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 Responses to over 100 MSBA questions received

The MSBA has been working diligently to provide information and support to members and partner organizations.  The following questions were  compiled from inquiries received on feedback@msba.org, gleaned from discussions lists and on social media, and include those shared with us by other associations in acknowledgement of MSBA’s statewide reach.

In the last three weeks

Over the last three weeks, at the Judiciary’s request, we collected and shared with them four consolidated sets of questions – over 130 in total. On March 16, we shared the first set of questions and that evening, just minutes after a comprehensive Administrative Order had been issued by the Court, MSBA President Dana Williams and MSBA Executive Director Victor Velazquez held a conference call with Judiciary leadership.  Dana, Vic & MSBA Director Shaoli Katana once again connected with the Judiciary on March 20 to discuss the outstanding questions. On March 26, MSBA shared a third set of questions with the Judiciary and received responses on March 27. MSBA shared a fourth set of questions with the Judiciary on April 2. Note that we have updated our answers to the first three questions sets (and updated the time frame for the questions) based on the most recent Administrative and Executive Orders that have been issued since we first provided responses.

The Judiciary has asked the MSBA to continue convening the voices of the profession to efficiently address the concerns of practitioners. We thank the Judiciary for the outreach to MSBA and commend their continuing efforts during a chaotic and complex situation.

Next Steps

Please continue to contact us with your questions at feedback@msba.org. Although we cannot guarantee the timing of responses from the Judiciary, we will continue collecting questions from a variety of sources including Local & Speciality Bars, social media and others.  

We thank you for sharing your voice with us and adding to the strength of the MSBA.

COVID-19 Question Set One: Responses

Questions shared with the Judiciary on March 16, 2020

Uniform Statewide Implementation

1. Will the March 25 Administrative Order be implemented uniformly statewide or will attorneys and advocates have to contact each jurisdiction and even individual courts to ascertain implementation to advise both their clients and inform self-represented litigants? 

MSBA Response:  The March 25 revised Administrative Order on Statewide Judiciary Restricted Operations Due to the COVID-19 Emergency (“ March 25 Order” or “Order”) applies statewide.   All courts, court offices, administrative offices, units of the Judiciary, and clerk’s offices are restricted to mandatory and emergency operations (as defined in the Order) and are otherwise closed through May 1, 2020.  March 25 Order, sec. (a).  The implementation of some of these operations and functions, e.g., identifying essential personnel required to report, whether judges are to be available to respond in person, by telephone, or electronically, and determining which mandatory and emergency matters will be heard in person, remotely, resolved without a hearing, or scheduled after the emergency has ended, is left to local Administrative Judges.  March 25 Order, sec. (c),(e) and (g). (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Centralized Hotline and Response 

2. Will the Maryland Judiciary create a hotline or a centralized location to direct all inquiries related to court closures and COVID-19 or should questions be directed to the clerks’ offices in each jurisdiction or each courthouse?

MSBA Response:  No centralized hotline is established by the March 25 Order and inquiries will continue to be handled locally.  The Order requires essential court personnel to be available to the public by telephone between the hours of 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM.  March 25 Order, sec. (n). The Order also requires local judges to be available to respond in person or remotely by telephone, e-mail or other electronic means “as shall be determined by their Administrative Judge.” March 25 Order, sec. (e).  The MSBA is currently evaluating the appropriateness to launch its own service, as an added element of its response beyond its comprehensive (COVID-19 page) filled with resources, and the latest information.

For the latest updates from the Judiciary, visit their COVID-19 page. The Judiciary has also posted the latest statements and closure notices from each court location, as they are received from the courts, here.  (Last updated 3.26.2020)

3. Is the Judiciary coordinating uniform processes/procedures across jurisdictions, or will additional Orders and directives come from each jurisdiction? 

MSBA Response: See no. 1, above.  To the extent that local administrative orders or policies conflict with the March 25 Order, the latter will prevail.  March 25 Order, sec. (s). Administrative Judges for the District and Circuit Courts have been conducting regular conference calls to address any common issues and share information regarding technology. While the Judiciary hopes to have courts operate as uniformly as possible, each court will have slightly different policies given the logistics, resources, and challenges within each jurisdiction. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Screening to Enter the Courthouse

4. What documentation, if any, will be necessary for litigants and attorneys to enter the courthouse for cases that will be proceeding? 

MSBA Response: The March 25 Order does not address this question. See no. 5, below, regarding screening procedures. As all courthouses are closed except for mandatory and emergency operations (many of which will be handled remotely or electronically), there will be little need to enter a courthouse.  (Last updated 3.26.2020)

5. Will there be any additional health screening to enter courthouses?

MSBA Response: Maryland Department of General Services issued a State Building Operations Protocol, effective March 19, 2020, for all state buildings. 

On March 21, the Judiciary published Statewide Courthouse Access Screening Protocols, which state:

Effective Monday, March 23, 2020, anyone (staff, visitors, vendors, contractors, etc.) seeking entrance into a State-operated facility, including all District Court buildings, must be asked initial screening questions.

For infection control purposes, you will be asked the following questions:

  • Have you had any of the following symptoms in the last seven (7) days: fever or chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or any other flu-like symptoms?
  • In the past week, do you know if you have been in close (less than 6 feet), prolonged contact (more than 2-3 minutes) with someone with fever, cough, shortness of breath, flu-like symptoms, or a diagnosis of COVID-19?

We ask that you maintain a distance of six (6) feet from the screener during this process.

If you answer YES to any question on the Initial Screening Questionnaire OR refuse to participate in the screening process, you will be refused entrance and provided with a contact number so that you may be assisted. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

6. What happens if a litigant or attorney is wrongly denied entrance to a courthouse?

MSBA Response: See no. 4, above. The Judiciary encourages litigants and attorneys to contact the local courthouse by phone or file a motion with the Administrative Judge of the courthouse. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Court Filings

7. Will clerks be open as usual during business hours for in-person filing purposes? 

MSBA Response: No.  Pleadings not required to be filed electronically in MDEC jurisdictions will be received only by mail and drop boxes installed at local courthouses.  MDEC is available for electronic filing and is required to be used for all MDEC jurisdictions. March 25 Order, sec. (n). (Last updated 3.26.2020)

8. For non-MDEC jurisdictions:

a)How will litigants and attorneys file with these Courts? Will they be able to file in-person at the Clerk’s office, by dropbox, or will they have to mail filings?

MSBA Response: See no. 7, above. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

b) For non-MDEC jurisdictions with no dropbox option, will dropbox or alternative filing options be added to these Courts?

MSBA Response: See no. 7, above. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

9. For MDEC jurisdictions:

a) Will any courts allow or require self-represented litigants to file via MDEC? 

MSBA Response: See no. 7, above.  The Order does not specifically address self-represented litigants. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

b) Can self-represented litigants continue to file in-person via the Clerk’s office? 

MSBA Response: No. See no. 7, above. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

10. Given the recommendations of social distancing and the rapid spread of COVID-19, will the Administrative Order regarding court closings affect any filing deadlines between March 16, 2020 and May 1, 2020? 

a) Attorneys have concerns regarding in-person contacts they may have to make to obtain signatures and affidavits from clients, as well as concerns about having adequate equipment to prepare filings remotely if their offices are closed.

b) Will an automatic extension of any deadlines be granted for a specified period during the closure of the courts from March 16 to May 1, 2020, similar to the federal courts?

MSBA Response: Deadlines established by statute or rule remain in effect unless otherwise specified by Order or by checking local websites.  March 26 Order, sec., (l) and (m). Some exceptions appear. The first is for deadlines related to the adjudication of criminal and juvenile matters, which are suspended and extended by the greater of the number of days that courts are closed, or 21 business days after they reopen. March 25 Order, sec. (l). The second, listed in the March 25 Order, states that scheduling orders issued in civil and family law matters shall be addressed by motion on a case-by-case basis by the administrative judge or his or her designee consistent with the Court’s case management plan. March 25 Order, sec. (m).  (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Please confirm any other suspensions on related websites as information changes rapidly. For example, the Register of Wills offices are closed to the public through May 1, 2020, and advises individuals to contact each local office for further information. All Montgomery County Register of Wills filing deadlines have been suspended until further notice.

11. For pleadings that were mailed and will likely reach the local Courts this week, will they be docketed and will Writs of Service be issued, or will they remain unprocessed until on or after May 1, 2020?

