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Maryland Federal Courts

US DistCtMaryland.gifEach state has at least one United States District Court. Maryland has two–one located Baltimore City (Northern Division), and one in Greenbelt (Southern Division).

Understanding the Federal Courts

The President of the United States appoints federal judges for life, after confirmation by the Senate. The salaries are set–in 2014, they make $199,100, an increase of $5,100 over 2013 (which had been stagnant since 2009). There are other judges called magistrates, who assist the federal judges, and are appointed by the federal district judges. Magistrates often resolve discovery disputes and pre-trial motions. With permission of the parties, they can oversee trials.

One of the best perks of the federal courts is electronic documents. Nearly all documents are filed electronically, and automatically e-mailed to all parties, or their lawyers. This eliminates the need and cost of mailing and printouts, and ensures timely receipt of pleadings and letters. The public can view documents through PACER by typing in the case number. Lawyers and litigants representing themselves can also file documents electronically. Most state courts still require documents to be filed with paper, and the case pleadings must be viewed in person at the courthouse.
Jurors in federal court are typically selected from voter’s registration list and motor vehicle records.

Rules

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure govern the federal courts. These rules dictate how deadlines are calculated, the process for filing complaints, service of suponeas and handling post-trial motions and appeals. Additionally, the individual courts each have local rules http://www.mdd.uscourts.gov/localrules/localrules.html that discuss the preferences of that court. This can usually be found on the court’s website, and often includes things like the time allowed for opening and closing arguments, and how to handle jury instructions.

Can My Case Be Filed In Federal Court?

Cases can be filed in federal court if there is diversity or a federal question. Federal question doesn’t typically apply in automobile accident cases. Diversity means that the plaintiff (victim/injured party) lives in a different state from each of the defendants. Importantly, this is determined when the lawsuit is filed, not when the accident happens. Diversity is determined at the moment the lawsuit is filed (not when the injury or negligence occurred). One other requirement is that the case must be filed for more than $75,000.00.

Your lawyer will likely make the decision about the best court to proceed in. They will consider the jury pool, difficulty of the rules, the expected expenses, ease of getting experts, and the time to get to a trial.