In Maryland, there’s a Southern Division of the Maryland District Court. The headquarters for the Southern Division can be found in Greenbelt, with a federal courthouse located at 6500 Cherrywood Lane. Federal lawyers in New Jersey can also practice federal law at the Greenbelt courthouse. Since federal law is the same throughout the country, lawyers don’t need to get special licensure to practice within Maryland state.
Greenbelt is home to three District Court Judges. One of these judges is the Chief Judge for the entire District of Maryland. In addition, the senior District Judge is the one who presides actively over felony cases.
Also at the courthouse are several Magistrate Judges. Federal magistrates do not tend to have a lot of responsibility with regards to criminal cases. However, after a person is initially arrested and brought to the courthouse on a federal charge, their first appearance is before a Magistrate Judge.
Some people will be released after their first appearance based on negotiated conditions of pretrial release. However, if the person is not released, their detention hearing will also be conducted before the magistrate judge.
In the Maryland District Court, Magistrate Judges are not responsible for hearing the pretrial motions prior to a felony trial. This is a change from the federal district courts in some other states. In Maryland, a magistrate judge will only listen to the pretrial motions if they are presiding over a case trial as well. This means that they only hear the motions for misdemeanors.
The Greenbelt courthouse also allows a magistrate judge to preside over the arraignment proceedings.
The Greenbelt courthouse is known for having been home to several prolific white collar felony trials. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have pled their cases within the walls. The courthouse has jurisdiction over whichever federal cases occur in the Maryland suburban area of Washington, D.C. This means that it’s common for cases to involve federal government employees, or for cases to involve white collar crime related to the federal government, or for cases to involve federal agencies.
In addition, many serious felonies and significant drug crimes have been tried at the courthouse.
The District of Maryland Attorney’s Office has an exterior branch office in the Greenbelt courthouse. In addition, Greenbelt’s grand jury meets in the district courthouse. Other parts of the courthouse include:
- The pretrial services office
- The office for the Clerk of the Court
- The probation office
All of these offices are separate from the main courthouse.
The building is located in Greenbelt, which is a city that grew significantly throughout the Great Depression. The original community was planned. This means that the old neighborhood architecture still has the feel of a planned community, so the city infrastructure is easier to navigate than that of much of the East Coast. Greenbelt’s streets also have historical names that celebrate the federal spending done to alleviate the effects of the Great Depression.
Though Greenbelt is full of old buildings, the courthouse is not one of them. It is a relatively modern invention. Maryland won their case before the Senate to form a Southern Division and build a new federal courthouse. This was a way of dealing with the state’s growing population and courthouse needs. The approval legislation stated that the courthouse needed to be somewhere five miles inside the borders between Prince George’s County and Montgomery County. The planners decided that Greenbelt would be an appropriate location.
The Greenbelt federal court is likely to handle any federal criminal proceedings that begin in these areas:
- Prince George’s County
- Charles County
- Montgomery County
- St. Mary’s County
In rare cases, proceedings that begin in other areas might be tried in the courthouse. But for the most part, the courthouse has jurisdiction over the southern part of Maryland alone.
Federal Divisions in Maryland
The Federal District Court of Maryland has a northern and southern division. Greenbelt handles the southern counties, while the northern courthouse is located in Baltimore.
The District of Maryland court has adopted the same administrative procedures and accessibility accommodations for all individuals, regardless of whether the north or south sector is concerned. These help to codify the unique policies of the district when compared to those of the surrounding states. It’s important for any New Jersey lawyers practicing in federal court in Maryland to be aware of how the Maryland district differs from New Jersey.