MSBA Response: The Order does not specifically address docketing or issuance of documents for service of process, noting only that the date of any filing will be the date it is postmarked or, if filed by dropbox, the previous business day, unless the dropbox provides a timestamp.  March 16 Order, sec. (l). 

Court clerks have continued to docket filings as they are able, depending on the amount of personnel available in each courthouse and/or working remotely. Updates should be visible to attorneys and litigants online in the Maryland Judiciary Case Search, although there may be a delay in the usual time between filing and when items are docketed online. Any additional processing beyond docketing will vary by jurisdiction and by each court’s capacity based on available personnel. The Judiciary’s goal is to have court personnel do all that they can during this emergency to continue to process paperwork. (Last updated 3.22.20)

Scheduling Orders and Filing Deadlines

12. How does the Administrative Order affect, if at all, the calculation of deadlines and application of Maryland Rule 1-203? 

MSBA Response: Time computations under Rule 1-203 are not addressed in the Order and appear to be unaffected by it. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

13. Will court filings and deadlines from scheduling orders (for discovery, filing motions, pre-trial statements, financial statements, 9-207s, and proposed jury instructions) continue as usual? 

MSBA Response: Yes, with this direction from the March 25 Order: scheduling orders issued in civil and family law matters shall be addressed by motion on a case-by-case basis by the administrative judge or his or her designee consistent with the Court’s case management plan. March 25 Order, sec. (m). Note, however, that the Order does not preclude a court from considering or resolving mandatory and emergency matters that can be addressed without testimony or argument, so a judge can presumably rule on an emergency motion to extend court-imposed deadlines.   (Last updated 3.26.2020)

14. Given the recommendations of social distancing, will there be an automatic extension of a few weeks to all scheduling orders to allow attorneys time to determine the best trial strategies in light of COVID-19 (such as depositions, subpoenas, etc.)?

MSBA Response: No.  See nos. 10 and 13, above. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

15. Will Court Settlement conferences continue as set in the scheduling orders? 

MSBA Response: No. All matters scheduled to be heard between March 17 and May 1, 2020, including jury trials, are postponed pending further order of the Chief Judge (March 25 Order, sec. (j), and courts are closed for all but mandatory and emergency matters.  See no. 1, above. Note, however, that the Order “does not affect the courts’ consideration or resolution of matters that can be addressed without a proceeding that involves testimony or argument.” March 25 Order, sec. (h). (Last updated 3.26.2020)

 16. Will mediation and ADR deadlines from scheduling orders continue? Should attorneys continue to schedule and handle mediations and ADR via video-conferencing and telephone when available?

MSBA Response: See no. 13, above, regarding scheduling orders in civil and family law matters. 

Attorneys and litigants should try to continue their work to meet deadlines as much as possible, taking appropriate safety precautions as needed. If a scheduling order has expired or deadlines have passed, attorneys and litigants should contact the local court or file a motion with the Administrative Judge of that courthouse, requesting specific relief. Scheduling orders and deadlines will be reviewed and resolved by motion on a case-by-case basis by the administrative judge or his or her designee consistent with the Court’s case management plan. March 25 Order, sec. (m). From MSBA leadership: This guidance will likely change should the state be placed under a ‘shelter in place’ restriction.   (Last updated 3.26.2020)

17. With cases that will be on-going, such as Peace Orders, will filing deadlines be adjusted to account for court closures and the need to focus on the public health crisis?

MSBA Response: Please see Judge Morrissey’s recent pronouncement regarding peace, protective, and extreme risk protective orders. If you are in need of protection and are seeking a peace order, call the District Court Commissioner in your county or Baltimore City. Your request will be heard. Call first to provide information and for instructions on where to go.  (Last updated 3.26.2020)

18. Will there be a way to file Peace Orders remotely or extend the 30-day deadline in the event the local Commissioner’s office is not open 24 hours a day?

MSBA Response: See no. 17, above. Other than to provide that new peace order petitions are to be handled by District Court Commissioners, and that “appeals from peace orders” are emergency matters that the Administrative Judge (or his or her designee) must determine whether it should be heard in person, remotely, scheduled after the emergency period, or resolved without a hearing, the Order does not otherwise address peace orders.  March 25 Order, sec., (f)(3)(D); (f)(4)(C); (g)(6). Litigants should be able to continue to file peace orders during the emergency, as Commissioners’ offices will remain open with regular hours. Those offices that are open 24 hours a day will remain open for 24 hours a day, and those that are not will continue to have a Commissioner on call to respond to any emergency filings as needed. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

19. How will filing deadlines apply to individuals who have been medically advised to self-isolate?

MSBA Response: The Order does not specifically address this issue.  See no. 13, above. Such individuals should contact the local clerk’s office regarding the appropriate local process and/or file a motion with the Administrative Judge of the local court. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Court Hearings

20. What constitutes a “family law emergency” under Section (g)(7) of the March 25 Administrative Order? 

MSBA Response: The March 25 Order does not define “family law emergency.” Emergencies will be handled on a case by case basis based on the Administrative Judge’s (or his/her designee’s) discretion and will follow the same considerations for emergencies prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

21. What makes a Habeas Corpus petition an “emergency” under Section (g)(3) of the March 25 Administrative Order?

MSBA Response: The Order does not define “emergency Habeas Corpus petitions.” The Judiciary indicates that such hearings refer to requests to the Circuit Court to review a bail review decision from District Court. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

22. Section (h) of the March 25 Administrative Order allows Courts to rule on matters not requiring a hearing.  

a) For pending Motions, what if any time period will litigants have to request a hearing for those issues, per Rule 2-311?

MSBA Response: See no. 13, above. See sec. (h) of the March 25 Order.  (Last updated 3.26.2020)

b) Does this include guilty pleas? 

MSBA Response: The March 25 Order does not specifically address guilty pleas, which are not deemed mandatory or emergency matters exempt from the court closure requirement.  Circuit court arraignments for detained individuals are deemed “mandatory” matters which are to continue to be scheduled and heard. March 25 Order, sec. (f)(3)(b).  Matters involving locally incarcerated defendants are deemed emergency matters for which the Administrative Judge will determine whether they will be heard in person, remotely, resolved without a hearing, or scheduled after the emergency has ended.  March 25 Order, sec.(g)(12). Note, however, that the Order “does not affect the courts’ consideration or resolution of matters that can be addressed without a proceeding that involves testimony or argument.” March 25 Order, sec. (h).

The Judiciary has encouraged Administrative Judges to contact attorneys and use technology to handle matters remotely when possible. Several jurisdictions have handled guilty pleas remotely since the COVID-19 emergency, with communication and coordination between the Administrative Judge, the State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Office of the Public Defender or private defense attorneys.   Attorneys are encouraged to reach out to these individuals, offices, and the Administrative Judge during the emergency to resolve these matters. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

c) Does this include settlement conferences?

MSBA Response: See no. 15, above. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

23. Will protective order and peace order appeals be heard? (Question was previously posted as: The Administrative Order says that appeals from peace orders will be heard in the Circuit Court. Will protective order appeals will be heard as well?) 

MSBA Response:  Circuit Courts will hear extreme risk protective order appeals. March 25 Order, sec., (f)(3)(I). All other emergencies, including peace order appeals, will be reviewed by the Administrative Judge or his/her designee to determine whether it must be heard in person, may be heard remotely, can be scheduled after the emergency period has ended, or can be resolved without a hearing. March 25 Order, sec., (g). (Last updated 3.26.2020)

24. Are Prince George’s County District and Circuit courts completely closed per Judge Adams’ order of March 12, 2020, or are the Courts to remain open for emergencies as defined by the Judiciary’s Administrative Order? 

MSBA Response: See no. 1, above. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

25. Will courts continue to process real property matters such as deed recordation, or have those operations been suspended?

MSBA Response: Yes, courts will continue to process these matters.  On March 18, 2020, the Chief Judge issued the Administrative Order on Statewide Judiciary Operations That Must Be Maintained During the COVID-19 Emergency: As To Land Records.  It provides that the clerks of court shall promptly process all properly filed instruments required to be recorded in the land records.  This is to be done electronically in jurisdictions that have that capability. The May 18 Order further provides that upon approval by the Administrative Judge and as necessary, clerks are to provide access to land records.  (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Self-Help Centers & Outreach to Self-Represented Litigants

26. For vulnerable Marylanders who may have contracted or be at high risk for contracting COVID-19 and have been advised to remain isolated, but whose cases may be moving forward between March 16 and May 1, what procedures should they follow to report and request postponement of a case?

