Journalist's Guide

Common Law : The case law developed by the Courts of England as it existed on July 4, 1776, except to the extent inconsistent with the Maryland Constitution and subject to being changed by statute. Also called “case law.” Commitment Order : A court order directing an individual be kept in custody, usually in a penal or mental facility. Complaint : A civil lawsuit, filed in the district or Circuit Courts. Concurrent Jurisdiction : Jurisdiction held by two courts over the same type of case (compare “Exclusive Jurisdiction”). Concurrent Sentences : Sentences served at the same time (compare “Consecutive Sentences”). Confession : A statement by an individual, either oral or written, admitting they committed a certain offense (compare “Admission”). Consecutive Sentences : Two or more sentences served continuously, one right after the other (compare “Concurrent Sentences”). Contempt (Civil) : Noncompliance with a court order or rule that affects another person and that is punished to compel compliance. Contempt (Criminal) : An act or omission that obstructs the orderly administration of justice or impairs the dignity, respect, or authority of the court and is punished to vindicate the honor of the court. Continuance : A postponement or delay in a court proceeding granted by a court on either oral or written motion. Costs : Fees and charges required by law to be paid to the court, the amount of which is set by statute or court rule or by an administrator authorized by law to do so. Count : A separate charge in a charging document or separate cause of action in a civil complaint. Court of Appeals : Maryland’s highest appellate court, where it is the Court’s discretion whether to hear the case on appeal. Court of Special Appeals : Maryland’s intermediate appellate court wherein review is ordinarily a matter of right and is not up to the Court’s discretion. Declaratory judgment : One which declares the rights of the parties or expresses the opinion of the court on a question of law, without ordering anything to be done. Default : Occurs when a defendant fails to file a response to a lawsuit within the time allowed, or fails to appear at the trial. De Novo : Translated from Latin “for new,” trying a matter anew as if it had not been heard before. In Maryland, most criminal charges are heard de novo when appealed from the District Court to a Circuit Court. Retrial of a case. Defendant : A person against whom a civil suit is filed or, in a criminal action, a person who has been charged with a violation of the law or criminal wrongdoing.


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