Maryland Courts

About District Court

General Background | Mission Statement | Statistics | Educational Material | Timeline

The jurisdiction of the court includes all landlord-tenant cases, replevin actions, motor vehicle violations, misdemeanors and certain felonies. In civil cases the District Court has exclusive jurisdiction in claims for $5,000 or less, and concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit courts in claims for amounts above $5,000 but less than $30,000. The jurisdiction of the District Court is concurrent with that of the circuit court in criminal cases, classified as misdemeanors and certain felonies, in which the penalty may be confinement for 3 years or more or a fine of $2,500 or more. The District Court does not conduct jury trials.

General Background

The District Court of Maryland was created by an amendment to the Maryland Constitution and came into existence on July 5, 1971. It is a fully state-funded court of record possessing statewide jurisdiction.

A constitutional amendment passed in 1969 and ratified in the general election of 1970 created the District Court in 1971. When the Court began operating on July 5, 1971, it replaced a confusing system of local magistrates, justices of the peace, and People’s Courts, each with its own rules and procedures. Under the old system, trials were held in homes, basements of retail establishments, or other unsuitable places. Often, untrained magistrates or justices of the peace staffed these courts. As a result, the quality of justice varied from county to county and failed to provide the citizens of Maryland a judicial system that deserved their full trust and confidence.

The District Court, with headquarters located in Annapolis, is a statewide court with 34 locations in 12 districts. Effective July 1, 2013, a staff of more than 1,300 including 115 judges, plus the Chief Judge, ensures its mission—providing equal and exact justice for all who are involved in litigation before the Court.

District Court judges
must be members of the Maryland Bar, at least 30 years old, and must reside in the county in which they sit. Most importantly, each must meet high standards of professionalism and personal integrity. Judges are selected by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate.

The District Court, one of just two general trial courts in Maryland, has seen tremendous growth since its inception in 1971. In its first year, the Court processed just under 800,000 cases; today, more than two million cases are filed annually. Those cases cover a wide variety of issues, including:
landlord-tenant disputes;
replevin claims, which seek the recovery of goods or property;
motor vehicle violations, ranging from parking tickets to driving under the influence of alcohol;
civil lawsuits for up to $30,000;
criminal misdemeanors and certain felonies; and
bail and preliminary hearings for any crime charged in Maryland.
The District Court does not conduct jury trials. In those instances where a party to a case is entitled to and requests a jury trial, the case is moved to a circuit court. As a result, civil claims for between $5,000 and $30,000, and certain criminal offenses can be heard in either District Court or circuit court.

With such broad jurisdiction, it should come as no surprise that most Maryland citizens with court business visit the District Court. Many individuals choose to represent themselves, especially in civil disputes over small amounts. In that sense, the District Court is truly a people’s court.

The Court and its employees are proud to continue the tradition of providing excellent service to the people of Maryland.

Mission Statement

It is the mission of the District Court of Maryland to provide equal and exact justice for all who are involved in litigation before the Court.

It is the sworn obligation of the judges of the Court to ensure that every case tried herein is adjudicated expeditiously, courteously, and according to law, and with the fullest protection for the rights of all who are involved, for the most extraordinary aspect of the judiciary in a free society is that even while exercising the vast authority entrusted to them, judges remain the servants, and not the masters, of those on whom they sit in judgment.

It is the function of the nonjudicial employees of the District Court to facilitate the hearing and processing of all cases within the Court’s jurisdiction, and to deal fairly, courteously, and patiently with all with whom they come into contact, without regard to age, race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, or political or social standing.

It was to ensure the fulfillment of these ideas that this Court was founded, and its commitment to them must always remain unwavering and unyielding.

Statistics

The numbers reported here are for internal tracking purposes only. For external reporting purposes, refer to the Maryland Judiciary's annual Statistical Abstract.

By month and calendar year:
2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014


FY05, FY06, FY07, FY08, FY09, FY10, FY11, FY12, FY13, FY14

Educational Material

  • About District Court: How a case moves through the courts (Power point presentation)

  • About District Court Audio: WMA format file (approx. 6 min. broadband download.)Companion audio (approx. 1 hour presentation) for About District Court power point from Governor's Academy 8/2005. Narrated by former Chief Judge Ben. C. Clyburn.

  • Choices: Companion lesson plan for school visit by former Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn. Lesson focuses upon choices made by youth.

  • School presentations:
    Separation of Power (5-07)
    What would you do? (5-07)

Timeline