MSBA Response: See no. 7, above.  This would presumably be an issue only for mandatory and emergency matters, as the courts are otherwise closed until May 1. Such individuals should contact the local clerk’s office regarding the appropriate local process and/or file a motion with the Administrative Judge of the local court. Each matter will be resolved on a case-by-case basis. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

27. Will Self-Help Centers remain open in the courts?  If varying across the state, which centers will remain open and which centers will close? How will this information be communicated to the public?

MSBA Response: No.  See no. 1, above. Due to COVID-19, all self-help centers that are located inside Maryland courthouses are temporarily closed. However, the state-wide self-help center, called the Maryland Court Self-Help Center, continues to operate and is providing civil legal aid help on the phone or by live chat. Click here for comprehensive resources and contact information for civil legal aid and the Maryland Court Self-Help Center during the COVID-19 emergency, as collected by A2JC. The Judiciary has also posted information on Self-Help Centers on their public webpage(updated 3.26.2020) 

28. Will self-help services be offered remotely to those who seek assistance with cases that will be on-going?

MSBA Response: See nos. 1 and 27, above.  (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Commissioners’ Offices

29. Will Commissioners’ offices remain open 24 hours a day in every jurisdiction?

MSBA Response: See no. 18, above. Commissioners’ offices will remain open with regular hours. Those offices that are open 24 hours a day will remain open for 24 hours a day, and those that are not will continue to have a Commissioner on call to respond to any emergency filings as needed. The Judiciary has posted the latest statements and closure notices from each court location including information about some of the District Court Commissioners’ Offices here. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Civil Legal Aid Organizations with Courthouse Offices

30. The March 25 Administrative Order reads that “essential personnel, as identified by administrative judges, court administrators, clerks of courts, administrative clerks, administrative heads of units of the Judiciary, shall report as required.” Are there any exceptions? (Question was previously posted as: The Administrative Order reads that “all Maryland Judiciary personnel shall report as scheduled, unless otherwise excused by their administrative head.”)

MSBA Response: The March 25 Order states that if an employee identified as essential  is unable to serve due to illness or otherwise has been excused consistent with applicable leave policies, a substitute shall be determined by that employee’s administrative head. March 25 Order, sec., (c). (Last updated 3.26.2020)

31. Will staff of civil legal aid organizations that have offices in courthouses be permitted to access the courthouse as of March 16, 2020?  We urge that if the courts are open, the courthouse offices of these civil legal aid organizations be open to assist litigants and provide information.

MSBA Response: See  no. 1, above. As the courts are currently closed except for emergencies, staff of civil legal aid organizations should contact the Administrative Judge if they require access to the courthouse. For emergency matters that are determined by the Administrative Judge to be heard in person, staff will have access to the courthouse for the hearing. 

MSBA understands that several of these organizations have been working on providing remote services to litigants. Further information is available here.  (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Effective Notice 

32. How will the courts notify litigants, especially self-represented litigants, both criminal and civil, of court closures, cases that will move forward, remote hearings and changes to their case?  

a) Specifically for “mandatory matters” as listed in section (b) of the Administrative Order that are scheduled to continue as scheduled, the Order states the matters will continue either in person or remotely. 

MSBA Response: The Order does not address the manner by which the court is to “notify all participants necessary to the proceeding.”  March 25 Order, sec. (f) The Judiciary indicates that local courts have used several methods to contact parties about the status of cases, often by phone or with whatever other contact information they have for the individual. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Protective and Peace Orders

The following questions are prompted by the experience of a civil legal aid attorney who was not allowed to enter a Hyattsville courthouse on Friday, March 13, 2020 for a final protective order hearing:

33. Will Maryland courts hear both temporary and final protective order hearings? Are temporary and final hearings included in the exception for “domestic violence petitions”?

MSBA Response: After consultation with the district court Administrative Judges, Chief Judge Morrissey announced on March 19 the following procedure in the District Court, subject to changes as the emergency requires:

Pursuant to Chief Judge Barbera’s Administrative Order issued March 16, 2020, all new protective, peace, and extreme risk protective order (ERPO) petitions will be handled by commissioners. All new interim orders will have a corresponding temporary hearing scheduled for April 6, 2020, or April 7, 2020. AlI interim orders issued between March 13, 2020, through March 17, 2020, should be set in for a temporary hearing date of April 6, 2020, unless a judge orders otherwise. The interim orders will remain in effect until action is taken by the court. 

The commissioners shall provide a notice with all paperwork to petitioners and respondents advising them that the court may contact them with a different hearing date. Administrative Judges, or a judge designated by the Administrative Judge, have the discretion to review each Interim Order with special attention paid to those Interim Protective Orders that have at issue:

(1) orders to vacate the home

(2) the granting or denial of custody of any child

(3) a firearm

After review, and if a hearing is determined to be necessary, any temporary order hearings should be set within seven (7) days of the interim order.

Commissioners are encouraged to request as much contact information from the parties as possible as any temporary hearings may occur remotely via video, audio, or electronic means.  Staff will notify the parties through any means available. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

34. Will Maryland courts hear motions for violations of protective orders and/or motions to extend existing protective orders? 

MSBA Response: Yes.  Motions regarding protective orders are deemed emergency matters that require the Administrative Judge or that judge’s designee to review and determine whether it must be heard in person, can be heard with remote participation, can be scheduled after the emergency period has ended, or can be resolved without a hearing.  March 25 Order, sec. (g)(10)(B). (Last updated 3.26.2020)

35. If the court will hear only temporary protective order hearings, 

a) Will the interim protective order remain in effect and be extended beyond what is required under Maryland Code, Family Law § 4-505?

MSBA Response: See no. 33, above. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

b) How will the courts notify litigants, especially self-represented litigants, about the automatic extension of their Interim or Temporary Peace or Protective Orders and to what date they have been extended and of their new court date for the Final Protective Order hearing? 

MSBA Response: See nos. 33 and 34, above.  (Last updated 3.26.2020)

c) How will the courts notify/ educate law enforcement about the automatic extension of the Peace and Protective Orders in light of court closures to ensure proper enforcement? 

d) If lawyers or self-represented litigants are mistakenly turned away by a courthouse either for filing a Peace or Protective Order or for attending a hearing, what is the protocol to report so that the litigant is not penalized?

MSBA Response: See no. 34, above. The litigant or lawyer may also contact the local clerk’s office or Administrative Judge. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Family Law Emergencies, Including Petitions for Guardianship

36. What is included in the category of cases entitled “family law emergencies including petitions of guardianship?”

MSBA Response: See no. 20, above. The Order does not define “emergencies including petitions of guardianship” or “family law emergencies.” (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Guardianship 

37. Guardianship cases will be moving forward, but civil legal aid attorneys cannot access clients in facilities, including nursing homes.  

MSBA Response: Attorneys should file a motion with the Administrative Judge if they cannot access their clients. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Contempt

38. Will there be further clarification of what “contempt” actions will proceed? Will it include family law contempt actions involving issues of child support or visitation?

MSBA Response: The March 25 Order now specifically refers only to “contempt hearings related to peace or protective orders.”  March 25 Order (g)(11). It is unclear whether family law contempt actions will be considered “family law emergencies” included as emergency matters pursuant to section (g) of the Order. Such matters will be determined on a case-by-case basis, based on the discretion of the Administrative Judge or his/her designee, as to whether or not the case constitutes an emergency. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Motions

39. Will emergency motions regarding custody be heard?

MSBA Response: See no. 20, above. The Order also states that “family law emergencies” are included as emergency matters pursuant to section (g) of the Order, subject to review by the Administrative Judge or his or her designee. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Remote Proceedings

40. Which proceedings will be remote?

MSBA Response: The Order appears to leave this to the discretion of the court that schedules the proceeding.  March 25 Order, sec. (f); (g); and (k). Administrative Judges have contacted litigants and attorneys to coordinate and conduct remote proceedings when possible. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

41. What resources will be available to enable remote participation options for self-represented litigants who may not have access to such technologies?

