During the MSBA’s Annual Meeting, Chief Judge John P. Morrissey of the District Court of Maryland and Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader of the Supreme Court of Maryland provided updates on the Maryland courts, discussing topics such as MDEC implementation, technological advancements, rule changes, and upcoming events.
Chief Judge Morrissey began by discussing the appointed attorney program that was implemented on July 1st, 2014. As he began serving as the Chief Judge of the District Court on June 1st, 2014, Judge Morrissey had a month to recruit attorneys across the state to participate in the program. While he was initially nervous, he was pleasantly surprised at how the legal community embraced the program and competed for the available spots, integrating it into the system, and he is proud that Maryland is ahead of many other states with regard to providing such rights to defendants immediately after their arrest.
Judge Morrissey also discussed MDEC. He noted that it took some time, but the system is now operational in 23 out of 24 counties, with plans to go live in Baltimore City on May 6th, 2024. Additionally, a landlord-tenant e-filing system has been piloted in Baltimore County for over a year, with a significant number of electronic filings indicating high demand. He looks forward to increased efficiency and improved access to records through these technological advancements and stated that he will share the schedule for implementing these systems in other counties soon. Judge Morrissey also noted the court’s experimentation with artificial intelligence to automate some clerk functions and enhance efficiency in the future.
Finally, Judge Morrissey emphasized the importance of remembering why the attendees became lawyers – to serve justice, uphold the rule of law, and make a positive difference. He urged them to carry this mission forward with renewed energy and commitment.
Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader began by reminding everyone that Covid was still a significant concern for the Maryland judiciary. Nevertheless, he described the past year as a return to normalcy.
Regarding the state of the judiciary, Justice Fader highlighted the efforts to address pandemic-induced backlogs and assess which measures implemented during the pandemic should be continued. He noted many courts had made progress in reducing backlogs, while others had plans in place to catch up, and expressed appreciation for Maryland attorneys’ cooperation with the courts.
In terms of future plans, Justice Fader explained the judiciary aims to enhance infrastructure to support remote proceedings, improve Wi-Fi in courthouses, introduce electronic payment options, and implement an online dispute resolution system. He encouraged attorneys to become familiar with Title 21 of the Maryland Rules, covering remote proceedings in civil and criminal cases, which was adopted earlier in the year. He highlighted other significant rule changes as well, including expert witness discovery, petitions for juvenile detention and release, and petitions for gender judicial declarations of identity and name changes.
Justice Fader then mentioned two significant developments. First, the completion of the MDEC project, which Chief Judge Morrissey had been involved in since its inception. Second, the pilot program for landlord-tenant cases, which would enhance services and provide up-to-date electronic availability.
Finally, Justice Fader announced two upcoming events: holding the court’s oral arguments to a high school in Prince George’s County on a periodic basis, to benefit education and community relations, and conducting a posthumous bar admission ceremony for Edward Garrison Draper, a Black man found fully qualified to practice law in the state, but to be denied access to that based on his race.