This is page is intended to serve as a self-help guide for filing your appeal without a lawyer in Maryland. Our goal is to help non-lawyers gain a basic understanding of how the appeal process works in Maryland so that they can represent themselves in their appeal if they are not able to get a lawyer.
Maryland has two levels of appeals courts: the Court of Special Appeals and the Court of Appeals. The Court of Special Appeals (COSA) is the intermediary or entry-level appellate court. The Court of Appeals is Maryland’s version of the Supreme Court. This page will focus on appeals in the COSA.
Direct vs. Indirect Appeals
The very first step in any appeal to the COSA is figuring out whether your case is a “direct” appeal or an “indirect” appeal. A “direct appeal” means you have an automatic right to appeal the decision of the lower court. You don’t have to ask for permission to file a direct appeal. For an “indirect appeal” you do NOT have the right to an appeal and you must ask the court for permission to file an appeal.
Figuring out which type of appeal you need to bring is very important because it will determine what you need to file to start the appeal process. To start the process in a direct appeal case, you would file a “Notice of Appeal.” This is just a form that notifies the court that you will be appealing the lower court’s decision. For indirect appeals, you would need to file an Application for Leave to Appeal. This is like a motion asking for the court to give you formal permission to appeal your case. Your appeal will not start unless and until this application for leave is granted.
Whether you have a direct or indirect appeal will depend on why type of case you are appeal from. Most Circuit Court cases are direct appeals and certain types of special proceedings are indirect appeals. The chart below outlines what types of cases will be direct vs. indirect appeals.
|DIRECT APPEALS||INDIRECT APPEALS|
|Civil & criminal jury trials and bench trials||Criminal guilty pleas|
|All other general matters in Circuit Court||Revocation of probation|
|Inmate grievance cases|
|Victim’s rights cases|
|Criminal cases in which defendant is committed based on insanity|
Guide for Direct Appeals in COSA
This section will offer a step-by-step guide for how to bring a direct appeal in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
- Final Judgement or Appealable Order In order to file an appeal there first must be some type of “final” decision by the lower court. A final judgment or appealable order exists when the Circuit Court makes some final resolution of the case and there is no other action the parties can take. An order dismissing a case or granting summary judgment on all claims would be examples of final, appealable orders. A jury or bench verdict would also be examples. In criminal cases, however, the judgment of the Circuit Court is not considered “final” and appealable until sentencing is complete.If you want to appeal a final order of the Circuit Court you will need to figure out the date that the “final appealable order” was formally entered. The entry date of an order means the date the clerk records the judgment or order on the case docket (which is almost always the same day it is issued by the court). Case docket entries can be accessed online through Maryland Judiciary Case Search.
- Filing the Notice of Appeal & Appeal Information Report The first step in a direct appeal is filing a form called a “Notice of Appeal” along with an appeal information report (in most civil cases). The Notice of Appeal MUST be filed withing 30 days of the final order. If you fail to file the Notice of Appeal within this 30 day time frame you could lose your right to appeal.The Notice of Appeal gets filed with the clerk of the Circuit Court along with the applicable filing fee. The Notice of Appeal must include a certificate of service confirming that a copy of the notice has been sent to all parties in the case.
- Getting Transcripts of the Circuit Court Proceeding If you want to appeal a case, you will be required to order and pay for transcripts of all proceedings in the Circuit Court that are relevant to the issues on appeal.To get transcripts you will need to contact a local court reporting company. They will get the audio files from the court and transcribe them. This can be somewhat expensive depending on how long the proceeding is. Transcription of a week-long trial can easily cost several thousand dollars.
- Prepare a Record Extract If you are appealing in a civil case you will be required to submit a record extract. A record extract is a copy of all relevant documents filed in the case (pleadings, docket entries, transcripts of proceedings, etc.). The record extract can NOT include anything that was part of the original case (e.g., a newly discovered document). Everything in the record extract should be in chronological order based on when they were file in the case.
- File a Brief If you are appealing you will need to file an appellant’s brief within 40 days after the date that the lower court record is filed in the COSA. At the start of the appeal, you should get a “briefing notice” from the COSA clerk setting forth the due dates for all the various briefs.Your appellant’s brief is critically important to the outcome of your case. This is the document that will tell the appellate court judges what your case is about and why they should overturn the decision of the lower court. The brief needs to look a certain way and contain certain sections (e.g., cover page, questions presented, etc.).
A sample brief and a summary of the rules for the contents of a brief can be found on our Sample Appellate Brief page. You will need to file 15 copies of your brief and 10 copies of your record extract.
After your brief is filed, the opposing party gets to file their own appellee’s brief in response. You have the option of filing a “reply brief” 20 days after the appellee’s brief is filed, but this is not required.
- Oral Arguments After all the briefs have been filed in the appeal, the case will either be scheduled for oral arguments or placed on the COSA’s summary proceeding calendar. If the case goes on the summary proceeding calendar, it will be decided without any oral arguments.If oral arguments are held, they will be in Annapolis at the Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building. At oral arguments, each party is given an allotted amount of time to present their case to a panel of 3-judges. The judges will often interject with questions about various points of law or issues in the case. Videos of oral arguments can be viewed on the COSA website. The court does not make any decision at the close of oral arguments.
- Opinion of the Court At some point after oral arguments (or after the summary proceeding date if there are no oral arguments) the panel of 3 judges will meet to confer on the case and vote on how it should be decided. The decision of the COSA is determined by a simple majority vote (2 of the 3 judges).One of the judges will then draft a written opinion announcing the court’s
decision and explaining the reasoning for it. In most cases, there is no set timeframe for this process. The COSA can take as long as it wants or needs to decide a case and issue an opinion. There is an exception to this rule in cases involving child custody matters. In these cases, the COSA will issue its decision within 60 days after oral arguments.
- Reconsideration or Further Appeal If you are not happy with the COSA’s decision you have 2 options. First, you can file a Motion for Reconsideration. This is a motion asking the 3-judge panel to change their minds and render a different decision. These requests are seldom granted, for obvious reasons. The second option is to seek further review of the case by the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest appellate court. For more about this, see our page on Appealing to the Court of Appeals.
Frequently Asked Maryland Appeals Questions
How do I Appeal a Circuit Court Decision in Maryland?
The first step in appealing a decision of a Circuit Court in Maryland is filing what is called a Notice of Appeal. The Notice of Appeal gets filed in the court that decided the case and must be served on all parties in the case. A filing fee will also be required for filing a Notice of Appeal.
How Long Do You Have to Appeal a Circuit Court Decision in Maryland?
30 days. If you want to appeal a final decision of a Circuit Court in Maryland, you must file the required Notice of Appeal within 30 days after the date of that final order or decision. If you fail to file a Notice of Appeal within 30 days you will lose your right to an appeal.