MSBA Response: The Order does not address this question. Courts have used telephone and other remote technology methods, such as Skype, Zoom, and BlueJeans, to conduct proceedings via telephone and computer, with no additional technology requirements needed from participants. The Judiciary, as the initiator of the conference, will send an invitation and contact information to all parties and counsel to establish contact and begin the proceeding. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

42. What type of notice will be provided to litigants who are expected to participate in a proceeding remotely?

MSBA Response: The Order does not address this question. Courts have contacted litigants in a variety of ways since the emergency, often by phone, to coordinate any remote proceedings. Commissioners are instructed to obtain as much contact information as possible for the parties in order to contact litigants for future proceedings. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

43. Can litigants request a remote hearing in the event they are required to be quarantined or isolated because they are high-risk.

MSBA Response: Yes, by contacting the local clerk and/or filing a motion with the Administrative Judge. The Judiciary has encouraged courts to do as much as they can remotely and the courts will respond to any such requests for remote hearings on a case-by-case basis. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

Matters that can move forward without testimony or argument

44. Will the District Courts continue to review pending affidavit judgment cases?

MSBA Response: The Order does not specifically address this question, but the Judiciary indicates that District Courts will review such cases to the extent that they have adequate personnel to handle these matters. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

45. Will attorneys be able to continue jail visits to meet clients? As of March 12, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ website says it is suspending all visits to its correctional facilities but will provide free phone and video visitation.

MSBA Response:  Attorneys should contact the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for further information regarding remote communications. (Last updated 3.26.2020)

COVID-19 Question Set 2: Responses

Questions shared with the Judiciary on March 19, 2020 

Note that some questions in Question Set 2 where included in Question Set 1. MSBA presented these questions again to the Judiciary on March 19, as they remained outstanding. All have now been answered.

Courthouses and Commissioner Offices

1. Have there been any specific screening procedures, both legal and health-related,  that have been instituted to enter a courthouse or the Commissioner’s offices?  

MSBA Response: Maryland Department of General Services issued a State Building Operations Protocol, effective March 19, 2020, for all state buildings.  On March 21, the Judiciary published Statewide Courthouse Access Screening Protocols, which state:

Effective Monday, March 23, 2020, anyone (staff, visitors, vendors, contractors, etc.) seeking entrance into a State-operated facility, including all District Court buildings, must be asked initial screening questions.

For infection control purposes, you will be asked the following questions:

  • Have you had any of the following symptoms in the last seven (7) days: fever or chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or any other flu-like symptoms?
  • In the past week, do you know if you have been in close (less than 6 feet), prolonged contact (more than 2-3 minutes) with someone with fever, cough, shortness of breath, flu-like symptoms, or a diagnosis of COVID-19

We ask that you maintain a distance of six (6) feet from the screener during this process.
If you answer YES to any question on the Initial Screening Questionnaire OR refuse to participate in the screening process, you will be refused entrance and provided with a contact number so that you may be assisted. (Last updated 3.267.2020)

2. Will the Commissioners’ offices remain open 24 hours a day in each jurisdiction to accept complaints and filings? If not, how will this information be communicated to the public? 

MSBA Response: Commissioners’ offices will remain open with regular hours. Those offices that are open 24 hours a day will remain open for 24 hours a day, and those that are not will continue to have a Commissioner on call to respond to any emergency filings as needed. Contact information for local Commissioners’ offices is available here. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

3. Will the Commissioners’ offices be able to have access to interpreter services?

MSBA Response: Yes.  Note from MSBA Leadership: The availability of interpreters may obviously be impacted by the circumstances. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

4. What procedure should a litigant or attorney follow to report if they were wrongfully denied entrance to a courthouse and their case is impacted as a result? 

MSBA Response: The Judiciary encourages litigants and attorneys to contact the local courthouse by phone or file a motion with the Administrative Judge of the courthouse. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

Court Hearings, Emergencies

5. For the types of cases that fall under section (g) of the March 16 Order, the guidance is to contact each jurisdiction, even individual courts, to ascertain on a case by case basis to gather guidance on how to move forward with a particular case.  Can the MSBA assist by establishing a ‘hotline’ staffed with MSBA resources (perhaps Senior Status Judges temporarily employed by MSBA) to help alleviate some of the information dissemination pressure?

MSBA Response: MSBA discussed this possibility with the Judiciary and received a positive response. MSBA will continue to develop and implement this idea and update our members. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

6. Will the Judiciary define as to what constitutes a “family law emergency” under Section (g)(7) of the Administrative Order? 

MSBA Response: The March 25 Order does not define “family law emergency.” Emergencies will be handled on a case by case basis based on the Administrative Judge’s (or his/her designee’s) discretion and will follow the same considerations for emergencies prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

7. Will the Judiciary define as to what constitutes an “emergency Habeas Corpus petition” under Section (g)(3) of the Administrative Order?  

MSBA Response: The Order does not define “emergency Habeas Corpus petitions.” The Judiciary indicates that such hearings refer to requests to the Circuit Court to review a bail review decision from District Court. (Last updated MSBA 3.27.2020)

8. Will the Judiciary define as to what constitutes “emergency issues in guardianship matters” under Section (g)(4) of the Administrative Order?  

MSBA Response: The Order does not define “emergencies issues in guardianship matters.” Emergencies will be handled on a case by case basis based on the Administrative Judge’s (or his/her designee’s) discretion and will follow the same considerations for emergencies prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

Filings, Deadlines and Scheduling Orders 

9. The March 25 Order provides that statutory and rules deadlines related to the adjudication of criminal and juvenile matters shall be suspended and extended by the number of days the courts are closed by the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, but no fewer than twenty-one (21) business days after the first day that the court has been reopened. Will the Judiciary offer similar suspension and extension of deadlines in civil cases?

MSBA Response: No. Deadlines established by statute or rule remain in effect.  March 25 Order, sec.; (l) and (m). The Order states that scheduling orders issued in civil and family law matters shall be addressed by motion on a case-by-case basis by the administrative judge or his or her designee consistent with the Court’s case management plan. March 25 Order, sec. (m).  (Last updated 3.27.2020)

10. Will the Judiciary provide guidance on filings that the Court receives during this emergency period (anytime from March 16, 2020 through May 1, 2020), as to whether such matters will be docketed during this time period and whether any issuance of process will occur during this time period? Or do these matters fall outside of the scope of mandatory/emergency matters?

MSBA Response: The Order does not specifically address docketing or issuance of documents for service of process, noting only that the date of any filing will be the date it is postmarked or, if filed by dropbox, the previous business day, unless the dropbox provides a timestamp.  

Court clerks have continued to docket filings as they are able, depending on the amount of personnel available in each courthouse and/or working remotely. Updates should be visible to attorneys and litigants online in the Maryland Judiciary Case Search, although there may be a delay in the usual time between filing and when items are docketed online. Any additional processing beyond docketing will vary by jurisdiction and by each court’s capacity based on available personnel. The Judiciary’s goal is to have court personnel do all that they can during this emergency to continue to process paperwork. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

11. Will the Court consider emergency motions to extend court-imposed deadlines, such as scheduling order deadlines, under the March 25 Order?

MSBA Response: Attorneys and litigants should try to continue their work to meet deadlines as much as possible, taking appropriate safety precautions as needed. If needed, attorneys and litigants should contact the local court or file a motion with the Administrative Judge of that courthouse, requesting specific relief. The March 25 Order states that scheduling orders issued in civil and family law matters shall be addressed by motion on a case-by-case basis by the administrative judge or his or her designee consistent with the Court’s case management plan. March 25 Order, sec. (m). (Last updated 3.27.2020)

12. Will the Judiciary provide guidance as to how filing deadlines will apply to individuals who have been medically advised to self-isolate?

MSBA Response: The Order does not specifically address this issue.  See no. 13, above. Such individuals should contact the local clerk’s office regarding the appropriate local process and/or file a motion with the Administrative Judge of the local court. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

13. Will the Judiciary provide guidance regarding current scheduling orders? Will there be any extension of deadlines? Will Courts be ruling on pending motions? Are dispositive motion deadlines extended? Will parties have additional time to respond to motions that have just been filed?

MSBA Response: Although all matters scheduled to be heard between March 17 and April 3, 2020 are postponed pending further order of the Chief Judge, nothing in the Order amends or tolls other deadlines.  Deadlines established by statute and rule remain in effect. The March 25 Order, states that scheduling orders issued in civil and family law matters shall be addressed by motion on a case-by-case basis by the administrative judge or his or her designee consistent with the Court’s case management plan. March 25 Order, sec. (m). Note, however, that the Order does not preclude a court from considering or resolving mandatory and emergency matters that can be addressed without testimony or argument, so a judge can presumably rule on an emergency motion to extend court-imposed deadlines. 

