Appeal or Enforce a Decision

Enforcing a Judgment

Even if you win your case, the process may not be over. For more information about enforcing a court's judgment, see How to Enforce the Judgment If You Win.

Preparing Your Appeal

If you lose your case and disagree with the decision, you always have a right to appeal it. That means that you would have to present your case to another court. That court would be on a higher level and have the authority to hear your case. For example, if you lost your case in District Court, you may appeal to Circuit Court. If your case began in the Circuit Court, you may appeal to the Court of Special Appeals. If your case is in Circuit Court (but is an appeal from District Court), you may appeal to the Court of Appeals in Annapolis.

The Court of Appeals is the state's highest court, hearing appeals made from the Court of Special Appeals. (In rare cases, the Court of Appeals may choose to hear very important appeals directly, without having the case heard first in the Court of Special Appeals.) It is important to know that the Court of Appeals, unlike the process in the Court of Special Appeals, selects the appeals it wishes to hear mostly those cases that present new legal situations.

If you are appealing a small claims case from District Court, you will have to present your case over again. Otherwise, in other situations, the Circuit Court or Court of Special Appeals will make decisions based on the evidence you presented in your original case. With this type of appeal, you will only be able to present legal arguments to justify why you believe you should have won your case. You will not provide evidence again to the court.

Because the appeals process, also known as the appellate process, takes some time and expense, a party should always take the time and re-evaluate his or her case. This is especially true because the appellate process usually involves complex legal arguments, rather than the presentation of evidence. If you handled your own case before, you should consider finding an attorney for the appeal. If you do handle your own appeal, you should expect to devote a significant amount of time to your case because you will have to write the reasons for your appeal based on legal research.

Filing Your Appeal

From District Court to Circuit Court

In order to start an appeal in a District Court case, the losing party must file a Notice of Appeal, Form DC/CV 37  (titled Civil Appeal/Request For Transcript), within 30 days of the entry of judgment.

Read the Rule: Md. Rule 7-104 

The party wishing to appeal, known as the appellant, files this notice of appeal with the District Court and also pays filing fees and a deposit for a transcript of the case, if one is necessary. As with every court filing, the party that files must make sure the other party is served properly. The appellant must pay filing fees to both the District Court and to the Circuit Court. Transcript preparation may be a significant expense see the District Court's Guide to Appeal Fees. It is important to order a transcript because the purpose of the transcript is to provide the Circuit Court with all of the information about the case.

If you cannot afford to pay the costs of the appeal, see below, "What if I cannot afford to pay the costs of filing an appeal?"

If the parties to the appeal can agree to a statement of the case, then the transmittal of the entire record may not be necessary. Maryland Rule 7-109 strongly encourages parties to agree to such a statement, which describes how the appeals questions arose and how the court decided them. 

Read the Rule: Md. Rule 7-109

If there is no agreed-upon statement, then the appellant will need to file a legal memorandum explaining his or her appeal. The other party to the appeal, known as the appellee, may reply to the legal memorandum. Any party may request an oral argument in Circuit Court. Maryland Rule 7-113 covers many of these details, including the time for filing this paperwork.

Read the Rule: Md. Rule 7-113

It is important to remember that the winning party may try to enforce a judgment during the appeals process unless the appellant takes certain steps. A judgment is stayed automatically for 10 days. An appellant then usually files a supersedeas bond (or some other security) with the District Court in order to continue the stay of judgment enforcement during the appeal. There are many details to this process, most of which are described in Maryland Rule 8-423. The Circuit Court has final authority to rule on the supersedeas bond.

Read the Rule: Md. Rule 8-423

From Circuit Court to the Court of Special Appeals

Appeals from Circuit Court cases can become quite complex. To appeal a Circuit Court decision, an appellant must file a Notice of Appeal in the Circuit Court, serve the other party, and pay the accompanying fee. (See the Revised Schedule of Circuit Court Charges, Costs and Fees.)  The appellant must pay a filing fee to the Court of Special Appeals as well. The appellant must file the notice within 30 days of the entry of the judgment and also must order the transcript from the court reporter and pay for the transcript. As with an appeal from District Court, an appellant likely will file a supersedeas bond with the lower court.

If you cannot afford to pay the costs of the appeal, see below, "What if I cannot afford to pay the costs of filing an appeal?"

