Public Library Toolkit - Contents
1. Getting Started: Legal Information vs. Legal Advice
10. Local Law
11. State Judicial Law (Courts), including forms information
12. State Regulatory Law
(Executive Branch and Agencies)
The Public Library Toolkit is a project of the Legal Information Services to the Public (LISP) Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). For legal information guides for other states, please see the full Toolkit.
The Maryland Toolkit is a project of the Conference of Maryland Court Law Library Directors.
Compiled June 2015 by Catherine McGuire, Maryland State Law Library, and Kate Martin, Montgomery County Circuit Court Law Library
Maryland Public Library ToolkitThe Maryland toolkit is designed for public library reference staff as a reference guide to Maryland primary and secondary legal resources, with emphasis on resources available online. For legal information needs beyond the resources in this toolkit, contact a Maryland law librarian for further assistance (see 2. Public Law Libraries, below).
- Can We Help You?, Maryland Access to Justice Commission
- Locating the Law, 5th ed., Chapter 4: Legal Reference vs. Legal Advice. (2009), Southern California Association of Law Libraries (SCALL)
Maryland has a State Law Library as well as multiple Circuit Court law libraries that are open to the public and staffed with librarians trained and happy to help. Contacting a law librarian is often the quickest way to get to your goal. Most if not all of the print and online references below can be found at a public law library. Many Maryland public law libraries also have free access to fee-based databases like Westlaw and Lexis.
A. General Information
Maryland People's Law Library
A legal information site managed by the Maryland State Law Library that provides self-represented Marylanders with information and summaries about the law, links to primary and secondary legal sources and referrals to legal services.
For extensive information on the procedural aspects of a case, see the Maryland People’s Law Library page “How Do I…”
Maryland District Court Self Help Information and Brochures
Maryland Court of Special Appeals: A Guide for Self-Representation
B. Clinics and Self-Help Centers
There are a number of self-help clinics around the State where self-represented litigants can get basic assistance from a legal professional.
- People's Law Library Legal Services Directory
The Directory can be sorted by keyword, county, and category (for example, Disability Law; Family Law; Foreclosure; Landlord/Tenant; etc.).
- District Court Self-Help Center
The Center provides limited legal assistance in many District Court-related actions.
- People's Law Library Legal Clinic Calendar
The Calendar can be sorted by county and date.
- Lawyer in the Library Program, Anne Arundel County Public Law Library
- Civil Law Self-Help Clinic, Howard County Law Library
- Lawyer in the Library, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore
A. Bar Associations
Maryland State Bar Association
Local and Specialty Bar Associations:
B. Locating an attorney
Lawyer Referral Services (LRS), offered through the local county bar association, can point people to local attorneys practicing in particular topic areas. Contact information for county LRS programs is available on the State Bar Association’s website.
Maryland People’s Law Library's “Get Help” has extensive information on locating legal assistance, from self-help programs, to free legal help, reduced-fee services, and regular fee-based services.
If the attorney's name is known but contact information is needed, the Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland maintains a contact list of all attorneys currently admitted to practice in the state.
C. Attorney Rules of Conduct
The Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct guide the conduct of Maryland attorneys. The text of the MLRPC is contained in Maryland Rule 16-812, found where the Maryland Rules are published, both print and online (see Section 9.B. Locating an attorney, above).
D. Problems with an attorney
The conduct of practitioners of law in Maryland is overseen by the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission (AGC). Complaints against an attorney are filed with the Commission.
- Maryland At A Glance: State Government (Maryland State Archives)
- Maryland Manual Online (Maryland State Archives)
- Maryland State Government (Maryland.gov)
The first step in locating legal information is often understanding what the citation in front of you means. To help decipher Maryland legal citations, look for a handy guide:
Recognizing and Reading [Maryland] Legal Citations, 2.2/3 Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing 70 (Winter/Spring 1994)
Cornell's Legal Information Institute also offers helpful material to decipher legal citations in their online Introduction to Basic Legal Citation, by Peter W. Martin (2014). The BLC offers information on both standard legal citation guides, the Bluebook and ALWD.
For the best collection of comprehensive online Maryland primary law sources (Code, cases, and regulations), see the Maryland State Law Library's Gateway to Maryland Law. Resources are separately enumerated below.
The current Maryland state constitution is available in print in the Constitutions volume of the Maryland Code.
The text of the Maryland state constitution is available from the Maryland State Archives; and also with the full text of the current Maryland Code and Rules on the Gateway to Maryland Law. Use the link to the current Code and Rules to locate the Constitutions volume.
