truth of facts. The second asks the opposing party to admit or deny the genuineness of documents or ESI. Md. Rule 2-424(a) . Each separate fact or document should be a separate request.
Just like answers to interrogatories and responses to request for production of documents, responses to request for admissions must be served within the later of thirty days after service of the request or within fifteen days after the date on which the party’s initial pleading or motion is required. It is very important that you do not ignore requests for admissions. If you fail to respond to a request for admission, the admission will be deemed admitted. Md. Rule 2-424(b) . The response must be signed by the party or the party’s attorney.
If you are answering requests for admissions, you may object. You will need to respond by admitting, denying, or stating the reason for which you cannot truthfully admit or deny the admission. You may admit part of a request and deny the remainder. If you do not know the answer to a request, you must make a “reasonable inquiry” to answer the request. If after making such an inquiry, you still cannot admit or deny the request, then you may state that.
Under the Maryland Rules, you must provide the opposing party with your answers within either thirty days after service of the request or fifteen days after the date on which the party’s initial pleading or motion is required, whichever is later. NOTE: If you fail to answer Requests for Admission within the appropriate period, the requests are deemed admitted, which may have a harmful effect on your case. If you require additional time, seek an extension from the opposing counsel/party as soon as possible. Once you obtain your opponent’s consent, file a “Consent Motion to Modify the Scheduling Order” with the Court, including with your Motion a “proposed Order” with the new due date.
The most important thing to remember when answering discovery is to tell the truth. If you do not, you risk sanctions from the court, including the possibility of costs (i.e., a fine) or dismissal of your case.
When answering discovery, review the discovery material carefully for any objectionable requests. Under the Rules, a party has the right to obtain discovery on any non-privileged matter that is relevant to the subject matter of the action. Md. Rule 2-402 . Do your best to answer each question. If you really feel that a request is objectionable, you can object for one or more of the following reasons:
Overly Vague and/or Broad – This objection is reserved for discovery requests that are very difficult to comprehend, leave material (meaning important and relevant) terms undefined, or request information that is not limited to the timeframe of the relevant events.
Unduly Burdensome – This objection is reserved for those discovery requests that seek information and/or documents that would be very time-consuming and/or cost prohibitive to locate or produce. If a request is truly cost prohibitive, consider seeking a protective order under Maryland Rule 2-403 .
Irrelevant/Not Reasonably Calculated to Lead to the Discovery of Admissible Evidence – This objection is reserved for those discovery requests that are completely unrelated to the subject matter of the litigation. If the information sought is in any way related to the issues presented by the case, do your best to answer the request.
Work Product Doctrine – This objection covers material that was prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial (for example, your notes that document your analysis or valuation of the case; an outline of your cross-examination of the opposing party) and should be used sparingly. Again, this doctrine does not apply to any documents and/or information shared with an expert witness whom you intend to have testify at trial. NOTE: The party seeking the information can obtain discovery of work product materials if she can show that she has a substantial need for the information and that she cannot obtain the materials without undue hardship.
See Md. Rule 2-402 ; Discovery Guideline No. 5.  NOTE: When answering interrogatories, if you object to one part of an interrogatory, you cannot refuse to answer the entire interrogatory if the rest of the interrogatory is not objectionable.
You will have to answer the interrogatory or request once the opposing party clarifies or amends the objectionable part of the request. Also, keep in mind that the opposing party can file a motion to compel, asking the Court to require you to answer requests to which you have objected. If the Court does not agree with your objection, it can order you to respond.
When you are ready to serve the opposing party with discovery requests or discovery responses, you will also include a document called “Notice of Service of Discovery Material.” The “Notice” will state the type of discovery material served, the date and manner of service, and the party or person served. See Md. Rule 2-401(d)(2) . You should always keep the original of the discovery request and send a copy to your opponent. If you are producing documents in response to requests by your opponent, you should keep the original documents and send your opponent a copy. Keep all originals stored in a safe location until litigation is over. If there are multiple parties involved, make sure to send copies of the discovery materials and Notice of Service of Discovery Materials to every party.
Unlike the pleadings and motions, discovery is not filed with the Court. That means when you send requests for production of documents or interrogatories to the opposing party, you do not file the requests and interrogatories with the Court. When you send responses to requests for production of documents or answers to interrogatories to opposing party, you also do not file those documents with the Court. Instead, you will only file with the Court the “Notice of Service of Discovery Material” that you sent to the opposing party.
In most cases, you issue discovery and you receive discovery requests in the early stages of litigation. As a result, you may not know all the answers to your opponent’s questions, and you may not have all the documents necessary for answering the requests. You must still respond to your opponent’s discovery requests within the time requirements. If you later receive additional information that changes your prior answers, you must “supplement” your prior response “promptly.” See Md. Rule 2-401(e) . As a practical matter, parties generally supplement their discovery before the discovery deadline. That way, if the other party has questions about the newly-disclosed information, she will have time to ask questions about the new information. The opposing party does not have to ask you to supplement; you are under a continuing duty to do so. If you do not supplement material information promptly, the court may later preclude the information at trial, meaning you will not be permitted to use it as evidence.
What should I do if my opposing party is not responding to my discovery requests? If the opposing party has not responded to your requests, follow up in writing to see when she expects to have responses. Give your opposing party reasonable time to respond after your request in writing. It is beneficial and expected by the Court that you participate in good faith discussions and grant an extension, if reasonable. Courts do not like to become involved in these disputes unless absolutely necessary.
If the opposing party still fails to respond within a reasonable time after your request, inform her that you will file a motion to compel with the court. A motion to compel asks the court to order the opposing party to respond to discovery by a certain date. These motions are typically acts of last resort, which you should save for when your opponent fails to respond to any of your requests. When filing a motion to compel, state specifically the relief you request and describe the steps that you have taken to attempt to resolve the discovery dispute on your own. The Maryland Rules require you to certify at the end of your motion that, after taking steps to resolve the discovery dispute, you were unable to reach an agreement with opposing party. The Rule requires you to include the date, time, and circumstances of each discussion or attempted discussion. Md. Rule 2-431 .
What should I do if I feel my opposing party’s discovery responses are insufficient? If you have a good faith basis for believing the response is insufficient, send a letter to the opposing party explaining why you believe the response was insufficient and what additional information you are requesting. Give the party reasonable time to respond to your request. Sometimes the opposing party may respond that she believes the information requested is objectionable or that she does not have the information. You will have to decide whether you believe the information is truly objectionable or necessary.
If you feel that you are absolutely entitled to the information, inform your opposing party that you will file a motion to compel with the court. Once again, when filing the motion, state specifically the relief you are requesting and describe the steps that you have taken to attempt to resolve the discovery dispute on your own. Do not forget to include a certification of good faith attempts to resolve the dispute. Md. Rule 2-431 .
Opposing party already knows the information she is asking me to provide, do I have to tell her? Yes, Maryland Rule 2-402(a)  states that “[i]t is not ground for objection that the information sought is already known to or otherwise obtainable by the party seeking discovery.” Thus, even if your opponent already knows the answer to a discovery request or can easily obtain the necessary information, you must still provide a response.
I mailed my opponent paper copies of my interrogatories and document requests. Now, he wants me to e-mail him copies in Word. Do I have to do it? Yes, you should. The answer to the question is in a Committee Note to Rule 2-401 , which encourages parties to give each other discovery materials in an electronic format when it is requested.
Do I have to answer an interrogatory that calls upon me to answer legal questions? Yes, see Maryland Rule 2-402(a) .
What should I do if I think my opponent is just trying to embarrass or harass me through her discovery requests? Seek a protective order from the court pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-403 .
