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West's Annotated Code of MarylandMaryland Rules

West's Annotated Code of Maryland
Maryland Rules
Title 16. Court Administration
Chapter 900. Access to Judicial Records
MD Rules, Rule 16-902
In this Chapter, the following definitions apply except as expressly otherwise provided or as necessary implication requires:
(a) Administrative Record.
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this Rule, “administrative record” means a record that:
(A) pertains to the administration of a court, a judicial agency, or the judicial system of the State; and
(B) is not a case record.
(2) “Administrative record” includes:
(A) a rule adopted by a court pursuant to Rule 1-102;
(B) an administrative order, policy, or directive that governs the operation of a court or judicial agency;
(C) an analysis or report, even if derived from judicial records, that is:
(i) prepared by or for a court or judicial agency;
(ii) used by the court or judicial agency for purposes of judicial administration; and
(iii) not filed, and not required to be filed, with the clerk of a court.
(D) judicial education materials prepared by, for, or on behalf of a unit of the Maryland Judiciary for use by Maryland judges, magistrates, or other judicial personnel;
(E) a jury plan adopted by a court;
(F) a case management plan adopted by a court;
(G) a continuity of operations plan;
(H) an electronic filing plan adopted by a court;
(I) an administrative order issued by the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals pursuant to Rule 16-903;
(J) policies, procedures, and plans adopted or approved by the State Court Administrator, the Court of Appeals, or the Chief Judge of that Court pursuant to a Maryland Rule or a statute; and
(K) judicial or other professional work product, including drafts of documents, notes, and memoranda prepared by a judge or other Judicial Branch personnel at the direction of a judge or other judicial official and intended for use in the preparation of a decision, order, recommendation, or opinion.
(3) “Administrative record” does not include a document or information gathered, maintained, or stored by a person or entity other than a court or judicial agency, to which a court or judicial agency has access but which is not a case record.
(b) Business License Record.
(1) “Business license record” means a judicial record pertaining to an application for a business license issued by the clerk of a court, and includes the application for the license and a copy of the license.
(2) “Business license record” does not include a judicial record pertaining to a marriage license.
Committee note: A marriage license record is included as a case record under subsection (c)(1)(B) of this Rule. It does not fit neatly within the scope of either a business license record or a case record, but, with respect to issues of public access, it is better treated in the manner of case records. See Rule 16-907 (b).
(c) Case Record.
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this Rule, “case record” means:
(A) all or any portion of a court paper, document, exhibit, order, notice, docket entry, or other record, whether in paper, electronic, or other form, that is made, entered, filed, or maintained by the clerk of a court in connection with an action or proceeding;
(B) a record pertaining to a marriage license issued and maintained by the court, including, after the license is issued, the application for the license;
(C) a miscellaneous record filed with the clerk of the court pursuant to law that is not a notice record.
(2) “Case record” does not include a document or information described in subsection (a)(3) of this Rule.
(d) Court. “Court” means the Court of Appeals of Maryland, the Court of Special Appeals, a circuit court, the District Court of Maryland, and an orphans' court of Maryland.
(e) Custodian. “Custodian,” with respect to a judicial record, means:
(1) for a case record, notice record, or business license record, the clerk of the court in which the record was filed or the license was issued or, in the absence of the clerk, an employee of the clerk's office authorized to act for the clerk in determining administratively whether inspection of the record or any part of the record may be denied; and
(2) for an administrative record or special judicial unit record, the individual or individuals with legal control over the record and authority to determine administratively whether inspection of the record or any part of the record may be denied.
Committee note: This definition of “custodian” focuses on who has authority to make the administrative decision whether, for purposes of the Rules in this Chapter, inspection of a particular judicial record may be denied. It is not intended to foreclose the application of a different definition that may be relevant for other purposes.
(f) Individual. “Individual” means a human being.
(g) Judicial Agency. “Judicial agency” means a unit within the Judicial Branch of the Maryland Government other than a special judicial unit.
(h) Judicial Record. “Judicial record” means a record that is:
(1) an administrative record;
(2) a business license record;
(3) a case record;
(4) a notice record; or
(5) a special judicial unit record.
(i) Notice Record. “Notice record” means a record that is filed with the clerk of a court pursuant to statute for the principal purpose of giving public notice of the record. It includes deeds, mortgages, and other documents filed among the land records; financing statements filed pursuant to Code, Commercial Law Article, Title 9; and tax and other liens filed pursuant to statute.
(j) Person. “Person” means an individual, sole proprietorship, partnership, firm, association, corporation, or other entity.
(k) Remote Access.
(1) Generally. “Remote access” means the ability to inspect, search, or copy a judicial record, as defined in section (h) of this Rule, by electronic means from a device not under the control of the Maryland Judiciary. .
