Journalist's Guide

delinquency matters (many are taken care of within the Department of Juvenile Services) and child abuse and neglect matters that require an order from a court.

Juvenile proceedings in Maryland are open, unless there is a request to close the hearing, but Juvenile Court files are sealed. The terminology used in Juvenile Court is much different from that used in adult court. See the section on Juvenile Court. Court of Special Appeals The Court of Special Appeals, located in the Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building in Annapolis, is the state’s second highest court. It is the court of general appellate jurisdiction – appeals from Circuit Courts are heard here unless the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, grants a petition to hear the case. The Court of Special Appeals has 15 active judges. This Court is not a fact-finding body but only hears arguments about decisions made by the court below. Appeals begin with a Notice of Appeal, which must be filed in the Circuit Court within 30 days of the order or judgment being appealed. The party challenging a Circuit Court decision is the appellant and the party defending the Circuit Court decision is the appellee ; the appellee also can cross-appeal aspects of the Circuit Court decision with which they disagree. Once an appeal has been initiated, the court’s Clerk’s Office sets a briefing schedule. The appellant files a brief first, then the appellee; the appellant may file a reply brief that responds to the appellee’s arguments. Briefs are documents in which the parties argue their positions to the court – appellants explain why the Circuit Court was wrong, appellees explain why the decision was correct. Appellants also must prepare and file a Record Extract, which is a collection of the most important documents and transcripts from the Circuit Court. Briefs and record extracts are filed well in advance of oral arguments. Reporters may wish to read the briefs or talk to the lawyers before attending arguments. It will be excellent background. The Clerk’s Office can provide the name and contact information of the attorneys involved. Each case is decided by a panel of three judges. The Court hears oral arguments in about half of its cases, and the remainder are submitted and decided based on the briefs. The briefing schedule will establish the month the case will be considered submitted, and the court’s website publishes a list of the cases being argued each month. Oral arguments generally last 20 minutes for each side and consist of legal arguments made entirely by lawyers, with no witnesses or juries. The judges can, and usually do, ask questions. Cases are decided in written opinions the Court issues sometime after argument. With the exception of certain cases involving children and appeals from suppression motions, there are no fixed deadlines for when the Court must decide a case. Cases are decided by a vote of the three judges; a judge who disagrees with the majority may write a separate dissenting opinion, and a judge who agrees with the result but for a different reason may write a separate concurring opinion. Most opinions are unreported, which means they apply only to the parties in that case and may not be cited as binding precedent in other cases. Reported opinions are binding


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