The General Rule
If you are involved in a court case, you are generally not allowed to privately contact the judge about the case. This rule ensures that the court’s process remains fair to all who are involved. (Maryland law and court practice may create certain rare exceptions to this rule, for example in emergencies or to protect a party from physical harm.)
Read the Law: Md. Rule 1-351 
Using a Motion to ask the Court to take action
However, there is a way for a plaintiff or a defendant to ask the judge to take a specific action in the case. This process is called “filing a motion.” A motion is a request asking the court to give an order that the court or another party must do something. If you have an attorney, your attorney will file the motion.
For instructions on filing a motion in a Maryland Circuit Court, see Filing a Motion in a Maryland Circuit Court .
What does "ex parte" mean?
"Ex parte" means one-sided. Talking privately with the judge about your case, without giving notice to the other party, is called "ex parte communication" and is generally not allowed.
What is an interrogatory?
An interrogatory is a written question from one party to the lawsuit to another party (usually, the opposing party) to the lawsuit. For example, a plaintiff may send interrogatories to the defendant, and the defendant may send interrogatories to the plaintiff. Written interrogatories are one form of discovery in a lawsuit. Discovery is one way in which a party to a lawsuit discovers information from the opposing party that may useful in the lawsuit – either in winning the lawsuit or defending against the lawsuit.
Read the Rule: Maryland Rule 3-421  ("Interrogatories to Parties")
Is there a time limit for sending interrogatories to the other party to the lawsuit?
Yes. The plaintiff may serve interrogatories on the defendant no later than 10 days after the date on which the clerk of the court mails notice to the plaintiff that the defendant has filed a notice of intention to defend. The defendant may serve interrogatories on the plaintiff no later than 10 days after the time for filing a notice of intention to defend.
Is there a limit on the number of interrogatories that may be sent to another party to the lawsuit?
Yes, a party may send no more than 15 interrogatories to another party in the lawsuit. If there is more than one defendant, the plaintiff may send 15 interrogatories to each defendant. Similarly, if there is more than one plaintiff, the defendant may send 15 interrogatories to each plaintiff.
Are there sample interrogatories that I may use?
Yes, there are “Form Interrogatories” in the Appendix to the Maryland Rules, Volume 2. These Form Interrogatories are aimed at general topics, domestic relations, motor vehicle torts, personal injury, product liability, and medical malpractice. These Form Interrogatories were developed for use in the Circuit Court, but may also be helpful in a case filed in the District Court. Remember, however, in the District Court, there is a maximum limit of 15 interrogatories. Also, remember, that the Form Interrogatories are samples only and may have to be revised to the specific case. A party does not have to use the Form Interrogatories and may draft his or her own interrogatories to use.
How do I serve the other party to the lawsuit the interrogatories?
A party may serve the other party with interrogatories by mailing them to the other party or by hand-delivery.
Is there a time limit for answering interrogatories?
Yes, a written response to the interrogatories must be served on the party sending the interrogatories within 15 days after service of the interrogatories. The written response may be served on the other party by mailing it to the other party or by hand-delivery.
Are interrogatories filed with the District Court?
No, but the party generating the interrogatories must file Notice with the court stating that interrogatories were served, the date and manner of service on the other party, and the name of the party served. Similarly, the party responding to the interrogatories must file Notice with the court stating that a response to the interrogatories was served, the date and manner of service on the other party, and the name of the party served.
A sample Notice of Service:
Gina George * In the District Court of Maryland
Plaintiff * for Baltimore City
v. * Case No. __________________
Brandon Doe *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
NOTICE OF SERVICE OF DISCOVERY MATERIALS
I, ___________________________, certify that on this ___ day of [Month], [Year], I mailed by first class mail, postage prepaid Plaintiff’s Interrogatories to defendant, Brandon Doe, whose address is 123 Bark Lane, Apartment C, Baltimore, Maryland 21214.
Gina George, Plaintiff
[include address and phone number)
How does a party answer interrogatories?
The response or answers to interrogatories must be in writing. The response must first state the interrogatory and then state the answer to the interrogatory or the grounds for refusing to answer the interrogatory. Each interrogatory must be answered separately. Generally, the answer to an interrogatory must include all information available to the party directly or through his or her agents, representatives, or attorneys. See below, “Does a party who is served with interrogatories have to respond to the interrogatories?” The response must be signed by the party making it and under oath. The Maryland Rules explain the forms of acceptable written oath.
Read the Rule: Maryland Rule 1-304  ("Form of affidavit")
Also, a party has the option to produce business records in answering an interrogatory. If an answer to an interrogatory may be found in a business record belonging to the party (or under the control of the party) who is being asked to answer the interrogatory, the party may answer the interrogatory by identifying the business record and allowing the party asking the interrogatory to inspect and make a copy of the record.
If a party who has answered interrogatories later obtains additional information that is responsive to the interrogatories, the party is required to supplement his or her response to the interrogatories.
Does a party who is served with interrogatories have to respond to the interrogatories?
Generally yes, but maybe no. A party served with interrogatories may file with the court a motion for a protective order, asking the court to protect the party from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense. The party filing the motion for protective order must serve the party who generated the interrogatories with a copy of the motion. The court may grant or deny the motion for protective order and will issue a written order to the parties. If the party does not obtain a protective order from the court and does not respond to interrogatories, the party generating the interrogatories may ask the court to impose sanctions on the party failing to respond to the interrogatories.
If a party does not respond to interrogatories, is there any way to make the party respond?
The party who generated interrogatories may file, with the court, a motion to compel answers to interrogatories if the party to whom the interrogatories were sent fails or refuses to respond to the interrogatories.
How may answers to interrogatories be used?
The answers to interrogatories may be used as evidence at trial or in a hearing by any party, if permitted by the court.
For other samples of interrogatories and other information on discovery in the District Court, see also 2 Robert D. Klein, Maryland Civil Procedure Forms, Chapter 400 (“Discovery: Practice Considerations) (LexisNexis, 3d ed., 1993); 1 Robert D. Klein, Maryland Civil Procedure Forms, Forms 2-421.3 through 2-421.34 (LexisNexis, 3d ed., 1993); 2 Gary I. Strausberg, Maryland Litigation Forms & Analysis, Chapter 30 (1994).
What is service? Service is the act of providing documents to the required people (usually, the other parties or their lawyers) involved in a legal matter. The general purpose of service is fairness: being sure that everyone knows what is going on in the case, and has an opportunity to prepare and respond. However, the rules are specific, and a case can be lost due to improper service. There are two main contexts for service, described below:
What is it?
1. “Service of process”
When you first bring someone into a case
For example, serving the defendant with your complaint
Service of process means providing someone with a copy of the “original pleading” (for example, the complaint) that you filed in court, as well as the summons from the court. Until someone is served with process, they are not part of the case at all.
With service of process, you first file the pleading, and then have the copy (and the summons) served.
No “certificate of service” is required at the time of filing your original pleading. Rather, you will later have to prove that the other parties were served in the right way. For more information about service of process, see Frequently Asked Questions About "Service of Process" 
2. Ongoing “service” of documents during the case.
Throughout the case
For example, serving the defendant with a motion you file
The second context for service comes after the other person (or company) has been served with process. From then on, you generally need to provide them with copies of all the documents you file in the court.
At this stage of service, you must first serve a copy of the document (which may be as simple as placing it in the mail), and then you file the original with the court.
When you file the original, the court will require a “certificate of service.”
What is a certificate of service? A certificate of service is a signed document in which you state that you made sure that the appropriate people were given or sent copies of the document you are filing. With very few exceptions, any time you file a document in court (other than an original pleading), you have to submit a certificate of service with the filing. One frequent reason that clerk's offices have to reject filings is that people do not include a valid certificate of service.