The Maryland General Assembly passes bills during annual sessions which run from January to April each year. When passed, bills are called “session laws” or “chapter laws”. Once passed, the legislative language is added to (or amends) the Maryland Code, which is the text of all Maryland laws currently in effect organized (“codified”) by topic. The Maryland Department of Legislative Services publishes helpful legislative research resources, including:
A. State Code
When conducting research related to the Maryland Code, it can be helpful to have a good grounding in how the Code was developed. Many useful links on this topic are grouped on the Maryland State Law Library’s web page, Maryland Code Research Sources. The Code itself is widely available:
There are two print publications of the Maryland Code. One is published by Lexis (Michie's), the other by West. Both are designated as official by the Maryland General Assembly.
The Maryland Code is online available on the State Law Library's Gateway to Maryland Law.
B. State Session Laws
Bills passed into law by the General Assembly are called “session laws” or “chapter laws.” These are printed in the order of passage annually in the Laws of Maryland.
Print: Laws of Maryland are available at most large public law libraries. See the Directory (above at 2. Public Law Libraries)
Online: Available on the Maryland General Assembly's website.
C. State Bills
The text of state legislation is available back to 1996 through the Maryland General Assembly's website.
D. Other Legislative Material
The Maryland General Assembly and its division, the Department of Legislative Services, have extensive materials on their websites to aid in legislative research.
- Maryland General Assembly: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/
- Department of Legislative Services: http://dls.state.md.us/
E. Legislative History
Legislative history can be complex, and anyone approaching a legislative history should strongly consider contacting a Maryland law librarian for guidance and assistance. However, there are materials that can help a researcher get started:
Maryland State Law Library, Checklist for Maryland Legislative History Research
The Checklist page outlines basic steps in the legislative history process, and includes links to the in-depth article, Ghosthunting: Searching for Maryland Legislative History, and a Checklist Worksheet to help work through each step.
Maryland is divided into 24 county or county-equivalents (Baltimore City is an independent city, and functions in most respects as the counties do). Within the 23 counties, there are a number of municipalities with their own governing structure (examples include Annapolis, Kensington, St Michael’s, and many others). Each county and most municipalities pass ordinances or bills, which are organized into county and municipal codes much as the State’s bills are organized into the State Code. Many counties and municipalities have ceased publishing their codes in print, and instead provide links from their websites. The Maryland State Law Library has compiled lists of these links:
General Local Law Research
County and municipal governments in Maryland are not all structured in the same way. The University of Maryland Law School's Thurgood Marshall Law Library has an excellent research guide, Researching Maryland Local Law, to help explain these differences.
Maryland has a four-tier court system, with two trial level courts (District and Circuit), a mid-level appellate court (Court of Special Appeals), and highest court (Court of Appeals). For a better understanding of the court system, take a look at the Maryland Court System as outlined on the Judiciary's website.
The official version of Maryland cases (court opinions) are published in the Maryland Reports (Court of Appeals) and Maryland Appellate Reports (Court of Special Appeals). The print volumes can be found in all law libraries. Maryland decisions are also published in West’s Atlantic Reporter. The Maryland Digest acts as a print index to Maryland case law, and is available in major law libraries.
Court opinions can be found online at:
B. Court Rules
Annotated Maryland Court Rules are published by both Thomson Reuters (West) and LexisNexis as a paperbound supplement to the Maryland Code, and can generally be found shelved with the Code in most libraries.
A free online version is available located with the Maryland Code.
Maryland Rules history, like legislative history, can be complicated, and generally it is best to speak with a Maryland law librarian when approaching research. However, there are materials that can help a researcher get started:
- Researching the Legislative History of Maryland Rules, John Cannan, 40-Dec Maryland Bar Journal 48 (2007)
- No Local Rules in Maryland...Sort Of, John Cannan, 52.1 Law Library Lights 15 (2008)
C. Jury Instructions
There are two sets of jury instructions for Maryland, one published by the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) and one by LexisNexis.
- MSBA: Maryland Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions and Maryland Civil Pattern Jury Instructions
- LexisNexis: Maryland Criminal Jury Instructions and Commentary and Maryland Civil Jury Instructions and Commentary
Maryland jury instructions are not available for free online. They may be available via a Lexis or Westlaw subscription.
D. Forms - Official
Maryland has a small number of official court forms, mainly for District Court matters and Circuit Court family law and guardianship matters. The courts post official forms, when available, on the Judiciary website forms page.
The Maryland People's Law Library groups these links, and links to other, non-court but legal, forms, on the PLL Find Court and Legal Forms page.
