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Self-Help

Use this page as a starting point and supplement for your legal research. It does not contain legal advice or referrals and is not intended to be an exhaustive legal research resource. More online resources may be found on the Legal Links page.

Getting Started: Understanding the Courts

Montgomery County has two District Court locations (Rockville and Silver Spring) and one Circuit Court.

The following resources will help you better understand how to start a case in Maryland:

Law Library Self-Help Brochures

Understanding District Court Cases

The District Court of Maryland is the lowest trial court. Note that the District Court does not conduct jury trials. District Court Cases include the following:.

  • Small claims (can range from $5,000-$30,000)
  • Domestic violence/peace orders
  • Landlord-tenant disputes
  • Return of property
  • Some criminal cases

Understanding Circuit Court Cases

The Circuit Court is the highest trial court and handles the following types of cases:

Civil and Family Cases

Civil cases involve a disagreement between two private parties, which can be persons or companies. One party brings a lawsuit against the other party. Civil cases in the Circuit Court include:

  • Jury trials
  • Family cases such as adoption, change of name, divorce, guardianship, psychological evaluation, domestic violence, etc.
  • Larger claims ($5,000 or more)
  • Cases appealed up from the District Court, Orphans’ Court, and some administrative agencies

Understanding Civil Cases

Understanding Family Cases

Understanding Guardianship Cases

Understanding Juvenile Cases

Criminal Cases

Criminal Cases involve breaking the law. A Maryland criminal case starts with an accusation that the defendant broke the law. The State of Maryland is the party that prosecutes criminal charges in court. Traffic cases are also considered criminal cases.

Understanding Criminal Cases

Understanding Appellate Court Cases

The Court of Special Appeals is Maryland’s intermediate appellate court that reviews judgments of the Circuit and Orphans’ Courts.

The Court of Appeals is the highest court in Maryland. It reviews selected cases on points of law, legislative redistricting, and removal of certain state officials.

Both courts are in Annapolis, Maryland.

Download the Maryland Court of Special Appeals Guide for Self-Representation (PDF)

To find and hire a lawyer, you can consult local and state-wide lawyer directories in the Law Library. You can also locate an attorney via the Montgomery County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service Monday-Friday, 9:00am - 1:00pm, phone 301-279-9100, or visit them on the 2nd floor of the South Tower, Rms 2540-2542.

To find low-cost and/or free legal help, the Maryland Judiciary and various local organizations offer a patchwork of services that range in scope from legal advice to legal representation.

NOTE: the Law Library can only offer legal research assistance, not legal advice and referrals.

The following pages provide resources for finding legal assistance and understanding the process of working with a lawyer:

When you call the Family Law Hotline, you will talk briefly with an lawyer for free. The lawyer will give you basic information about Maryland family law to help you understand your rights and legal options. The lawyer can answer your questions about a range of family topics, from divorce to guardianship.

Phone: 800-845-8550
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:30am - 4:30pm

How do I represent myself?

Non-English Help

There are several online resources for non-English speakers:

Apostille Process - Standard Certification of Documents for International Use Guide

Download the Law Library Guide to the Apostille Process (PDF)

Civil Rights

Download the Law Library Knowing & Safeguarding your Constitutional Rights Handout (PDF)

The Montgomery County Office of Human Rights investigates incidents of hate/violence and complaints of discrimination.

Address: 21 Maryland Avenue, Suite 330, Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: 240-777-8450
Email: Human-Rights.Administration@montgomerycountymd.gov

People's Law Library of Maryland - Civil Rights Articles

Consumer Rights

The Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection investigates and resolves consumer complaints, engages in consumer education and outreach, licenses certain businesses, and administers several programs.

Address: 100 Maryland Ave, Suite 330, Rockville, MD 20850
Main phone: 240-777-3636
Anonymous tip line: 240-777-3681

The Maryland Attorney General's Office, Consumer Protection Division provides mediation services to consumers to help resolve complaints against businesses and health insurance carriers. The Division also provides information about complaints that have been filed against businesses, information regarding new home builder or health club registration, and publications to help consumers make good decisions in the marketplace.

People's Law Library of Maryland - Consumer Law Information

Health Law

The Maryland Attorney General's Office, Consumer Protection Division, Health Education and Advocacy Unit offers mediation services to consumers who have a billing dispute with their healthcare provider or a coverage dispute with their HMO or health insurance company.

People's Law Library of Maryland - Health Law Information

Immigration and Undocumented Persons

Download the Law Library Montgomery County Legal Immigration Services Providers List (PDF)

Download the Maryland Judiciary Legal Help and Protection for Undocumented Persons Brochure (PDF)

Download the Maryland Judiciary Asistencia Legal y Protección para Indocumentados (PDF)

People’s Law Library of Maryland - Immigration Law

Internet Privacy and Security

Download the Law Library Guide to Internet Privacy (PDF)

The Maryland Attorney General’s Office, Consumer Protection Division provides resources for making complaints and learning about Internet security issues.

Landlord/Tenant Matters

Download the Law Library Landlord/Tenant & Leases Guide (PDF), which provides basic information about landlord/tenant law, referencing Maryland and Montgomery County law, library books, and Montgomery County agencies.

Landlord/tenant cases typically start in District Court:

  • 191 East Jefferson St., Rockville, MD 20850, Phone: 800-944-1341
  • 8552 Second Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20910, Phone: 301-563-8500

The Montgomery County Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs provides landlord/tenant legal information on such topics as security deposits, eviction, rent increases, beginning/ending a tenancy, complaints, forms, wear and tear, etc.

The Montgomery County Landlord-Tenant Handbook outlines landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities. Translated versions include Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

People's Law Library of Maryland - Landlord/Tenant Articles

Military Service Verification

Access the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Military Service Verification website to check to see if someone is serving in the military. Name and social security number or birthdate needed.

Neighbor Law

Download the Being a Good Neighbor Handout (PDF)

Services for Seniors and Elder Law

Download an Elder Law Resources Handout (PDF)

Wills, Estate Law, Health Directives, and Power of Attorney

Download the Law Library Wills Guide (PDF) - general information about wills — what they are, requirements, safekeeping, etc.

Download the Law Library Powers of Attorney Guide (PDF) - basic explanation of an Advance Directive and Financial Power of Attorney

Research Maryland Code, Estates and Trusts Article, §17–203 for information about Limited Power of Attorney

The Register of Wills in Montgomery County appoints personal representatives to administer decedents’ estates and oversees the proper and timely administration of these proceedings. The office also assists and advises the public in the preparation of all required forms; maintains and preserves the permanent record of all proceedings; serves as the Clerk to the Orphans’ Court; tracks estates and refers delinquent matters to the Court; determines and collects inheritance taxes and probate fees/court costs; audits accounts of personal representatives and guardians; mails various notices and court orders to interested persons; and verifies compliance with court orders.

Address: 50 Maryland Avenue, North Tower 3rd Floor, Room 3220, Rockville, MD 20850
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30am - 4:30pm
Phone: 240-777-9600

Review slides from the Maryland Legal Aid Presentation on Wills & Advance Planning (PDF)

People's Law Library of Maryland - General Wills/Estates/Probate Articles

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