The situation in our courts continues to evolve and we have another important update from the Maryland Judiciary this evening, in response to the Covid-19 surge. (A note of clarification: MSBA previously shared an update earlier this evening regarding local Circuit and District Court orders related to Phase III to help our members navigate various jurisdictions. However, those orders were issued prior to these new Orders from the Judiciary, which shift all Maryland District and Circuit courts back to Phase II.)
Chief Judge Barbera issued five new administrative orders today moving Judiciary emergency operations to Phase II effective November 30, 2020, through January 15, 2021, limiting matters to be heard in person and encouraging use of remote technology. Clerks offices remain open for emergencies and by appointments. Jury trials are now suspended through February 12, 2021.
“The Maryland Judiciary continues to proactively monitor the current COVID-19 public health crisis in Maryland, therefore, the Judiciary must alter its court operations for the second time in two weeks in order to protect the health and wellbeing of all,” said Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera. “COVID-19 cases in Maryland are increasing at a rapid pace and with the Thanksgiving Day holiday upon us, it is imperative that the Judiciary respond to the current health situation by restricting court operations further. As always, the Judiciary will keep the public apprised of any changes in operations and ensure that as many of the core functions of the Judiciary will remain available to the extent the emergency conditions allow.”
The administrative orders include:
- Effective November 30, 2020, through January 15, 2021, courts shall operated under Phase II.
- In Phase II, as amended in the attached Exhibit, courts shall address matters that can be heard both remotely and on-site, as well as matters that must be prioritized. In the previous period during which the Judiciary operated in Phase II (June 5, 2020, through July 19, 2020), the Offices of the Clerks of the Circuit Courts and the clerks’ offices of the District Court were closed to the public with limited exceptions. Beginning November 30, 2020, through January 15, 2021, pending further Order of the Chief of the Court of Appeals, in Phase II, the Offices of the Clerks of the Circuit Courts and the clerks’ offices of the District Court shall remain open to the public for emergency purposes as listed in the attached Exhibit and by appointment for other matters. Court activities shall proceed with restrictions to limit the concentration of individuals and allow social distancing, consistent with guidance of the CDC or MDH or both;
- Postpones jury trials scheduled to commence from November 16, 2020 through February 12, 2021
- Courts may continue to consider resolution of matters that can be addressed without a hearing, and matters requiring a hearing or court trial if an individual court has capacity to hear such matters in person or remotely.
- Through January 15, 2021, pending further order of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, in order to achieve the requirements of social distancing, administrative judges may limit the number of people entering the courthouse or a courtroom. The courts shall inform individuals seeking access to the courthouse that access to courtrooms and other court spaces may be limited
Fifth Revised Administrative Order on the Emergency Tolling or Suspension of Statutes of Limitations and Statutory and Rules Deadlines Related to the Initiation of Matters and Certain Statutory and Rules Deadlines in Pending Matters
- All criminal jury trials in the Circuit Courts throughout the State of Maryland scheduled to begin on or after March 16, 2020, having been suspended on an emergency basis, and having been authorized to resume, with trial dates scheduled beginning on October 5, 2020; and such trial dates pending on November 16, 2020, through February 12, 2021, unless a jury has been empaneled, shall be suspended and rescheduled as promptly as feasible with dates beginning February 16, 2021, pending further order of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, as such date that the summoning of Maryland citizens in sufficient numbers to constitute an adequate jury pool from which a jury venire may be drawn will be possible.
- All civil jury trials in the Circuit Courts throughout the State of Maryland scheduled to begin on or after March 16, 2020, shall be suspended on an Page 3 of 5 emergency basis effective November 16, 2020, through February 12, 2021, unless a jury has been empaneled, with jury trial dates to be scheduled beginning February16, 2021, and thereafter, consistent with the Sixth Administrative Order Restricting Statewide Judiciary Operations Due to the COVID-19 Emergency, filed November 24, 2020, subject to priority being given to criminal trials and other urgent actions.
In Phase II, the District Court and circuit courts will hear specific case types remotely or in-person, but jury trials will not be held until the Judiciary is able to re-enter Phase V of its resumption of operations plan. Marylanders who are currently serving as jurors must contact the court. Additionally, courts across Maryland will continue using technology for remote proceedings, either by video or telephone, but it will vary by court location.
Visit the Maryland Judiciary’s website to view the case types being heard in Phase II, which include in the District Court criminal, traffic, civil, domestic violence, peace orders, Extreme Risk Protective Orders, and landlord-tenant cases. In the Circuit Courts, civil, criminal, family, Child in Need of Assistance (CINA), and juvenile matters will continue to be heard.
Individuals who have business with the courts should check the Judiciary’s website, www.mdcourts.gov, or call the clerk’s office for information before arriving at a courthouse location.
All court visitors and employees are required to wear a face mask, submit to a no-contact temperature check, a verbal or written COVID-19 health screening questionnaire, and adhere to social distancing guidelines.