1. Be sure that each other party in the case (or the attorney of each represented party) is served with a copy of what you filed. For any party who is represented in the case by a limited appearance attorney, you must be sure that BOTH the party and the limited appearance attorney are served with a copy of what you filed. If the appearance of the limited appearance attorney has been stricken (meaning that that attorney is now officially out of the case) that limited appearance attorney does not need to be served with copies of new filings.
2. Fill out, sign, and submit to the clerk, a certificate of service, including each of the parts below. (Click here for a blank certificate of service. )
a. State that a copy of the document was served on each recipient, and list the name and address of each recipient;
b. State the manner in which each was served (for example, by hand; by first-class mail, postage prepaid; by certified mail; or by another specified method);
c. Include the date on which service was made. If service was made by mailing a copy, this will be the date that the copy was put in the mail.
|c. Sign the certificate of service.|
Read the Rule: Maryland Rule 1-323 (“Proof of Service”)
The clerk shall not accept for filing any pleading or other paper requiring service, other than an original pleading, unless it is accompanied by an admission or waiver of service or a signed certificate showing the date and manner of making service. A certificate of service is prima facie proof of service.
The original pleading is generally the initial Complaint and any Counter-Complaint or Third-Party Complaint. Service for everything after an original pleading can be accomplished by simply mailing the papers to the other parties in the case or, if a party is represented, that party’s attorney. See Maryland Rule 1-321.
(a) Generally. Except as otherwise provided in these rules or by order of court, every pleading and other paper filed after the original pleading shall be served upon each of the parties. If service is required or permitted to be made upon a party represented by an attorney, service shall be made upon the attorney unless service upon the party is ordered by the court. Service upon the attorney or upon a party shall be made by delivery of a copy or by mailing it to the address most recently stated in a pleading or paper filed by the attorney or party, or if not stated, to the last known address. Delivery of a copy within this Rule means: handing it to the attorney or to the party; or leaving it at the office of the person to be served with an individual in charge; or, if there is no one in charge, leaving it in a conspicuous place in the office; or, if the office is closed or the person to be served has no office, leaving it at the dwelling house or usual place of abode of that person with some individual of suitable age and discretion who is residing there. Service by mail is complete upon mailing.
(b) Service After Entry of Limited Appearance. Every document required to be served upon a party's attorney that is to be served after entry of a limited appearance also shall be served upon the party and, unless the attorney's appearance has been stricken pursuant to Rules 2-132 or 3-132, upon the limited appearance attorney.
Cross reference: See Rule 1-324 with respect to the sending of notices by a clerk when a limited appearance has been entered.
(c) Party in Default--Exception. No pleading or other paper after the original pleading need be served on a party in default for failure to appear except a pleading asserting a new or additional claim for relief against the party which shall be served in accordance with the rules for service of original process.
(d) Requests to Clerk--Exception. A request directed to the clerk for the issuance of process or any writ need not be served on any party.
There are times when you don’t need to give the clerk a certificate of service in order to file papers. The most common exception is when you are filing an “original pleading” like a complaint. When you file a complaint, the clerk’s office will create a summons. You must make sure that the summons and a copy of the complaint are served to the defendant, AFTER you file the complaint.
Also, after the original pleading (for example, the complaint) you don't necessarily need to serve additional papers on a party who is in default for failure to appear. However, if you are making a new or further claim for relief against the party, you must serve the party as you would with an original pleading.
What is a subpoena?
Subpoenas are formal legal documents used in civil and criminal cases to order someone to bring documents or other physical evidence to a court proceeding or to appear to testify at a court proceeding.
Because a subpoena is a legal order, a person who doesn’t obey a subpoena may be subject to civil or criminal penalties, such as fines, jail time, or both.
In what kinds of cases can I use a subpoena?
Generally, you can use subpoenas in both court cases and in cases before an administrative agency. There are different procedural rules for obtaining subpoenas based on the legal setting of your case.
The following information applies to the use of subpoenas in Maryland District Court:
Do I need to use a subpoena?
You should use a subpoena if someone has evidence that will be helpful for your case and you want them to bring it to your hearing or trial or if there is a witness you want to testify in your case. Even if you think the person will give you the evidence or testify voluntarily, you should still consider getting a subpoena. Some employers will not let employees miss work if there isn’t a subpoena demanding their presence at the hearing or trial.
How do I get a subpoena?
If you do not have an attorney to represent you, you must get the paper form from the court clerk. The subpoena is free but you would have to pay if you want the Sheriff or clerk to serve it.
What information goes in a subpoena?
The subpoena form MUST contain:
How do I serve a subpoena?
A subpoena must be served by delivering a copy to the person named or to an agent designated to receive service on their behalf, or by mailing the subpoena to them using certified, restricted mail. A sheriff of any county or any person who is not a party to the case and who is at least 18 years old can serve a subpoena. You are not allowed to serve a subpoena in your own case. For more information about service rules, see Frequently Asked Questions About “Service of Process” in Maryland. 
Unless it isn’t practical to do so, you should try to have the subpoena served at least five (5) days before the trial or hearing.
Will the person object to my subpoena?
It is possible that the person receiving a subpoena might object to the request to provide testimony or produce documents. The person objecting would have to file a motion or objection explaining why they shouldn’t have to obey the subpoena. The District Court can “quash” (revoke) or modify the subpoena to protect the person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.
What happens if the person doesn’t obey the subpoena?
Since a subpoena is a legal order, the District Court can impose civil or criminal penalties if the person does not obey it. If the person does not come to the hearing or trial, you can ask the court to issue an order for “body attachment” or to make the person pay a fine. Body attachment means that the person would be physically brought before the court by a sheriff or peace officer and held in contempt or placed under arrest.
You cannot sue the State of Maryland for an injury unless you file the lawsuit according to specific guidelines. These guidelines are referred to as the Maryland Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). Additionally, you have to comply with the statute of limitations.
If you want to sue the State of Maryland, you need to comply with all the normal rules governing lawsuits, in addition to the rules of the MTCA. The MTCA can be found at Md. Code Ann., State Gov’t §12-101  to 12-110 .
If you follow these procedures, the State of Maryland can be held liable for your injuries caused by state agents or employees.
In order to sue the state government the injured party must meet all of these requirements:
If the injured person meets all these requirements and wins his or her case, then the state may be liable for a limited monetary amount. However, under MTCA, the state generally cannot be held liable to any one person for more than $400,000 for injuries arising from a single incident.
A lawsuit is not the only solution. If the Treasurer’s investigation reveals that the state is responsible for the injury to the claimant, the Treasurer may choose to resolve the case without going to court, by approving the claim and either paying part or all of the claim, or sometimes negotiating or mediating a settlement. However, if this does not work, the next step may be a lawsuit.
Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., State Gov’t, §12-107. 
State employees can rarely be sued; however, they can be sued for actions that do not take place in the course of their employment. In these cases, the state is not responsible for paying any judgment. Under rare circumstances, if the employee’s actions are proven to be grossly negligent or based on legal malice, then the employee can be sued personally even if the action occurred during the course of employment.
Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. §5-522. 
The rules are different depending on whether you were injured because of the actions of a state, county, or local government employee. The next section applies when a county or local government employee is involved.
It is possible to sue an employee of a county, city, or other local government when they injure you. Generally, if the employee is working for the local government when the incident happens, that local government may end up paying for the damages caused by its employee. In most instances, the county, city or other local governments will defend their employees and may pay the damages or settlement for them. However, if the employee is acting with an intent to harm people or if the employee doesn’t care about whether people will be hurt by his actions when the incident happens, then the local government may not pay any damages to you. As when suing the State of Maryland, you must comply with an extra set of rules that pertain to local governments.