Attorneys and litigants should try to continue their work to meet deadlines as much as possible, taking appropriate safety precautions as needed. Attorneys and litigants should contact the local court or file a motion with the Administrative Judge of that courthouse, requesting specific relief as needed. Scheduling orders and deadlines will be reviewed and resolved on a case-by-case basis as indicated here. Some Administrative Judges have reached out to counsel and litigants since the COVID-19 emergency to discuss and coordinate remote proceedings, when available and appropriate. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

14. As the Judiciary has not postponed discovery deadlines in civil cases, practitioners are asking if they can safely postpone depositions with upcoming deadlines, with the expectation that they will be able to obtain a postponement of trial dates, rather than face significant health risks due to in person close contact. Several have expressed concerns about face-to-face contact to satisfy civil deadlines, with discovery preparation, client meetings, depositions – all placing employees, clients, and communities at risk. Can the Judiciary offer any guidance on this issue?

MSBA Response: See no. 13, above,  and section (m) of the March 25 Order.  (Last updated 3.27.2020)

15. Will the Judiciary provide guidance as to whether mediation and ADR deadlines from scheduling orders continue, and any remote methods of participation if appropriate? Should attorneys continue to schedule and handle mediations and ADR via video-conferencing and telephone when available?

MSBA Response: The Order does not address court-ordered ADR proceedings.  See no. 13, above,  and section (m) of the March 25 Order. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

16. Will the Judiciary allow any tolling of limitations?

MSBA Response: No, see no. 9 above.  (Last updated 3.27.2020)

17. Will the Judiciary extend any “try by dates” as set by the Court? 

MSBA Response: No, see no. 9 above. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

Remote Proceedings

18. May Peace Orders be filed remotely or extended beyond the 30-day deadline for filing in the event the local Commissioner’s office is not open 24 hours a day?

MSBA Response:  Please see Judge Morrissey’s recent pronouncement regarding peace, protective, and extreme risk protective orders. If you are in need of protection and are seeking a peace order, call the District Court Commissioner in your county or Baltimore City. Your request will be heard. Call first to provide information and for instructions on where to go.  Litigants should be able to continue to file peace orders during the emergency, as Commissioners’ offices will remain open with regular hours. Those offices that are open 24 hours a day will remain open for 24 hours a day, and those that are not will continue to have a Commissioner on call to respond to any emergency filings as needed. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

19. Similarly, will there be a way to remotely file Protective Orders, file an application for a statement of charges, and any other matters enumerated in the March 16 Order as to be handled by the District Court Commissioners, in the event the local Commissioner’s office is not open 24 hours a day? March 16 Order, sec., (f)(4).

MSBA Response: See no. 18, above. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

20. What if any tools will the Judiciary provide to any litigants who do not have remote-based technology but are unable to come to court due to medically-recommended self-isolation?

MSBA Response: The Order does not specifically address this issue.  Such individuals should contact the local clerk’s office regarding the appropriate local process and/or file a motion with the Administrative Judge of the local court. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

21. What remote technologies and tools will litigants, attorneys, and witnesses need to participate in remote proceedings, including appellate cases?

MSBA Response: The Order does not address this question. Courts have used telephone and other remote technology methods, such as Skype, Zoom, and BlueJeans, to conduct proceedings via telephone and computer, with no additional technology requirements needed from participants. The Judiciary, as the initiator of the conference, will send an invitation and contact information to all parties and counsel to establish contact and begin the proceeding. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

 22. Can litigants request a remote hearing in the event they are required to be quarantined or isolated because they are high-risk?

MSBA Response: Yes, see no. 20, above. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

23. Can all litigants file motions to request telephonic appearances for mandatory or emergency matters as defined in the March 16 Order?

MSBA Response: Yes, see nos. 13 and 20, above. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

Effective Notice

24. The March 25 Order does not address the manner by which the court is to “notify all participants necessary to the proceeding.”   Will the Judiciary provide clarity as to how it will notify litigants, especially self-represented litigants, of court closures, cases that will move forward, remote hearings, and any changes to their case?

MSBA Response: Litigants are encouraged to check online frequently for the latest updates from the Judiciary, available on their COVID-19 page. The Judiciary has also posted the latest statements and closure notices from each court location, as they are received from the courts, here. Individuals may also check for case statuses in the Maryland Judiciary Case Search but should contact the local courts if there is any confusion. The Judiciary has encouraged courts to do as much as they can remotely and Administrative Judges and court clerks have been contacting litigants by several methods, including by phone, about the status of individual cases and if the court intends to proceed with a case remotely. The March 19 update from Chief Judge Morrissey regarding procedures for domestic violence and peace order matters stated that staff will notify the parties through any means available.(Last updated 3.27.2020)

25. Will court notice regarding postponements and updated Orders and directives from the Judiciary be available for non-English speaking litigants? Many of the current Orders and directives available online are in English. Will non-English resources be available?

MSBA Response: The Judiciary is working on providing additional resources for non-English speaking litigants, and has already translated some forms into Spanish. The MSBA will provide further updates as available.  (Last updated 3.22.20)

Maryland Judiciary Response: We received from our vendor translated versions of the page in Russian, French, and Korean as well, but had to send them back, along with the Spanish, for changes resulting from the new administrative order. A Chinese translation is also pending. We will post information in English and the five priority languages as soon as the revised translations are received.  (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Peace Order and Protective Order Hearings and Appeals

26. Will the State’s Attorney remain involved in Juvenile Peace Orders filed by civilians and will their authorization still be required during the emergency? Practitioners have reported that petitioners have had difficulty reaching local State’s Attorney’s offices since March 16, 2020. 

MSBA Response: Individuals are encouraged to contact their local State’s Attorney’s Offices for further information, and view any updated information online on the SAO’s website. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

Section (h) of March 16 Order

27. Can the Judiciary give guidance on the scope of section (h) of the Order?

MSBA Response: Emergencies will be handled on a case by case basis based on the Administrative Judge’s (or his/her designee’s) discretion and will follow the same considerations for emergencies prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  (Last updated 3.22.20) 

28. Will all local courts and even individual judges be allowed to determine which matters they choose to resolve under Section (h) of the March 16 Order?

MSBA Response: Yes, see no. 27, above. (Last updated 3.22.20)

29. Are affidavit judgments and writs of garnishments included in the scope of section (h)?

MSBA Response: The Order does not specifically address this question, but the Judiciary indicates that District Courts will review such cases to the extent that they have adequate personnel to handle these matters.  (Last updated 3.22.20)

Civil Aid Legal Providers

30. Will the Judiciary clarify whether civil legal aid organizations that have offices in courthouses be permitted to access the courthouse as of March 16, 2020?  

MSBA Response: As the courts are currently closed except for emergencies, staff of civil legal aid organizations should contact the Administrative Judge if they require access to the courthouse. For emergency matters that are determined by the Administrative Judge to be heard in person, staff will have access to the courthouse for the hearing. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

 31. Will advocates and assistants for civil legal aid organizations, who often assist civil legal aid attorneys in court and with interpretation, be permitted entry into courthouses during this emergency?

Maryland Judiciary Response: To the extent that the individuals referenced above are appearing for a specific case, they will be permitted entrance in the courthouse.  If individual advocates have space in courthouses, they should contact their local administrative judge regarding procedures. All District Court courthouses and offices are asking a two-question screening to ensure that the individual does not have COVID-19 related symptoms.  The questions and procedures can be found on the Judiciary’s website. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

Jail

32. Practitioners have expressed concern for the safety of attorneys providing representation for initial appearances in detention centers. Most of these attorneys have been appointed through the Appointed Attorney Program, generally operated by District Court Commissioners (not attorneys). Attorneys are still required in some counties to appear inside detention center facilities, even when a hearing is not requested and even though electronic capabilities exist and the attorneys would be able to telework. Will this option be available to them, to ensure their safety and health?

MSBA Response: Almost all jurisdictions are allowing remote access by attorneys, either by calling in or by remote contact within a location (limiting contact between the attorney and client through use of a telephone while at the detention center). We will share further updates as we learn more. (Last updated 3.27.2020)

Rent Escrow

33. Will there be recourse available for litigants who may be self-isolating at home for a prolonged period of time, but conditions in the home pose a severe threat to life, health and safety?

