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Non-lawyers, new lawyers now have a ‘Guide’ to CSA

A new online guide designed to help non-lawyers in representing themselves before the Court of Special Appeals can also assist inexperienced attorneys comply with the court’s procedures, the court’s leader said Friday.

“We get a considerable amount of work from young lawyers that does not conform to the rules,” Chief Judge Peter B. Krauser said.

While “A Guide for Self Representation” was written for pro se appellate litigants, “we expect a lot of young lawyers to be grabbing it,” Krauser said. “It’s a very good introduction before you start poring through the rules.”

One or more of the parties is unrepresented by counsel in at least 30 percent of the approximately 2,000 cases filed annually with the intermediate court, Krauser said.

“We were getting more and more nonconforming briefs, motions that did not conform with the rules,” he said. “The bottom line is that we found ourselves denying too many cases because the briefs did not conform to the rules.”

The 52-page guide includes an outline and checklist of Maryland’s appellate process and a glossary of terms from “appeal” to “transcript.” The publication provides sample forms, including notices of appeal, certificates of service, briefs and motions to extend time for filing briefs.

The guide also addresses the basics of a legal brief, including what it is, what must be included and in what order: from the cover page to the table of cases, table of contents, statement of the case, questions presented, statement of facts, argument and conclusion.

Readers are advised that the procedural rules are subject to change and that litigants should check the court’s website to discover the latest changes.

The guide also advises litigants to “consult a lawyer, if they can,” Krauser said, noting the weak economy could be a major reason more litigants are handling their own cases.

The chief judge added he hopes to supplement the guide within the next year with an online video further explaining the procedures for litigating in the Court of Special Appeals.

Maryland is not alone in providing guides for pro se appellate litigants. The U.S. Supreme Court, several federal circuit courts and at least eight other states offer similar assistance, according to the Maryland Judiciary.

The guide is available online and at the clerk’s offices at circuit courts throughout Maryland.