To sue a government employee under the Local Government Tort Claims Act (“LGTCA”), you must give a notice of your injury and intention to sue to the required government official, and you must give this notice within one year.
In order to sue under the LGTCA, the injured party must file a notice of a claim (in person or through certified mail) with the local government:
Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. §5-304(c)(3). 
If your notice is late, the courts may possibly hear the case. You should have a good reason why your notice was late, and expect that the government will argue that the courts should not hear the case.
Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. §5-304. 
A lawsuit is not the only solution. If the government’s investigation reveals that the government is responsible for the injury to the claimant, the government may choose to resolve the case without going to court, by approving the claim and either paying part or all of the claim, or sometimes negotiating or mediating a settlement. However, if this does not work, the next step may be a lawsuit.
Q: What if a local government employee wants to file suit against another fellow employee?
A: If the injury sustained is payable under the Maryland Worker’s Compensation Act, then the employee cannot sue another fellow employee for an injury or omission committed within the scope of employment.
Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. §5-302. 
In many District Court cases, the Clerk’s Office will set the trial date within 60 days after the complaint was filed. When a Notice of Intention to Defend can be filed within 60 days of service (such as for a corporation), then the Clerk’s Office schedules the trial within 90 days of filing the complaint. Also, the Court may schedule a pre-trial conference in order to streamline the trial. “Discovery” and evidence issues may be topics of discussion during the conference. A party may request the conference, or the Court itself may call one.
In Circuit Court, parties will receive a scheduling order no later than 30 days after the defendant files an answer. The scheduling order sets timelines for trial preparation and lays the ground rules for the conduct of the trial. In complex cases, a Court may order a scheduling conference. There may be a pre-trial conference, as well. Pre-trial statements or orders outline the topics discussed and the rules to follow after you have a scheduling conference.
Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, some cases may have to be postponed. A trial that has already begun in court may have to be “continued” until some issue or scheduling conflict is resolved.
In order to prepare for trial, both parties have a right to find out information from the other party. This process is called “discovery.”
In District Court, the discovery process centers on the use of “interrogatories.” Interrogatories are written questions for the other party. Usually, the parties are limited to 15 questions. The defendant must send the interrogatories to the plaintiff within 10 days of the deadline for filing the Notice of Intention to Defend. The plaintiff must send interrogatories within 10 days of receiving the defendant’s Notice of Intention to Defend. If one party does not answer the questions properly, the other party may ask the court to take certain actions, called “sanctions,” against the non-responsive party. The requirements for District Court interrogatories are contained in Maryland Rule 3-421 and in the Appendix of Forms at the end of the Rules. Read the Rule: Md Rule 3-421 
Circuit Court rules for discovery are much more complex than in District Court. The parties also have other procedures available in addition to interrogatories. For example, parties may use “depositions,” which are formal in-person questioning sessions. Other discovery procedures are requests for documents and physical or mental examinations of people. Discovery rules  for Circuit Court cases are contained in the Maryland Rules, beginning with Rule 2-401. It is important to consult the Maryland Rules during the discovery process in a Circuit Court case. Your local law library has additional books about discovery in Maryland. Read the Rule: Md Rule 2-401 
Because your day in court is so important, you should plan ahead to make sure that the courthouse is able to accommodate any needs you might have, which are related to your disability or to the disability of one of your witnesses. To request accommodations, you must file this form with the court not less than 30 days before the date of trial: Form CC-DC 49, Request for Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities . (You can file this form in whichever trial court is hearing your case.) If you do not believe that the accommodations the court offers will be sufficient, you may file a Grievance Form, CC-DC 50 .
If you or one of your witnesses does not speak English, the court will provide interpreter services. To request an interpreter, you must file this form with the court no less than 30 days before the date of trial: Form CC-DC 41, Request for Spoken Language Interpreter/Solicitud para Interpretacion de Idoma Hablodo . (You can file this form in whichever trial court is hearing your case.)
The trial itself is your opportunity for your day in court. It is your chance to tell the court your side of the story. For that reason, it is very important that you pay special attention to organizing your documents, following the rules of the court, and showing respect for the court and the other party to your case. If you do not appear in court, the case very likely will be decided against you automatically. There may be very rare instances, such as a serious automobile accident or the death of a family member that will prevent you from attending your trial. Even if this happens, you must contact the courthouse as soon as you know you will not be able to appear in court.
The following tips may help you on the day of your trial:
Most people probably have seen criminal trials on television shows. Civil trials are similar in many ways. For example, there will be witnesses, evidence, and a final decision. There are important differences though.
The trial begins with the opportunity for the plaintiff to make an opening statement, which is a general statement of the case. The defendant may do the same. Then, the judge listens to the plaintiff’s testimony and evidence. If the plaintiff is self-represented, then the plaintiff will be sworn in as a witness. The defendant can cross examine the plaintiff at this time. The judge, if there is no jury, may also ask questions during the trial. The defendant then has an opportunity to present his or her side of the case, with the plaintiff allowed to cross examine. At the end of these presentations, the defendant, and then the plaintiff, may offer brief closing statements to sum up the case.
It is important to think about your audience. In most cases this will be the judge (unless one of the parties asked for a jury trial in Circuit Court). Judges play a very important role in managing your case. The judge sets the stage for the case and explains what is going to happen. He or she will also ask questions. When the judge is the audience, it is important to remember that you should speak only to the judge and not the other party. ALWAYS address the judge as “Your Honor.” Be sure to stand whenever you talk. It is permissible to ask the judge questions about technical procedures during the trial. Otherwise, the only time a party should be speaking to a judge about a case is at trial and with the other party present.
There are special rules regarding the presentation of a case because evidence is so important to the court. One of the most basic rules to remember is that the plaintiff has the “burden of proof.” This means that it’s the plaintiff’s job to prove his or her own case.
The evidence that either party shows the court must meet 3 requirements:
In order to make sure your evidence meets all 3 requirements, you must have one or more witnesses give testimony explaining the evidence. Witnesses must have personal knowledge about the evidence. Of course, if you are representing yourself, you will be your own witness. The process of describing your evidence correctly sometimes is called “preparing the proper evidentiary foundation.” You can do this by always being prepared to answer at least 5 questions about your evidence: WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE, WHEN and HOW. For example, if you were submitting a signed contract into evidence, you should be prepared to tell the court that you and the other party signed it on a certain date in a certain place. Each piece of evidence is called an “exhibit.” It is also important that you submit your exhibits to the court by “moving” that they be admitted into evidence after you have explained the evidence by laying the proper foundation. Usually, the plaintiff will present exhibits in chronological order, including any copies of “demand letters” (with certified mail receipt) written to the defendant. Parties should also be prepared to admit into evidence any documents describing the extent of the claim, such as repair bills. There are rules to follow to make, or “compel,” a witness to appear at your trial or to have someone not a party to the suit produce documents for evidence. These rules involve the court issuing a “subpoena.” The District Court procedure for this is in Maryland Rule 3-510, and the Circuit Court procedure for this is in Maryland Rule 2-510.Read the Rules: MD Rules 3-510  and 2-510 
If one party does not submit evidence correctly, the other party may “object” and provide the legal rules for doing so. A party may object immediately after the other party’s statement by saying, “Your Honor, I object.” Then, the party objecting must provide justification. The judge will then either “sustain” the objection (which means that the objection is correct) or “overrule” it (which means that the judge does not believe the objection is correct). It is important to state an objection whenever necessary because if there is no objection, then the party may lose the right to appeal that issue.
