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Decisions. Decisions. Which Maryland Court Best Suits My Case?

May 28, 2014 By Erin H. Cancienne

There are two types of trial courts in Maryland: District Court and Circuit Court. Depending on your case, you could be forced into one court or the other. However, there are times when both courts could have jurisdiction. This is known as concurrent jurisdiction. When there is concurrent jurisdiction, how do you decide which court is better for you as a party?

Concurrent jurisdiction exists for cases where the ad damnum clause (the part of the suit where you state how much money is being sought) is between $15,000 and $30,000. These are the cases where you may have a choice about where the case should be filed. A case filed in Circuit Court will allow a jury trial if one is requested, and provides a much broader scope of discovery to prepare yourself for the trial. District Court is intended for smaller cases and those that do not always need an attorney to try. District Court provides only bench trials, where the judge decides the case. here are no jury trials. There is also much less discovery allowed in District Court. 
If a case is filed in Circuit Court with a jury trial requested, you cannot move it back to the District Court for a bench trial. However, if a case is filed in District Court, you can demand a jury and have the case transferred to Circuit Court so long as the suit is requesting at least $15,000. Here are some of the features of both courts:

District CourtCircuit Court
Jurisdictional LimitsUp to $30,000$15,000 and above
Type of trialBench/JudgeBench or Jury
Discovery Allowed15 Interrogatories30 Interrogatories, 30 Requests for Production of Documents, Requests for Admissions, Depositions, Independent Medical Examinations
Motions AllowedWhile motions can be filed, they generally are not ruled on until the day of trial and therefore, are not very effective.Yes
Special RulesSome specific types of documents (including medical records and paid bills) can be admitted into evidence without a witness under some circumstances.Generally, documents need to be authenticated by a witness. However, in cases of concurrent jurisdiction, the special rules of District Court can apply.
Time to trial6-12 monthsA year or more

 When facing the decision of being in District Court or Circuit Court, how do you decide what to do? Here are some of the considerations in making that decision:

  • Is there a possibility of a verdict exceeding $30,000?
  • Do you have a strong Summary Judgment argument?
  • Would your case be stronger with depositions, document production, or additional discovery?
  • Is there a reason you want the case timeline to be long or short (for example, witnesses are planning a move, or will be returning from a military assignment)?
  • What county is your case filed in?
  • Are juries in that county more liberal or more conservative?
  • Are District Court judges in that county more liberal or more conservative?
  • Would demanding a jury cause Plaintiff’s counsel to consider settling for a lesser amount to avoid a more complex litigation?

Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” answer on which court is better for any particular case. Each case is unique. However, the attorneys at DeCaro Doran offer advice on this issue regularly to our clients. When you are faced with this decision, contact our office and we can help you navigate to the right court for your case.