Then, 10 days after filing the notice, the appellant must file with the Clerk of the Court of Special Appeals a Civil Appeal Information Report, Form CSA1, which must contain certain facts about the case. The Court of Special Appeals may order a pre-hearing or scheduling conference in order to set dates for filings and to address other matters.  In the alternative, the court may order the parties to participate in mediation to give them an opportunity to resolve the issues in the case themselves, as opposed to having the court determine the outcome of their controversy, and to avoid the time and expense of an appeal. Otherwise, the court will order the appeal to proceed. In addition, parties may streamline the appeals by creating an agreed-upon statement of the case.

Read the Rule: Md. Rule 8-202

In many cases, the next step in an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals is writing an appellate brief, the formal legal arguments that state why the appellant should not have lost the case in Circuit Court. An appellant also must file a record extract, taken from the transcript of the Circuit Court record. There are many rules that define how an appellant should write the brief, the time for filing the brief and how many copies the Court requires. The appellee also must file a brief in response to the appellant's brief. The rules that govern this very detailed procedure begin with Maryland Rule 8-501. The parties may also have the opportunity to participate in mediation at this stage of the appeal. A book, available in law libraries, entitled, Appellate Practice for the Maryland Lawyer, by Paul Sandler and Andrew Levy gives a comprehensive overview of appellate court procedures.

Read the Rule: Md. Rule 8-501 (Record Extract); Md. Rules, Title 17, Chapter 400 (Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Court of Special Appeals)

What if I cannot afford to pay the costs of filing an appeal?

If you choose to appeal your case and believe you cannot afford to pay the costs of filing for an appeal, you can request the requirement that these costs be prepaid be waived as well.  You must prepare two separate forms, both of which are submitted to the trial court when you note (file) your appeal.

  1. Complete the Request for Waiver of Prepaid Costs for Assembling the Record for an Appeal.
  2. Complete the Request for Waiver of Prepaid Appellate Costs.
  3. Submit BOTH documents to the trial court – the court that heard your original case.
  4. The trial court will decide the first request, then send the paperwork to the court hearing the appeal.  The court hearing the appeal will decide the second request.
  5. A copy of both orders will be sent to you.
  6. If your request is denied, in whole or in part, you must pay the unwaived portion of the costs within 10 days of the date of the order.

Note: The forms permit you to request a waiver of the costs of preparing the transcript, an essential part of the appeal process, in the District Court only. If your original case was heard in Circuit Court, the court cannot waive the transcript costs. You will need to pay for the costs of preparing the transcripts in those cases yourself, in order for your case to proceed.

How the Courts Decide the Appeal

If the appeal to Circuit Court is for a small claim, then the new trial will be an informal one before a Circuit Court judge. If the appeal to Circuit Court is for another reason, then a Circuit Court judge will decide the appeal without any oral arguments, unless one of the parties requests it. The Circuit Court may decide the appeal in the following ways:

  • Uphold, or affirm, the judgment of the District Court
  • Reverse, or vacate, the judgment of the District Court
  • Modify the judgment
  • Tell the District Court to hold further proceedings, known as a remand
  • Dismiss the appeal because it was not properly filed or for another technical reason

The Circuit Court judge will write a short opinion justifying the reasons for deciding the appeal. The opinion is sent to both parties and is filed in the Clerk's Office with all of the other paperwork from the case.

In the Court of Special Appeals each side presents an oral argument that is 30 minutes long. A panel of three judges will listen to the arguments, and one of the judges will write an opinion, which gives a detailed reason for the Court's decision. It takes some time for judges to consider the case properly and to write an opinion, so the parties may not know the outcome immediately.

Appealing an Appeal

A Court of Special Appeals decision still might not be in favor of the appellant. In that case, the appellant has a few options remaining. First, he or she may file a motion for reconsideration with the Court of Special Appeals, according to Rule 8-605. The second option is to file a "Petition for Writ of Certiorari" with the Court of Appeals. Certiorari is Latin, meaning "to be informed." In Maryland, this Petition is a formal, lengthy written request to the Court of Appeals asking for judicial review of the decision handed down by the Court of Special Appeals. There also is a filing fee. The Court of Appeals has significant discretion in granting appeals, accepting fewer than 20% of all petitions. If an appellant has a sufficiently unique legal issue and review is desirable and in the public interest, the Court will issue a writ of certiorari and the parties will argue the case in a way similar to the procedures followed in the Court of Special Appeals.

Read the Rule: Md. Rule 8-605

Is this legal advice?

This site offers legal information, not legal advice.  We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options.  However we do not provide legal advice - the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney.  The Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, sponsors this site.  In the absence of file-specific attribution or copyright, the Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library may hold the copyright to parts of this website. You are free to copy the information for your own use or for other non-commercial purposes with the following language “Source: Maryland's People’s Law Library – © Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library, 2020.”