By Sara Witman
Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander
Three Court of Special Appeals insiders offered a peak into Maryland appeals at the LLAM program, “Libraries and the Appellate Process” on October 12. The Clerk of the Court of Special Appeals, Leslie Gradet, as well as Deputy Clerk Greg Hilton and Staff Attorney Jeffrey Ross, spoke to over 20 LLAM members at the Maryland State Law Library on a beautiful autumn morning.
After an introduction from LLAM Vice President Mary Jo Lazun, Leslie Gradet started the program by offering a background on the Court of Special Appeals (COSA). She described how the COSA and the Court of Appeals (COA) differed. Specifically, the COSA is an intermediate appellate court and only a fraction of the decided COSA cases are reported, as opposed to the Court of Appeals decisions, all of which are reported.
Leslie then explained how parties make a notice of appeal. Interestingly, it is the responsibility of the appellant to order and pay for the transcript from the lower court. Greg Hilton described how the transcripts are part of “the record” for the case, which also consists of the docket entries, pleadings, and papers filed in the Circuit Court, as well as evidence.
One surprising detail was that about a third of civil cases are referred for a pre-hearing conference, which now includes the possibility of recommendation for mediation. Most of these mediated cases are heard by a retired judge and someone from the Office of Mediation. Apparently, it’s not too late to work things out even at the appellate level.
Greg Hilton and Jeffrey Ross then delved more deeply into relevant substantive legal issues. The big ones that the speakers discussed in detail were finality (for example, is the lower court’s judgment final for all claims against all parties?) and the standard of review (e.g., were the issues preserved, that is were they raised at the lower court?). Hearing how people who deal with these issues every day and how they approach them was particularly informative.
The speakers also described how they tackle legal research, using statutes, COMAR, law reviews, Lexis, and free tools such as the People’s Law Library.
Finally, Greg Hilton gave us a sneak peak into the future of digital records at the court, which will include electronic case and document management. The idea is to create a single system that will connect courts at all levels within the Judiciary and allow for electronic filing, document access, electronic fee collection, and more. Currently, the Judiciary has established an Advisory Committee and they have posted some information on their website at http://www.courts.state.md.us/mdec