MSBA Response: Individuals may file a motion with the Administrative Judge, who will then decide whether the matter rises to the level of an emergency, thereby initiating section (g) of the March 25 Order and a consideration of whether the matter must be heard in person, may be heard remotely, can be scheduled after the emergency period has ended, or can be resolved without a hearing.. March 25 Order, sec. (g). (Last updated 3.26.2020)

General MSBA Related Questions

34. How long is the current moratorium on in-person MSBA events?

MSBA Response:  The MSBA communicated that no in-person events will be held until May 17, 2020. This is a rapidly evolving situation and that timing may be impacted/extended.  Any changes will be broadly communicated. (Last updated 3.22.20)

35. What is the impact on the Legal Summit & Annual Meeting this summer?

MSBA Response:  There has been no change at this time.  The MSBA is in contact with other state Bars who hold similar events around the same time and we are analyzing all information available.  Anyone registered for the meeting already or who registers will be entitled to a full credit for a rescheduled event or full refund, if requested, should the event be cancelled or if the registrant cannot participate during the rescheduled date.  At this time, the event remains on schedule. (Last updated 3.22.20)

36. What is the role of the MSBA during this crisis versus other organizations?

MSBA Response:  The Maryland legal profession is rich and varied with many organizations representing geographic and individual sector/niche areas of the profession.  Their role is important. COVID-19 transcends geography or area of law practice and as home of the entire legal profession, the MSBA seeks to represent the interest of practitioners and firms of all sizes and in all segments.  The MSBA seeks to partner and provide guidance to all who are impacted. We are all in this together. A robust, resilient, and fully representative state Bar is important for the health of the profession. Specific questions about MSBA’s role in responding to this crisis can be answered by emailing feedback@msb.org.  (Last updated 3.22.20)

COVID-19 Question Set Three: Responses

Questions shared with the Judiciary on March 26, 2020

Please note that these responses came directly from the Judiciary Leadership, which includes Chief Judge John Morrissey, Circuit Court Chair Judge Laura Ripken, Judge Kathleen Cox, Pamela Harris, Suzanne Pelz, and Kelley O’Connor. They were received by the MSBA on March 27, 2020.

General Extension of Statutory and Rules Deadlines

1. Several of the jurisdictions in the United States, including New York and the District of Columbia, have issued Orders from their respective Judiciary or Governor addressing extension of deadlines. Some of these jurisdictions have included general extensions of statutory and rules deadlines for all matters and some have addressed the issue of civil statutes of limitations and court related civil deadlines. Can the Court offer any guidance as to whether Maryland will consider these types of extensions?

Maryland Judiciary Response: Statutory and rules deadlines for criminal and juvenile matters are suspended and extended per section (l) of the Administrative Order Extending the Length of Statewide Judiciary Restricted Operations Due to the COVID-19 Emergency dated March 25, 2020 (the “Order”). The administrative order does not affect any applicable statute of limitations. Issues involving civil and family law scheduling orders will be handled jurisdiction by jurisdiction. See section (m) of the Order. All parties can still file into the court via MDEC, mail or drop-box. To the extent that each court has the ability, it will continue to process incoming filings. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Essential Businesses

2. Will the Judiciary provide any guidance to help the legal community determine the scope of the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel’s March 23, 2020 Interpretive Guidance suggesting that private persons and entities that support the judicial process system are essential?

a) Does this include support staff and paralegals?

b) Does this include process servers?

c) Does this include non-lawyer experts needed to prepare for or complete discovery in accordance with scheduling orders?

Maryland Judiciary Response: These questions should be directed to the Governor’s Legal Counsel. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Remote Proceedings

3. Members have reviewed the March 20 Administrative Order Regarding Remote Hearings Held During the COVID-19 Emergency and ask if the Judiciary will seek to standardize systems for video conferencing, recording, document sharing and preservation of evidence based on its early experience with remote proceedings? Will this information be communicated publicly?

Maryland Judiciary Response: Systems and capability vary by jurisdiction. The website for each court may contain additional information or you may contact the local court for more information. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Case Priority for Backlog

4. Can the Court provide guidance regarding the backlog of cases that will result from the emergency, in terms of what cases will be prioritized and the procedure for rescheduling cases? How will parties and counsel be notified?

Maryland Judiciary Response: As it is unclear how long the state of emergency will last, no decision has been made at this time. It is anticipated that an order addressing reopening will be made at the appropriate time. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Service of Process

5. With many individual defendants sheltering in place and unwilling to open their door to take a hand-delivery from a process server, has there been any consideration to suspending the deadlines for service, or allowing alternate reasonable means of service in cases, to avoid the costs to parties and the courts for the reissuance of service that expires during the emergency?

Maryland Judiciary Response: Not at this time. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Filing Fees

6. Will the Court permit filing fees, etc. to be made electronically?

Maryland Judiciary Response: Filing fees are accepted electronically in MDEC jurisdictions. There is no current or anticipated ability for the courts to accept electronic payments in non-MDEC counties.

Payments for traffic tickets are accepted electronically. Information regarding traffic payments is on the Judiciary website (www.mdcourts.gov). (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Scheduling Orders and Filing Deadlines

7. Will the Court consider modifying any case management plans and “try by” dates as a result of the extension through May 1, 2020, of the emergency? Practitioners are concerned that litigants may be severely prejudiced if third parties, including police, medical experts, health care providers, and others refuse to be deposed during the COVID-19 crisis.

Maryland Judiciary Response: See the answer to Question No 1 and section (m) of the Order. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

8. The ability to conduct meaningful discovery and to pursue discovery-related motions practice has been dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 emergency.

a) Would the Court be willing to issue a standing order on modification of scheduling orders (e.g., 60-90 days added to each deadline), in light of potential health risks associated with conducting discovery and meeting with clients to sign documents and affidavits, or will litigants and attorneys need to file a motion, as indicated in the March 25 Administrative Order?

Maryland Judiciary Response: See the answer to Question No 1 and section (m) of the Order. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Court-Ordered ADR Deadlines

9. Circuit courts are continuing to issue scheduling orders that include mediation referrals with a 30 day opt out deadline. Will that be extended or are counsel still responsible to file their motion within 30 days?

Maryland Judiciary Response: See the answer to Question No 1 and section (m) of the Order. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

10. Meeting existing court-ordered ADR deadlines has become increasingly difficult due to social distancing recommendations, and many previously scheduled mediation sessions have been postponed. Will the ADR deadlines be automatically extended, and if not, will the parties risk sanctions if they reschedule outside of the deadlines?

Maryland Judiciary Response: See the answer to Question No 1 and section (m) of the Order. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Statutes of Limitations

11. The March 25 Order suspends and extends statutory and rules deadlines related to the adjudication of criminal and juveniles matters. Can the Judiciary provide guidance about
suspending or extending statutory limits in civil matters and statutory tort claim notice periods?

Maryland Judiciary Response: See the answer to Question No 1 and section (m) of the Order. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

12. Do the Administrative Orders dated March 16 and March 25, 2020, extend statutes of limitations applicable to criminal matters? If not, why not?

Maryland Judiciary Response: See the answer to Question No 1 and section (m) of the Order. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

13. Since the clerks’ offices in Circuit and District Court are “closed to the public” with a few exceptions, are statutes of limitations in civil cases tolled until the courts reopen to the public?

Maryland Judiciary Response: No. All parties can still file into the court via MDEC, mail or drop-box. To the extent that each court has the ability, it will continue to process incoming filings. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

a) Under the Administrative Order dated March 16, were all of the Offices of the Clerks of the Circuit Courts throughout the State of Maryland closed to the public through April 3, 2020, and then through May 1, 2020 based on the March 25, 2020 Order?

Maryland Judiciary Response: Yes. The March 16, 2020 Order has been rescinded by the March 25, 2020 Order. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Appointed Attorneys

14. What steps are being taken to protect attorneys employed through the District court Appointed Attorney Program, the Court-Appointed Attorneys in Guardianship Program?

Maryland Judiciary Response: The Appointed Attorneys are Independent Contractors and not employees of the Judiciary. They are not required to work. For the Appointed Attorney Program, most locations are permitting remote participation by the Appointed Attorneys as well as other participants. Charging documents are disseminated to all parties via e-mail. CaseSearch is available. In Baltimore City, Appointed Attorneys still appear at a central office but are able to communicate with the defendant by telephone upon request. For questions about a particular location, the Appointed Attorney should contact their local Administrative Commissioner. All Appointed Attorneys should follow the recommendations of the CDC. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

a) Is teleworking an option when electronic methods are available for representation?