After the end of a party’s presentation of evidence, the opposing party may make a “motion for judgment.” This motion asks the court to automatically decide the case in favor of the party making the motion because the other party has not met the legal requirements of proving his or her case. If the judge rejects, or “denies,” the motion, he or she will proceed with the rest of the case.
After both parties finish presenting evidence and give closing statements, the judge makes sure to consider everything that was said or offered as exhibits. A judge hearing the case hands down a decision, known as a “judgment,” as soon as possible. In Circuit Court jury trials, of course, the jurors discuss what they heard. There are many rules related to juries. You should consult the Maryland Rules for more information.
A judgment cannot be enforced until 10 days after the entry of the judgment. This time period allows the party owing money the opportunity to file post-trial motions discussed below.
Sometimes, a party that owes money will pay right away. Other times, however, they cannot or will not pay. A party can only try to get paid, or “enforce a judgment,” by following the procedures outlined in the Maryland Rules. The party that is entitled to money because he or she won a lawsuit is called the “judgment creditor.” The party who owes money is known as the “judgment debtor.” One way for a judgment creditor to find out how the judgment debtor will be able to pay is through the discovery procedures discussed above. Discovery may help a judgment creditor know which of the following ways of enforcing a judgment would be best:
It is important to remember that judgment debtors and garnishees also have certain rights. For that reason, rules pertaining to judgment enforcement are relatively complex in both courts. In practice, getting paid sometimes takes a lot of time, organization, and energy. You should consult the Maryland Rules or books about judgment enforcement at your local law library for more information.
After the judgment debtor fully pays the judgment, the judgment creditor must file a written statement that says the judgment has been paid. This is called a ”Satisfaction of Money Judgment.” If a judgment creditor does not file this document when payment has been made, the judgment debtor can file a motion for an order stating that the judgment was satisfied.
If a party does not agree with the judgment, he or she has several options available. A party in either trial court may choose to:
In Circuit Court, there are a few additional motions that a party may use. One is “in banc review,” outlined in Maryland Rule 2-551. Another one, available only in jury trials, is a Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, outlined in Maryland Rule 2-532. Read the Rules: MD Rules 2-551  and 2-532 
Finally, a party can always appeal to a higher court. The appeals process must start within 30 days of the entry of the judgment. Also, a party may move for a new trial, for an altered or amended judgment, or for a revised judgment, and then appeal to a higher court. In these situations, the time to appeal is “stayed,” or delayed, until the court decides on the motion. A party then must file the notice of appeal within 30 days of the decision on the motion.
The trial will be in a public courtroom. This means that you will be able to sit in the back and see the other cases being heard while you wait for your case to be called. It also means that others waiting for their cases may also be present during your case. The judge and his/her staff person will be there as well. A bailiff will be there to keep order. There will not be a court reporter. All testimony is recorded on a tape recorder. If your case is appealed to Circuit Court, a transcript (written record) must be made and sent to the Circuit Court for review. There will be a fee for this service.
You should make every effort to get there on time. Arrange in advance for childcare and reliable transportation. To plan for any problems, you should carry the telephone number for the court clerk with you as you travel on the day of the hearing.
Find the numbers for the court clerks . If you cannot arrive on time, call and ask the clerk what can be done. If you are too late, you may ask for a “continuance” (a postponement). It is up to the court as to whether you will be given the chance to have your case heard on another day.
If you know a few days in advance that you cannot attend your hearing, immediately call the clerk’s office and ask how to request a “continuance” (postponement). Keep notes on the date, time, the name of the person with whom you speak and what is said. You will need to submit the request in writing. Make sure that you include a description of the good reason you have to make the request.
Remember that the court may refuse to change the date.
If the date is rescheduled, the other side must be notified again.
If the other side does not show up, ask the judge to enter a “default judgment” in your favor. If you have been able to prove your case, the judge will usually find in your favor.
What you will need to prove your case will vary based on what claims have been alleged and documents have been filed. See MD Rule 3-509 for the rules on what you will have to prove. Plan in advance for the strongest case you can. Even if the other side does not show you must still prove your damages and that the other side was at fault (liable). Read the Rule: Md Rule 3-509 
If you have not been able to prove your case, the judge may allow you to gather the missing evidence and come again for another hearing. Being unprepared is NOT a good reason for a postponement. If the trial is rescheduled, you will need to make sure the defendant knows about the new hearing. S/he has the right to attend that hearing as well.
The first rule is “Don’t Panic.” If you have put together a good case, there is no reason why you should not be treated fairly by the court. However, if the other side has an attorney that is a very good reason to (1) prepare well and (2) negotiate.
Before the trial - If you know the other side is represented, you are in a good position (before the trial date) to negotiate. The other side must bear the costs of paying for the attorney’s time to travel and attend the hearing. This may provide an incentive for the other side to settle before the hearing in order to avoid the extra expense.
On the day of the hearing the most important person to control is you. Be polite. Attorneys can sometimes be intimidating. If an attorney appears to be angry or treats you poorly, this might just be part of the negotiation. Continue to act politely and say that you will be happy to attempt to settle the case but you will not respond to attacks. You can complain to the judge if the attorney goes too far. But remember that the attorney is likely to appear before the judge more often than you do. Try not to be too sensitive but only complain if the attorney’s behavior is consistently bad. If you choose to complain, use a concrete example and remain calm.
Whether you are the person who filed the case (the “plaintiff”) or the defendant, you should reread the complaint. This is the document that the judge will have in front of him or her. S/he will be looking for an explanation of all of the items noted in the complaint. Your first task is to prove (or disprove, if you are the defendant) what was alleged in the complaint.
Then ask yourself the following questions:
If you have a contract, read it. You can be sure that the other side has done so. The judge will expect both parties to be familiar with the contract. There are certain legal elements that must be proved if your goal is to enforce your contract. If you wish to show that the contract is not valid, you must explain why (disproving the same elements).
It is also helpful to look at any of the other letters or emails between the two of you. Have they made any offers? Can you settle before court? Did the other side admit anything that supports your case? Do they give you insight into the argument that the other side will make? If so, how can you prepare to counter these arguments?
If you are the plaintiff, review what you must prove in order to be successful. Do you have the evidence to persuade the judge? What can you do to address the weaknesses? Write down each item you must prove and put how you will prove it next to each item. Would it make sense to try to reach a settlement before the trial?
If you are the defendant, review what the plaintiff must prove. Look at each of the elements that the plaintiff must prove. Write down each item and list the evidence that you think the plaintiff will gather. For each of these elements, write down the weaknesses that you can exploit to undermine the other side’s case.
Be honest with yourself. If the plaintiff cannot prove all of the elements of the case, s/he will lose. On the other hand, if there is a good chance the other side will win, look at what you can do minimize the damage award.
Once you have identified all of the important documents and any physical evidence that you plan to bring, prepare them for trial. Organized documents will help you be calm in court. You cannot be too organized.
Once you have looked at the legal elements that you must prove, think about whether there are any witnesses. A good witness will:
There is no reason to bring in a witness unless the person can support a key legal point. Especially in small claims court. The judge will want to move the case along as quickly as possible while making sure it is fair. This means that you will not want to waste time on bringing a witness in to prove a minor point.
The witness should have seen, heard or otherwise experienced whatever you want the witness to prove. You do not want to use someone who knows about the problem or incident only because you told them about it. They will not help your case.
Ideally, you want to have a witness who has no incentive to lie for you. For example, your mother may be considered a less credible witness than a local mechanic when you want to show that your car was damaged.
Once you are started, your story will flow easily, especially if you have a few notes in outline form and your documents are organized in the order you plan to mention them. Indicate on your notes which documents you have to prove which point. You may want to number your documents to help you keep track of them.