E. Forms - Model
There are extensive sources for model or sample forms to use when constructing a filing in a Maryland legal matter. These are mainly available in print and CD-Rom format, and are located at local public law libraries. The best starting places include:
- Maryland Civil Procedure Forms (LexisNexis)
- Maryland Practice Forms (MSBA)
- Maryland Litigation Forms & Analysis (Thomson Reuters)
A number of public libraries subscribe to the Maryland Legal Forms database from Thomson Gale, which contains a wide variety of Maryland-specific sample legal forms and filings. Check your library's database collection for access to the collection.Sample forms for Maryland appellate actions are available in the Guide for Self-Representation (see 3.A. Self-Help, General Information above).
A. Administrative Code and Register
The Maryland Division of State Documents (DSD) prints the Maryland Register, a bi-weekly journal publication in which new regulations are first printed, and COMAR, the Code of Maryland Regulations, which contains the full text of all regulations currently in effect. COMAR in print is a multi-volume looseleaf set, and can be found in larger law libraries such as the Maryland State Law Library. The Maryland Register similarly can be found in larger law libraries in print.
B. Executive Orders
Executive Orders from the Governor are published in the Maryland Register. Orders currently in force are in found in COMAR, Title 01, Subtitle 01.
Orders during the current administration are available on the website of the Office of the Governor.
C. Attorney General Opinions
Maryland AG Opinions are printed annually in single volumes, and are available in print at most law libraries.
The full text of AG Opinions from 1993+ are available on the Maryland Attorney General's website.
A. Maryland People's Law Library
The Maryland People’s Law Library is a legal information and self-help website maintained by the Maryland State Law Library, a court-related agency of the Maryland Judiciary, and supported by Maryland’s non-profit legal services providers, pro bono attorneys and the legal academic community. PLL content is primarily in the area of civil, state (Maryland) matters, though there is some material on criminal and federal matters as well.
B. Legal Encyclopedias
The Maryland Law Encyclopedia (MLE) contains narrative descriptions of legal topics with citations to primary law sources such as cases and statutes. The text of the MLE is not available for free on the internet; however, most law libraries will have a set, and some county public libraries keep a print set in their reference collections (check with your local branch). The full text may also be available electronically on Westlaw, depending on the subscription.
C. Titles by topic
The Conference of Maryland Court Law Library Directors maintains an online list of Recommended Maryland Titles for County Law Libraries. The list provides a quick reference tool for those seeking a title in an area of law appropriate to ongoing research.
The Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) publishes a number of titles on Maryland law. Their texts, referred to generally as CLE (Continuing Legal Education) Publications, are listed on the MSBA website; many are found in public law libraries.
D. Legal Glossaries and Vocabulary
There are a number of good resources for understanding legal terminology. In print, Black's Law Dictionary and other legal dictionaries are helpful. Online, for general term use, the Cornell Legal Information Institute's Wex and Nolo's Free Dictionary of Law Terms are both handy. For more specific jurisdictional usage, there are legal glossaries available from the Maryland Judiciary and the U.S. Courts.
There are 22 federal depository libraries in Maryland. Three of these are also public law libraries:
Maryland State Law Library
361 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, MD 21401
Thurgood Marshall Law Library, University of Maryland School of Law
500 West Baltimore Street (street entrance)
Baltimore, MD 21201
University of Baltimore Law Library
1401 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
A full list of federal depository libraries in Maryland is available on the U.S. Government Publishing Office website.
Maryland People’s Law Library
The site itself is one huge online guide to legal information. The site is arranged topically under umbrella headings such as Consumer, Employment, Family Law, Senior Citizens, etc.
MSBA Legal Info Brochures
The State Bar Association has helpful online brochures on a number of topics, including Alternatives to Nursing Home Placement, Being a Witness, Buying a Home and more.
Maryland State Law Library
The State Law Library’s website contains research guides to help the more specialized legal researcher.
AALL Public Library Toolkit
The Toolkit includes general guides such as:
How to Research a Legal Problem
How to Find Legal Material if You Already Have a Citation
Public Library Collection Guidelines for a Legal Research Collection
Knowing When to Refer
Thurgood Marshall Law Library (TMLL), University of Maryland School of Law
TMLL Guide to Legal Research
The TMLL Guide includes online chapters for areas of law (Statutory Law Research, Legislative Law Research, etc.), as well as levels of law (Maryland Law, Federal Law, Foreign and International Law). There is also a very useful chapter on Electronic Research Techniques.