Maryland Judiciary Response: Please see the answer above. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

b) Is there an option to submit invoices electronically?

Maryland Judiciary Response: Yes. The invoice must be properly filled out and signed. The Appointed Attorney should contact their local Administrative Commissioner for where to send the invoice. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Orphans’ Court

15. Will the Judiciary consider suspending the requirement of original signatures in Orphans’ Court during the COVID-10 emergency?

Maryland Judiciary Response: The Registers of Wills and Orphans Courts have been accepting routine filings by email and fax since the offices were closed to the public. The only exception is a petition for probate when an original Will is presented. For information on email addresses and fax numbers, please contact your county’s Register’s office. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Remote Notarization

16. Many members have expressed concern about no current provision allowing for remote notarization. Other states, such as New York, have acted quickly through the Governor to allow remote notaries immediately. Can the Judiciary speak to this issue at all?

Maryland Judiciary Response: The Clerks cannot advise on how or whether the government might authorize remote notaries, because the Judiciary does not regulate notaries public. The Office of the Secretary of State has guidance on their website. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

MSBA Response: Effective March 30th, Governor Hogan ordered the in-person requirement for notarizing documents in Maryland is temporarily waived for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, subject to guidance provided by Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith. The Governor’s Emergency Order No. 20-03-30-04 authorizes remote notarizations and the Secretary of State’s temporary guidance issued March 30, 2020. The contents of this document are temporary guidelines that apply during the emergency waiver of the in-person requirement. All other requirements for performing notarial acts are in full force and effect. Much of this guidance is taken from a new remote notary law is currently scheduled to take effect in the State of Maryland on October 1, 2020. We will provide further information about the new law in its entirety as that date approaches. You can find a copy of the new law here: Ch. 407, SB 678 (2019 Legislative Session) http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2019RS/Chapters_noln/CH_407_sb0678e.pdf .

Secretary of State Home Page: https://sos.maryland.gov/Pages/default.aspx

YOU MUST DO THESE THINGS TO PERFORM A REMOTE NOTARIZATION:

You must be a current notary in good standing
You must notify the Office of the Secretary of State of your intent to use remote notarizations
You must identify the communications technology vendor you will use and confirm that the vendor allow you to, in real time, (1) view the remotely located individual and (2) compare for consistency the information and photos presented as identification credentials.
For each notarial act conducted remotely, you must create and retain an audio-visual recording of the performance of the notarial act.
For each notarial act conducted remotely, you must note on the notarial certification and in your notary log or journal that the notarial act was performed for a remotely located individual using communications technology.
You may NOT charge more than $4 for each remote online notarial act using communication technology, which is the same fee that may be charged when performing an in person notarial act.

PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING BEFORE YOU BEGIN TO PERFORM REMOTE NOTARIZATIONS:

The Governor’s Order is a temporary waiver of the in-person requirement, which is a significant change to notarization practice in Maryland.
The Governor’s Order requires you to use a communications technology vendor designed for the purpose of facilitating remote notarizations, as opposed to services that primarily offer video-conferencing ability. Such purpose-designed services include the ability to both see and hear and a remotely located individual (services such as Skype or Facetime do not meet the technology requirements). It is your responsibility to choose the vendor.
For additional guidance on available technology, you may wish to review the information made available by the National Notary Association https://www.nationalnotary.org/or other professional membership associations.
The Governor’s Order requires advance notification to be provided to the Secretary of State https://sos.state.md.us/Pages/default.aspx before performing any remote notarial acts, and you must identify the vendor. The notification form can be found at: https://sos.maryland.gov/Notary/Pages/default.aspx. You must submit the form via email to: remotenotary.sos@maryland.gov.
Remember that you are the professional, and it is your legal responsibility to perform notarizations correctly under the law, so be certain you have read and understand all of the legal requirements under both the existing notary statute found and the provisions added by the emergency order issued by the Governor. The existing notary statute and regulations can be found in the Maryland Notary Handbook and the Governor’s Order can be found here.
Questions may be emailed to the Secretary of State at: remotenotary.sos@maryland.gov.

Notaries public can still perform notarial acts in person during the state of emergency but should use their best judgement on whether the notarial act is considered essential and abide by social distancing, CDC and MDH guidance in the conduct of any essential notarial services. Additional guidance for performing in person notarization amid this current public health crisis can be found here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/…/notaries-precautions-coron….

A list of vendors is below, the notary is responsible to determine if the vendor meets the requirements in Maryland. The list is not intended to be an all-inclusive or comprehensive list, nor is it an endorsement of any vendor, nor is it any particular order.

DocVerify
LenderClose
Notarize
NotaryCam
Pavaso
Safedocs
SIGNiX
World Wide Notary 

(Last updated 2020.03.30)

Register of Wills

17. Will there be statewide instruction regarding Register of Wills offices? Members report that all offices are closed to the public but some are staffed to handle and process probate filings while others are closed.

Maryland Judiciary Response: While the Register of Wills is not under the purview of the Judiciary, the Office of Attorney General has advised that every Register’s office is open to handle telephone calls, emails, faxes and regular mail. All offices have reduced the number of staff members available at any one time as the volume of work has dictated. Some offices have also reduced their days and hours of operation. For information about a specific office, please consult the office’s webpage or contact the office directly. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Protective Orders/Peace Orders

18. What steps have been taken to ensure that parties of protective orders and peace orders that were extended during the emergency receive written verification that orders have been extended, particularly those that were extended in the early days of the emergency? Practitioners have reported that some clients have not yet received updated orders with the extended expiration date.

Maryland Judiciary Response: The current protocol for peace and protective orders in the District Court is as follows:

Revised policy on Interim Orders during the emergency as of March 27, 2020:

Pursuant to Chief Judge Barbera’s March 25, 2020 Administrative Order Extending the Length of the Statewide Judiciary Restricted Operations Due to the COVID-19 Emergency:

All new protective, peace and extreme risk protective order petitions will be handled by commissioners.

All new Interim Orders will have a corresponding Temporary Hearing scheduled for May 4, 2020 or May 5, 2020, unless otherwise ordered by an Administrative Judge, or a Judge designated by the Administrative Judge.

Interim Orders will remain in effect until action is taken by the Court.

The commissioners shall provide a notice with all paperwork to petitioners and respondents advising them that the court may contact them with a different hearing date.

Administrative Judges, or a Judge designated by the Administrative Judge, have the discretion to review each Interim Order with special attention paid to those Interim Protective Orders that have at issue: (1) orders to vacate the home; (2) the granting or denial of custody of any child; (3) a firearm. After review, and if a hearing is determined to be necessary, any Temporary Order hearings should be set within seven (7) days of the Interim Order.

Commissioners are encouraged to request as much contact information from the parties as possible as any temporary hearings may occur remotely via video, audio or electronic means.

Staff will notify the parties of any scheduled hearing date through any means available.

If the courts continue to function only on a limited basis as of May 4, 2020, a further advice will be given. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

19. Will the Judiciary provide written guidance to ensure advocates as well as interpreters be permitted to enter the courthouse?

Maryland Judiciary Response: To the extent that the individuals referenced above are appearing for a specific case, they will be permitted entrance in the courthouse. If individual advocates have space in courthouses, they should contact their local administrative judge regarding procedures. All District Court courthouses and offices are asking a two-question screening to ensure that the individual does not have COVID-19 related symptoms. The questions and procedures can be found on the Judiciary’s website. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Commissioners

20. The Judiciary indicated on its public information webpage that litigants and attorneys should call the District Court Commissioner prior to going in person to file for protective and peace orders. What specific information should litigants and attorneys have available during this initial phone call to the Commissioner?

Maryland Judiciary Response: It is advisable to call the Commissioner’s office as office hours and specific procedures for filing will vary by location due to the COVID-19 screening questions for entrance into the facility and the need to ensure proper social distancing. The phone numbers for each Commissioner location is listed in the Commissioner directory on the Judiciary’s website. The larger jurisdictions are open 24/7 but the smaller jurisdictions go to on-call in the evening hours. All District Court locations are asking a two-question screening to ensure that the individual does not have COVID-19 related symptoms. The questions and procedures can be found on the Judiciary’s website. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Wait Times for Calls to Local Courts

21. What if any guidance can the Judiciary provide for litigants and attorneys who are still facing lengthy wait times for phone calls to courts in larger jurisdictions, including inquiries about the status and scheduling of protective orders and peace orders?