Put your notes on index cards or write them out in advance on a paper pad and bring this with you to your hearing. It is better to have a few key points written down than it is to have a “script” with every word you want to say. Remember that the judge will not have a script nor will the other side. You know your story. You just need a few reminders to make sure that you make all of the necessary legal points.
Tip Experienced presenters and attorneys know that it is useful to have the first few sentences written out in full and then to practice these in advance. This will help get you started.
Practice in front of a trusted friend. It may be best to pick a friend who has not heard you talk about your legal issue. It may be helpful to hear the comments of someone who is new to situation. Before you begin, tell your friend what you have to prove (legally). Then ask them to listen only to what you say and what your documents or witnesses can show. Ask them to forget anything else they know about the situation.
Ask them to give you harsh and unbiased feedback. Specifically:
Based on their feedback, are you making assumptions about what the judge might know about your case?
Do you need to provide a better “map” to help the judge follow the legal elements that you need to prove? The judge will be looking for certain information. Make it easy for the judge to see the important parts of your case.
Focus you comments on your defense. Do not dispute every little issue, focus on the most important points. You should have prepared yourself by looking at what the other side had to prove. That will help you determine which points are worth disputing.
Always, be polite to the other side.
Lawyers are in court all the time. It is likely that you will not have spent nearly as much time in a courtroom. Learning appropriate courtroom behavior will help you to fit in and feel more comfortable. Then you can concentrate on presenting your case.
Note: Small claims court is more informal, but respectful behavior is still expected.
Formal dress is not required in the courtroom but it is encouraged that you dress neat and professional.
If you had to come to court directly from work, it would be worth mentioning that. The judge will understand.
Don’t wear t-shirts with messages.
To be successful, plan to spend significant time preparing your case for trial. This is true whether you are the person who first filed the court case (the plaintiff) or the person who was sued (the defendant).
What you should do before the day of the trial:
Now you are ready to plan how to present your case to the judge.
The judge who will hear your case listens to people tell their stories all day, every day. S/he sees all sorts of people – many tell the truth, some “exaggerate,” some lie. Don’t be fooled into thinking that no one can prove you are exaggerating a bit. A judge becomes good at hearing any “false notes” in a story. It is the job of the judge to decide who s/he believes, even if there is no “proof” that one side is lying. The judge is an expert in making these decisions. Don’t jeopardize your case by lying or exaggerating. If you lie on something small, the judge may not believe you when you tell the truth on a key point.
Judges are people, too. It helps to have the facts presented in a framework that makes it easy to follow. Usually this means telling the facts in chronological order (in the order that they happened). It also means presenting the “headline” first. Just like a newspaper story; start by giving the judge a quick summary at the beginning. For example, you might start with “The defendant has not paid me the $850 that she owes me for a dress that I made for her daughter. Here is what happened…”
Not everything that happened between you and the other side is legally important. Everyone’s time is limited. Research the law in your case and make sure all of the legal points are addressed in your story. You can ignore all of the parts of the story that are not legally relevant. For example, you may not want to tell the judge that you and the other side ”go way back” or that you babysat her daughter or that she has not paid you for other bills that you did not include in this court case. You can tell a more complete story later if the judge asks you to but start with proving what you need to prove under the law.
Don’t wait until the end of your story and then shove a bunch of papers at the judge. Organize and label the documents that you want to submit to the court. Put the documents in the order that they support your story. Mention the documents in order. When you mention a fact supported by a document, offer the document to the judge and the other side. Make sure to bring enough copies for both the judge and the other side.
What is the worst that the other side could say? What are the weakest parts of your case? Prepare for the other side to try to prove these. Don’t wait until after the hearing to say, “I should have said…” First, decide if the worst that the other side can say is legally relevant. If it is just a complaint about you, ignore it. If there is a weakness in your case, prepare by deciding how you will respond when they bring it up. Practice what you would say and ignore the emotions.
Only you can keep track of your documents. Your documents are some of the evidence in your case. Evidence could be any documents, such as receipts, photographs, contracts or letters that support your claim. It can be easy to lose documents. You should keep the original documents in your file. Give copies of important documents you plan on using as evidence to the court. Only pass along the original document if the judge requests it. Make sure you have a copy to keep for yourself and for the other side, if needed.
|When I am nervous, I...||I will deal with this potential problem by...|
|...can't stop talking.||
Using notes on what I need to say. After my key points, I will put a note to myself that will say STOP. When I see the note, I will stop talking and take at least 2 deep breaths. If someone asks me a question, I will answer. Otherwise, I will wait.
|...am "tongue tied."||
Writing short reminder notes to myself…not a script.
|...lose my focus.||
I will deal with this potential problem by …
|...talk too fast.||
I will deal with this potential problem by …
|...have a dry mouth.||
I will deal with this potential problem by …
Read all of the information about the court on this website.
If at all possible, plan to take time off and go to court. Figure out how to get to the court and what the security arrangements are. You probably will not be able to take your cell phone into the court.
Watch other cases in the court for an hour or so to see what happens. Ideally you should find out when the same judge assigned to your case will be sitting on the bench or the same type of case as yours is being heard. Plan to take notes. Watch carefully to see what works and what the problems are.
Nothing makes you more nervous than having to sort through your papers to find the one receipt that will prove your case. Eliminate this cause of stress by organizing your documents.
At least 2 days before the hearing, find all of your documents. Make at least 2 copies of each document. Attach the copies to the originals with paper clips. Stack the papers in the order that you plan to mention them in your story. You may even want to number each document. Put them in a file folder and label the file folder. Add your notes. Maybe use a binder clip to hold the documents together and attached to the file. Put the folder by the door or in your car so you do not forget it. You are ready!
Once you have done your best to prepare, force yourself to think about something pleasant. Think about your upcoming vacation. Think about your sister’s birthday party. Think about the joke somebody told you yesterday. Thinking about other topics will help you to remain calm. Most importantly, arrive early. Rushing in the door makes everybody (even attorneys) nervous. Make sure that you do not have this extra pressure.
The details of how the court process will work (called “procedure”) are found in the Maryland Rules.
Different rules apply to different types of cases.
The rules that generally apply to civil cases in Circuit Courts are found in Title 2 of the Maryland Rules. Read the Rules: Md Rules Title 2 
The rules that generally apply to civil cases in District Courts are found in Title 3 of the Maryland Rules. Read the Rules: Md Rules Title 3 
Small claims and landlord-tenant cases are considered “special proceedings" under the District Court Rules. Certain aspects of these special proceedings have their own rules.
Even if you win your case, the process may not be over. For more information about enforcing a court's judgment, see How to Enforce the Judgment If You Win. 
If you lose your case and disagree with the decision, you always have a right to appeal it. That means that you would have to present your case to another court. That court would be on a higher level and have the authority to hear your case. If you lost your case in District Court, you may appeal to Circuit Court. If your case was in Circuit Court (even if it was an appeal from District Court), you may appeal to the Court of Appeals  in Annapolis.
The Court of Appeals is the state's highest court, hearing appeals made from the Court of Special Appeals. (In rare cases, the Court of Appeals may choose to hear very important appeals directly, without having the case heard first in the Court of Special Appeals.) It is important to know that the Court of Appeals, unlike the process in the Court of Special Appeals, selects the appeals it wishes to hear mostly those cases that present new legal situations.
If you are appealing a small claims case from District Court, you will have to present your case over again. Otherwise, in other situations, the Circuit Court or Court of Special Appeals will make decisions based on the evidence you presented in your original case. With this type of appeal, you will only be able to present legal arguments to justify why you believe you should have won your case. You will not provide evidence again to the court.