(2) Case Records. Remote access to case records means access through the CaseSearch program operated by the Administrative Office of the Courts. Access to electronic case records through a terminal or kiosk located in a courthouse of the District Court or a circuit court and made available by the court for public access does not constitute remote access.
(l) Special Judicial Unit. “Special Judicial Unit” means (1) the State Board of Law Examiners, the Accommodations Review Committee, and the Character Committees; (2) the Attorney Grievance Commission and Bar Counsel; and (3) the Commission on Judicial Disabilities, the Judicial Inquiry Board, and Investigative Counsel.
Cross reference: See Rule 20-109 (c).
Committee note: The Rules in this Chapter recognize that judicial records can be of five types: (1) those, like land records, that are filed with the court, not necessarily in connection with any litigation, but for the principal purpose of providing public notice of them; (2) those that are essentially administrative in nature--that are created or maintained by the court or judicial agency itself and relate to the administration or operation of the court or agency; (3) those that are filed or created in connection with business licenses (excluding marriage licenses) issued by the clerk; (4) those that are filed with the court in connection with a judicial action or the issuance of a marriage license; and (5) records of three special judicial units that are subject to special rules of confidentiality. The premise of the Rules in this Chapter is that, although the presumption of openness applies to all four kinds of records, they need to be treated differently in some respects.
Land records and other similar kinds of records that are filed with the clerk for the principal purpose of giving public notice of them are judicial records, but, because the court's only function with respect to those records is to preserve them and make them available for public inspection, there is no justification for shielding them from public inspection. Those kinds of records are defined as “notice records,” and it is the intent of the Rules in this Chapter that, except as otherwise required by statute, there be no substantive (content) restrictions on public access to them. One such statute is Code, Real Property Article, § 3-111, prohibiting the disclosure of certain identifying information in recordable instruments.
The Rules in this Chapter assume that the kinds of internal administrative records maintained by a court or other judicial agency, mostly involving personnel, budgetary, and operational management, are similar in nature and purpose to those kinds of administrative records maintained by Executive Branch agencies and that records pertaining to business licenses issued by a court clerk are similar in nature to records kept by Executive Branch agencies that issue licenses of one kind or another. The Rules in this Chapter thus treat those kinds of records more or less the same as comparable Executive Branch records. The Public Information Act (“PIA”) provides the most relevant statement of public policy regarding those kinds of records, and, as a general matter, the Rules in this Chapter apply the PIA to those kinds of records, at least with respect to the substantive issue of access. Rule 16-912 provides the procedure to be used to resolve disputes over access to all judicial records, including administrative records.
A different approach is taken with respect to access to case records--most of which come into the court's possession as the result of their having been filed by or with respect to litigants in judicial actions. As to them, the Rules in this Chapter carve out only those exceptions to public access that are felt particularly applicable. The exceptions, for the most part, are more particular than those provided by the PIA. Categorical exceptions are limited to those that (1) have an existing basis, either by statute other than the PIA, or by specific Rule, or (2) present some compelling need for non-access. In an attempt to remove discretion from clerical personnel to deny public access and require that any dispute over closure be examined by a judge on a case-by-case basis, the Rules in this Chapter require that all other exclusions be by court order.
To achieve the differentiation between these various kinds of court records, five categories are specifically defined in this Rule--“administrative records,” “business license records,” “case records,” “notice records,” and “records of special judicial units”. Some principles enunciated in the Rules in this Chapter apply to all five categories, and, for that purpose, the term “judicial records,” which includes all five categories, is used.
Source: This Rule is derived from former Rule 16-1001 (2016).


[Adopted June 6, 2016, eff. July 1, 2016; June 20, 2017, eff. Aug. 1, 2017.]

Editors' Notes

2017 Orders
The June 20, 2017 order, renumbered Rule 16-901 as 16-902; changed the term “court record” to “judicial record” throughout the Rule; added the word “otherwise”; deleted an internal reference; changed the word “another” to the word “a” in subsection (a)(1); deleted language in subsection (a)(2) and replacing it with the language “of judicial agency”; added the language “magistrates or other judicial personnel” to subsection (a)(2)(D); added a new subsection (a)(2)(J) pertaining to policies, procedures, and plans; added a new subsection (a)(2)(K) pertaining to judicial work product; deleted current section (c); added language to section (e); added a new section (1) a definition of “Special Judicial Unit”; added a definition of “Judicial Record” to section (h); added the language of “clerk of” to section (i); added a subsection (1) to subsection (k) with language added to and deleted from the definition of “remote access”; added a new subsection (2) to section (k) pertaining to the definition of the term “case records”; and by adding clarifying language and making stylistic changes to the Committee note after subsection (k)(2).
MD Rules, Rule 16-902, MD R CTS J AND ATTYS Rule 16-902
Current with amendments received through April 1, 2020.
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