Maryland Judiciary Response: It is not clear to which local court this question is directed. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Language Services

22. Will the Judiciary ensure that signage at its courthouse regarding closures and the emergency be translated into languages commonly spoken at that location?

Maryland Judiciary Response: The AOC Access to Justice office provides translation services to all Maryland Courts. We have not fielded any requests for local sign translation since the emergency began. We have reached out to our courts to offer that service and will try to expedite any requests. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

23. Can the Judiciary provide an estimate for when and where web content and online forms will be accessible to the public in non-English languages? Currently the public page is available in Spanish, but not on other pages on the Judiciary’s site.

Maryland Judiciary Response: We received from our vendor translated versions of the page in Russian, French, and Korean as well, but had to send them back, along with the Spanish, for changes resulting from the new administrative order. A Chinese translation is also pending. We will post information in English and the five priority languages as soon as the revised translations are received. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Coordination with Law Enforcement and Sheriffs

24. What if any coordination and communication has the Judiciary had with local law enforcement and local sheriffs’ offices, including any protocols for protective and peace order enforcement (when printed order shows as “expired” but the Court has extended all orders) and for stay of evictions, etc.? Will the Judiciary issue any public directives related to this?

Maryland Judiciary Response: Each Administrative Judge is responsible for coordination with justice partners. Inquiries should be directed to the local court for location specific information. All Administrative Orders are posted to our website. See also the answer to question 18. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

CINA Cases

25. What if any coordination and communication has the Judiciary had with local departments of social service to facilitate visits and expedite reuniting children with their parents?

Maryland Judiciary Response: This is a jurisdiction by jurisdiction issue. In light of the emergency and the safety risks to children, parents, social workers and others, it is not anticipated that full service will continue until courthouses are reopened. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

Landlord-Tenant

26. How much notice will be given to parties in summary ejectment and other cases seeking repossession of leased premises when the courts reopen and these matters are scheduled or rescheduled?

Maryland Judiciary Response: It is anticipated that an order addressing reopening will be made at the appropriate time. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

27. For tenants with pending rent escrow cases who have been ordered to make payments into court, how long will they have after the courts reopen to make their escrow payments?

Maryland Judiciary Response: See the answer above. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

28. Does the statewide stay of residential evictions extend to all warrants of restitution, including those that were outstanding at the time of the court closure of the courts as well as any that might be issued during the closure?

Maryland Judiciary Response: Yes. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

29. What instructions have been given to Sheriffs to ensure that they are properly distinguishing residential from non-residential tenancies when executing warrants of restitution?

Maryland Judiciary Response: This question should be referred to the Sherriff’s Department. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

30. In jurisdictions that have not criminalized extra-judicial (or “self-help”) residential evictions, will tenants have access to the District Court to enjoin or remedy the eviction?

Maryland Judiciary Response: All parties can still file into the court via MDEC, mail or drop-box. To the extent that each court has the ability, it will continue to process incoming filings. (Last updated 2020.03.27)

COVID-19 Question Set Four 

Questions shared with the Judiciary on April 2, 2020

Scheduling Orders and Filing Deadlines

1. Can the Judiciary offer any additional feedback to extended deadlines and scheduling orders, given the issuance of the new stay-at-home order from the Governor on March 30 and the continued spread of the virus? 

Note: We have been contacted by a practitioner who has been infected with COVID-19 and is challenged to take care of her health while preparing to file a motion to postpone her cases in a non-MDEC jurisdiction.

Pro Se Litigants

2. Civil legal aid organizations have expressed concerns about a pro-se litigant’s  1) ability to understand their duties and obligations during the time of COVID emergency; 2) access to the limited information available related to which cases are moving forward and to know what is expected of the public in terms of filings and deadlines; 3) hardship and health risk if a litigant may not have access to the internet, a computer and/or a printer at home and would find it challenging to adhere to the Governor’s stay-at-home order in order to prepare documents and meet filing deadlines. 

How can we assist with a public information campaign to raise public awareness about what it expected from pro-litigants during this time of emergency, especially as it relates to the types of cases being heard, filing deadlines and how they can meet their obligations to the court under the stay-at-home order?   

Dropbox Filings and Mailings

3. Will dropbox accommodations remain in courthouses, given the shelter-at-home Executive Order?

 4. Will court personnel still process mail?

5. Will dropbox filings continue, or will litigants and attorneys be instructed or encouraged to use mail only for non-MDEC jurisdictions, given the March 30 Executive Order that includes a stay-at-home provision?  

6. Can clerks mail forms to people who do not have the capacity to print?

7. What is the appropriate way to pay a fee for a new case or to reopen a case?  Should self-represented litigants be advised to clip a check to the pleading and drop it in the box? 

Remote Proceedings During the Emergency

8. As the Judiciary has extended court closures through May 1, 2020, and as the Governor issued a stay-at-home Executive Order yesterday, will the Judiciary provide further guidance to practitioners and litigants about any other hearings that may occur remotely, beyond what has already been outlined in the prior Administrative Orders? Practitioners have expressed concern at the backlog of cases once courts reopen and would like to know if the Judiciary would consider holding limited hearings, such as administrative appeals that have already been briefed and usually take place in under one hour, or any other limited hearings that could be easily conducted by telephone conference or other virtual technologies? 

Family Law Matters

9. On March 27, the Judiciary released a Statement on Matters Concerning Children and Families, indicating that all custody and parenting time orders are still in effect, and can be jointly adjusted if permitted by court order. Section (II)(b)(vi) of the new March 30 Executive Order permits “travel required by court order” as an essential activity. Can the Judiciary provide further guidance about how litigants and attorneys can continue custody and parenting time orders given the new stay-at-home order from the Governor, including any travel for parents and children living outside of Maryland?  

10. Additionally, in family law cases, members report challenges in producing discovery documents amidst job loss and confronting childcare issues and report that joint motions to extend scheduling orders have not been consistently ruled on by the Courts.  Is the Judiciary expecting to continue ruling on joint motions?

Deposition

11. The current rules require that the court reporter is present with the deponent for depositions. Attorneys have reported that court reporting companies are requiring a stipulation in advance from counsel agreeing that the oath will not be administered but that the deponent will verbally acknowledge under the penalty of perjury that his testimony is the truth. Some attorneys have not agreed to this, which would result in in-person depositions, which can create a health risk.  Can the Judiciary provide guidance regarding the oath that is required for depositions and speak to emergency authority regarding this provision?

Subsidized Housing, Ability to Relocate

12. Practitioners expressed concern for clients who are scheduled to move from a subsidized property to another, and are put in the difficult position to either violate federal law and endanger their subsidy or violate the new Executive Order from March 30 as none of the “essential activities” apply to relocation. Can these individuals seek immediate relief from the Court by emergency motion to protect themselves against violating the Executive Order, in case they are later stopped by law enforcement?

Consumer Debt & Wage Garnishments

13. Given that the Courts are currently closed until May and there is not clarity on the question of whether stimulus checks can be subject to wage garnishment, will the Judiciary provide emergency hearings on debtor’s motions to exempt wages and bank account attachments?

14. Will filings for wage garnishments be processed without hearings?  

15. Are the courts continuing to rule on Affidavit Judgments without hearings?

Illegal Lock-outs 

16. While the court has suspended all evictions, the access to justice community is concerned about illegal lockouts.  Will individuals be able to seek immediate relief from the Court by emergency motion to abide by the stay-at-home Executive Order? 

Marriage License

17. Is there a way to obtain a new marriage license in Maryland while the Circuit Court Clerk’s offices are closed to the public? 

Access to Online/Remote Hearings

18. Local law schools are looking for ways to continue to provide opportunities for students to observe proceedings. Can the Judiciary share statistics on remote court hearings and whether those remote hearings could be used as substantive learning opportunities for law students?  

Wait Times when Calling Courts

19.  The last response from the Judiciary about long wait times requested specific information or examples. Since the last response from the Judiciary, we have a report of a 2 hour phone wait time in the Hyattsville District Court in Prince George’s County.

Notice Regarding Temporary Protective Orders

20.  Advocates are reporting inconsistency through the state in terms of courts sending notice of extension of Temporary Protective Orders. For the jurisdictions that are not sending notification, it remains unclear how law enforcement can distinguish between expired orders or those that have been extended due to the COVID emergency.  Can the Judiciary ensure that appropriate notification of extensions of Temporary Protective Orders is uniform statewide?