Because the appeals process, also known as the appellate process, takes some time and expense, a party should always take the time and re-evaluate his or her case. This is especially true because the appellate process usually involves complex legal arguments, rather than the presentation of evidence. If you handled your own case before, you should consider finding an attorney for the appeal. If you do handle your own appeal, you should expect to devote a significant amount of time to your case because you will have to write the reasons for your appeal based on legal research.
In order to start an appeal in a District Court case, the losing party must file a Notice of Appeal, Form DC/CV 37  (titled Civil Appeal/Request For Transcript), within 30 days of the entry of judgment. Read the Rule: Md. Rule 7-104  The party wishing to appeal, known as the appellant, files this notice of appeal with the District Court and also pays filing fees and a deposit for a transcript of the case, if one is necessary. As with every court filing, the party that files must make sure the other party is served properly. The appellant must pay filing fees to both the District Court and to the Circuit Court. Transcript preparation may be a significant expense see the District Court's Guide to Appeal Fees . It is important to order a transcript because the purpose of the transcript is to provide the Circuit Court with all of the information about the case.
If you cannot afford to pay the costs of the appeal, see below, "What if I cannot afford to pay the costs of filing an appeal?"
If the parties to the appeal can agree to a statement of the case, then the transmittal of the entire record may not be necessary. Maryland Rule 7-109 strongly encourages parties to agree to such a statement, which describes how the appeals questions arose and how the court decided them. Read the Rule: MD Rule 7-109 
If there is no agreed-upon statement, then the appellant will need to file a legal memorandum explaining his or her appeal. The other party to the appeal, known as the appellee, may reply to the legal memorandum. Any party may request an oral argument in Circuit Court. Maryland Rule 7-113 covers many of these details, including the time for filing this paperwork. Read the Rule: MD Rule 7-113 
It is important to remember that the winning party may try to enforce a judgment during the appeals process unless the appellant takes certain steps. A judgment is stayed automatically for 10 days. An appellant then usually files a supersedeas bond (or some other security) with the District Court in order to continue the stay of judgment enforcement during the appeal. There are many details to this process, most of which are described in Maryland Rule 8-423. The Circuit Court has final authority to rule on the supersedeas bond. Read the Rule: MD Rule 8-423 
Appeals from Circuit Court cases can become quite complex. To appeal a Circuit Court decision, an appellant must file a Notice of Appeal in the Circuit Court, serve the other party, and pay the accompanying fee. (See the Revised Schedule of Circuit Court Charges, Costs and Fees .) The appellant must pay a filing fee  to the Court of Special Appeals as well. The appellant must file the notice within 30 days of the entry of the judgment and also must order the transcript from the court reporter and pay for the transcript. As with an appeal from District Court, an appellant likely will file a supersedeas bond with the lower court.
If you cannot afford to pay the costs of the appeal, see below, "What if I cannot afford to pay the costs of filing an appeal?"
Then, 10 days after filing the notice, the appellant must file with the Clerk of the Court of Special Appeals a Civil Appeal Information Report, Form CSA1 , which must contain certain facts about the case. The Court of Special Appeals may order a pre-hearing or scheduling conference in order to set dates for filings and to address other matters. In the alternative, the court may order the parties to participate in mediation to give them an opportunity to resolve the issues in the case themselves, as opposed to having the court determine the outcome of their controversy, and to avoid the time and expense of an appeal. Otherwise, the court will order the appeal to proceed. In addition, parties may streamline the appeals by creating an agreed-upon statement of the case.
In many cases, the next step in an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals is writing an appellate brief, the formal legal arguments that state why the appellant should not have lost the case in Circuit Court. An appellant also must file a record extract, taken from the transcript of the Circuit Court record. There are many rules that define how an appellant should write the brief, the time for filing the brief and how many copies the Court requires. The appellee also must file a brief in response to the appellant's brief. The rules that govern this very detailed procedure begin with Maryland Rule 8-501. The parties may also have the opportunity to participate in mediation at this stage of the appeal. A book, available in law libraries, entitled, Appellate Practice for the Maryland Lawyer, by Paul Sandler and Andrew Levy gives a comprehensive overview of appellate court procedures. Read the Rule: MD Rule 8-501  (Record Extract) Read the Rule: Md Rules, Title 17, Chapter 400  (Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Court of Special Appeals)
What if I cannot afford to pay the costs of filing an appeal?
If you choose to appeal your case and believe you cannot afford to pay the costs of filing for an appeal, you can request the requirement that these costs be prepaid be waived as well. You must prepare two separate forms, both of which are submitted to the trial court when you note (file) your appeal.
Note: The forms permit you to request a waiver of the costs of preparing the transcript, an essential part of the appeal process, in the District Court only. If your original case was heard in Circuit Court, the court cannot waive the transcript costs. You will need to pay for the costs of preparing the transcripts in those cases yourself, in order for your case to proceed.
If the appeal to Circuit Court is for a small claim, then the new trial will be an informal one before a Circuit Court judge. If the appeal to Circuit Court is for another reason, then a Circuit Court judge will decide the appeal without any oral arguments, unless one of the parties requests it. The Circuit Court may decide the appeal in the following ways:
The Circuit Court judge will write a short opinion justifying the reasons for deciding the appeal. The opinion is sent to both parties and is filed in the Clerk's Office with all of the other paperwork from the case.
In the Court of Special Appeals each side presents an oral argument that is 30 minutes long. A panel of three judges will listen to the arguments, and one of the judges will write an opinion, which gives a detailed reason for the Court's decision. It takes some time for judges to consider the case properly and to write an opinion, so the parties may not know the outcome immediately.
A Court of Special Appeals decision still might not be in favor of the appellant. In that case, the appellant has a few options remaining. First, he or she may file a motion for reconsideration with the Court of Special Appeals, according to Rule 8-605. The second option is to file a "Petition for Writ of Certiorari" with the Court of Appeals. Certiorari is Latin, meaning "to be informed." In Maryland, this Petition is a formal, lengthy written request to the Court of Appeals asking for judicial review of the decision handed down by the Court of Special Appeals. There also is a filing fee. The Court of Appeals has significant discretion in granting appeals, accepting fewer than 20% of all petitions. If an appellant has a sufficiently unique legal issue and review is desirable and in the public interest, the Court will issue a writ of certiorari and the parties will argue the case in a way similar to the procedures followed in the Court of Special Appeals. Read the Rule: MD Rule 8-605 
Congratulations, you have gotten a judgment from the court! Now you need to enforce it.
First, you might want to read some general background on collecting judgments. There is a chapter on collecting your money judgment in Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court  published by Nolo Press, a reputable California self-help legal publisher. Check with your county public library to borrow a copy or contact a law library  near you to find out if they have this title or a similar title.
Also, take a look at the booklet Post-Judgment Collection: How to Collect Your Judgment in the District Court of Maryland  from the Maryland District Court on the options on how to collect your money. This publication clearly describes the steps you need to take.
Wage Garnishment. You may need to try to garnish the wages of the person who owes you money. The Maryland District Court Brochure on Wage Garnishment  offers “how-to” help on the topic.
Illegal Debt Collection. Under Maryland law, even if you are owed money, you are not allowed to act illegally to collect the debt owed to you.
When should you collect your judgment? In general, you should try to collect the judgment as soon as possible. As time goes by, it may be harder to keep track of the person who owes you money.
Wait until the appeal period is over. If you received a judgment in small claims court, you should wait at least 30 days until the appeal period has passed. Check with the court clerk to see if an appeal has been filed. Under MD Rule 3-534  the defendant has 10 days to make a motion to amend the judgment. Under MD Rule 7-104  the Defendant has 30 days to make an appeal.
