District Court Procedures

Yesterday I spent the morning in the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City. I was there for a trial on an injury case from a Baltimore car accident. The defendant driver was a Russian immigrant who did not speak English. His defense attorney from Geico Insurance had done what she was supposed to do- file a request for an interpreter with the court. In fact, she had done it three times, because the first two times the court sent the request back to her, even though she had done it correctly. Ultimately, the case got postponed because the interpreter the court selected had car trouble and wasn’t able to get to the courthouse.

But the problems defense counsel had getting the interpreter scheduled in the first place got me thinking about how efficiently different Maryland courts are administered. For example, the District Court of Maryland is a statewide unified system. There are District Court locations in all of Maryland’s counties and Baltimore City, but the system itself is funded and administered at the state level. This is great in that all the locations with similar procedures and that share a common set of forms and rules.

But on the other hand, I think most experienced Maryland lawyers have shared my experience that some of these courts seem to work more efficiently than others. For example, in a multi-defendant case, some locations automatically continue a trial date when a new summons is requested for an unserved defendant, while others do not. This can be really confusing if you often practice in a variety of locations. At Miller & Zois, we practice in every locality in the state. This means we have to pay close attention to the procedures each locality uses in setting cases for trial.

It also seems like the procedures for specially setting cases varies by district. In some counties your case will be set on its own docket, in a particular courtroom. Other places, specially set means more than one case will be on the docket, but the docket will be only specially set cases. I have also had specially set cases that were for some reason left on the regular afternoon docket.

I can’t figure out why there are so many differences in what is essentially a unified court system. It would have to be more efficient if these kinds of things worked the same statewide.