Act before the time limit on collecting a judgment expires. Basically you have 12 years to collect your judgment. Courts & Judicial Proceedings § 5-102(a)(3) . However, you can renew the judgment by contacting the court again. MD Rule 3-625 . You must renew it before the judgment expires.
Judgments are satisfied when money is paid to the plaintiff. When the defendant pays the amount owed to the plaintiff, the plaintiff has to give the defendant and file with the clerk a written statement that the judgment has been satisfied. Read the Rule: MD Rule 3-626 
In Maryland, there are a number of Administrative Agencies that have powers like the courts but are not part of the Maryland Judiciary. Administrative agencies include "any agency, board, department, district, commission, authority, commissioner, official, the Maryland Tax court, or other unit of the State or of a political subdivision of the State." Read the Rules: MD Rule 7-201  Some Maryland Administrative agencies include the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Human Resources, the Maryland Insurance Administration, the Department of Environment, and the Motor Vehicle Administration. Each agency has authority granted to them by the Maryland legislature for the area it oversees. Some of the powers that administrative agencies have include the power to issue licenses or permits, or to create regulations for businesses.
Under Maryland law, any party who is affected by an agency decision can petition for an administrative hearing. Many of the administrative hearings are conducted by the Office of Administrative Hearings  (“OAH”). OAH conducts hearings for over 30 agencies and 200 programs. Administrative Law Judges (“ALJ”) conduct OAH hearings. ALJs are lawyers appointed by the Chief Administrative Law Judge and are not employees of the agency. The rules of procedure at an OAH hearing are in Title 28 of the Code of Maryland Regulations . At the hearing, the ALJ makes a written recommendation based upon the evidence and argument presented. The agency may then choose whether or not they want to follow the ALJ’s recommendation.
Usually, parties must bring all issues and try every procedure that the agency has before filing for review in the Circuit Court. This is known as "exhaustion of remedies." The procedure for seeking review of the ALJ's decision will be included in the decision. In a few instances, a party may petition for review from the Circuit Court before exhausting all of the possible remedies. Parties may petition to the Circuit Court if there is a nonfinal order by the agency that:
Depending on why the Circuit Court is reviewing the Agency’s decision (issue being appealed), a court reviewing an administrative agency's decision will usually look at the decision in "the light most favorable to the agency." The court cannot reverse the decision of an agency just because it would have decided differently. The court will affirm the agency’s decision as long as it is considered to be legal and reasonable given the evidence. Read the Law: MD State Govt. § 10-222 , MD Rule 7-201 – 7-209 
A person seeking review of an agency decision is called the “petitioner” or “appellant.” Unless another rule or law gives the petitioner more time, he must file his petition within 30 days after the date of the agency action, the date the agency sent notice of the agency action, or the date notice of the agency action was received, whichever is latest. Read the Rule: Md. Rule 7-203 
Petitions for judicial review can be filed in the Circuit Court for the county where any party resides or has principal place of business. Advance filing fees must be paid at the time of filing, unless the case is an appeal from the State Workers' Compensation Commission or an appeal, by an individual claiming benefits, from a decision of the Board of Appeals of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation or the petitioner has gotten the fees waived. The court may waive, or put aside, the filing fee for people who cannot pay.
The caption, or beginning, of the petition must have the following format:
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR ________________
PETITION OF ____________________________
CIVIL ACTION No.________
The petition must explicitly "request judicial review," identify the action for which review is sought, and state whether the person seeking review was a party to the proceeding. Nothing else is required in the petition. A duplicate copy of the petition must be given to the clerk of the court to be sent to the agency.
If you are filing for review of a decision from the Workers' Compensation Commission, then a copy of the petition must be served by the petitioner by first class mail to the Commission and all other parties of record in the agency proceeding. Read the Law: MD State Govt. § 10-222(c) , MD Rule 7-202 , Md. Rule 7-203 , MD Ct. & Jud. Proc. § 7-201 
Filing a petition does not automatically stop the action of the agency. Petitioner has to file a motion with the court to prevent the action of the agency until the court has ruled on the appeal. The court will tell the agency about the motion and hold a hearing before ruling on the motion. The court may require the petitioner to purchase a bond while awaiting the outcome of the appeal. Read the Law: MD State Govt. § 10-222(e ), MD Rule 7-205 
After receiving notice of the petition for judicial review, the agency will have 60 days to transmit a transcript of the agency proceeding to the court. The agency may request up to 60 extra days to get the record to the court. The petitioner will need to request and pay the initial cost for a transcript of the hearing. If the petitioner fails to pay for or provide a transcript to the reviewing court, the appeal may be DISMISSED. The petitioner can file a certification of the costs with the agency and the court may award the costs of producing the transcript to the petitioner if he wins the appeal.
Parties can avoid the cost of producing a transcript by agreeing to a statement of facts. The court encourages parties to agree to a statement describing the facts that are important to the questions the court is being asked to review. The clerk of the court will send notice to all parties after receiving the record. Read the Law: MD Rule 7-206 , MD Rule 2-603 
Within 30 days after notice of receiving the record is sent out, the petitioner must file a legal memorandum outlining the basis for his appeal. The memorandum must include:
The argument section should include references to the record of the original proceeding. The argument should rely upon good legal reasoning and refer to case and statutory law. After the memorandum is filed, the agency and any other responding party will have 30 days to file responding memoranda.
Petitioners do not need to file memoranda in support of a petition for review of a decision of the Workers’ Compensation Commission because the Circuit Court reviews the evidence de novo. De novo means "anew;" the court will take a fresh look at the evidence (including the facts and the law). Read the Law: MD Rule 7-207(b) 
The court will schedule a hearing to review the case no earlier than 90 days after the court received the record, unless all parties agree not to have a hearing. Normally, the court will make a decision based just on the record, but a party may make a motion to present additional evidence at the hearing. Hearings are held without a jury, unless the hearing is an appeal of a decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission. It is very rare for the court to take any new evidence unless the petitioner has proof showing that the administrative officer did not conduct the hearing fairly.
After the hearing, the court may
These books can be found at many Circuit Court Libraries. Many contain sample documents useful in filing a petition. There are no forms for petitioning for judicial review of an administrative decision. Any potential petitioner who is not clear on what to do should consult an attorney. Circuit Court Clerks cannot give legal advice. A Clerk will not review a petition and acceptance by a Clerk does not mean that the petition meets all of the requirements of the law.
Maryland Civil Procedure Forms, Title 7: Chapter 200, Robert D. Klein.
Practice Manual for the Maryland Lawyer, Chapter 2, Jack L. B. Gohn.
Principles and Practice of Maryland Administrative Law, Arnold Rochvarg.
Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland, § 7.5, Writ of Mandamus, Paul Mark Sandler & James K. Archibald.
Judicial Review of Agency Decisions, Alan M. Wilner.
Maryland Digest 2d., Administrative Law §§ 651-821.
Maryland Law Encyclopedia, Administrative Law and Procedure §§ 64-82.
Practice Manual for the Maryland Lawyer, 4th Ed., MSBA – Volume I – Chapter 2, Administrative Law, Section VIII, F (2) - Petition for Judicial Review
Practice Manual for the Maryland Lawyer, 4th Ed., MSBA – Volume I – Chapter 2, Administrative Law Section VIII, G – Mandamus/Generally
Practice Manual for the Maryland Lawyer, 4th Ed., MSBA – Volume I – Chapter 2, Administrative Law Section VIII, H – Administrative Mandamus
Practice Manual for the Maryland Lawyer, 4th Ed., MSBA - Volume I – Chapter 2, Administrative Law Section VIII, I – Conventional Mandamus