As we have since the beginning of the Covid crisis, MSBA continues to provide information to our members about court closures and modified procedures. We know that these are challenging times filled with uncertainty. We will continue to support you in your practice and your well-being with important updates.
We have several new orders from the Maryland Judiciary and the Federal District Court for the District of Maryland this week. By way of five orders issued November 12, 2020, Maryland courts have returned to Phase III from November 16 – December 31, 2020, due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Maryland. Courts are authorized and encouraged to conduct remote proceedings to the greatest extent possible. Clerks’ offices in district and circuit courts shall remain open to the public. The orders address the suspension of jury trials (to be rescheduled as promptly as possible beginning on January 4, 2021), tolling or suspension of statutes of limitations and statutory and rules deadlines, and health measures in courthouses.
On November 11, 2020, Chief Judge James K. Bredar of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a new order re: Court Operations, Misc. No. 00-308, Standing Order 2020-20 based on triggering events related to the rise in COVID-19 pandemic in Maryland. The order will remain in place for a minimum of two weeks and triggering events related to COVID-19 will be reevaluated and the order updated as necessary. Effective November 16, 2020, the operations of U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland will REVERT to Phase 1 of the previously announced COVID-19 Recovery Guidelines; as to staffing and Probation Office activities, the Court will REVERT to Phase 2.
Details and orders follow below. MSBA will continue to provide updates as we learn more.
- Effective November 16, 2020 through December 31, 2020, courts shall operate under Phase III
- During this time, courts are authorized and encouraged to conduct remote proceedings to the greatest extent possible
- Although courts resumed jury trials on October 5 (beginning Phase V), the rapid increase in Covid-19 infection rates throughout Maryland requires a realignment of the phase of operations.
- Regardless of Phase, this Order permits and encourages courts to resolve matters that can be addressed without a hearing; matters requiring a hearing or court trial to the extent that a court has capacity to hear such matters.
- Jury trials scheduled to commence between November 16, 2020 through December 31, 2020 shall be postponed and rescheduled.
- Statutory and rules deadlines for initiation of matters and conducting certain court proceedings and deadlines for scheduling criminal jury trials shall be governed by two other Orders issued today.
- Regardless of Phase, scheduling orders issues by the Circuit Court in civil and family law matters and by appellate courts shall continue to be addressed on a case-by-case basis by motion
- MDEC continues to be available for electronic filing in MDEC counties, and for appellate filings. Virtual dropboxes shall continue in non-MDEC jurisdictions.
- Grand juries having been previously suspended and having resumed, may continue at the discretion of the administrative judge or his/her designee.
- New grand juries may be empaneled as necessary.
- Currently convened grand juries may be extended by the administrative judge pursuant to an administrative order.
- For all criminal jury trials in Circuit Courts scheduled to begin on or after March 16, 2020, having been suspended and then authorized to resume, with dates beginning on October 5, 2020: If such trial dates are pending November 16, 2020 to December 31, 2020, unless a jury has been empaneled, shall be suspended and rescheduled as promptly as possible beginning January 4, 2021.
- All civil jury trials in Circuit Courts scheduled to begin on or after March 16, 2020, shall be suspended on emergency basis from November 16, 2020 to December 31, 2020, unless a jury has been empaneled, with jury trials dates scheduled to begin on January 4, 2021. Priority shall be given to criminal trials and other actions.
- Provides dates for tolling statutory and rules deadlines related to the start of criminal jury trials and other criminal matters, and additional tolling time.
Fourth 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
- Deadlines remain tolled or suspended, as applicable, effective March 16, 2020 by the number of days that the courts were closed to the public due to the Covid-19 emergency. Extensions shall be calculated consistent to to sections h and i of this Order.
- Describes required filings and procedures related to residential evictions and other ejectments and residential foreclosures.
- Today’s Fifth Administrative Order requires any person seeking entry to a courthouse or judicial facility to comply with the guidelines of the CDC, Maryland Dept. of Health, and local health department, including social distancing and the wearing of face masks, and acknowledges that inconsistent interpretations and compliance have resulted in health concerns being raised.
- Masks shall be worn at all times in courthouses and judicial facilities (with few exceptions listed in sections e, f, and g of the Order) by all judges, Judiciary personnel, and any person above the age of two, to cover nose, mouth, and chin completely without vents.
- If a person arrives at court or judicial facility without a mask, they shall be provided with a disposable mask or given remote access if possible.
- Social distancing of six feet or more shall be maintained, but masks will still be required.
- Non-compliance shall result in removal from the facility or courthouse as appropriate.
- All in-court hearings and proceedings in the District of Maryland are SUSPENDED. Chambers will contact parties and counsel regarding any scheduled in-court proceedings. Some of these proceedings will be transferred to virtual formats and all others will be postponed.
- No members of the public and no counsel, parties, witnesses, or other court users may enter any U.S. Courthouse in the District of Maryland without prior permission from the Chief Judge, the Clerk of the District Court, or the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court.
- No members of the public may enter any U.S. Probation Office in the District of Maryland without prior permission from the Chief U.S. Probation Officer.
- Members of the public will retain access to drop boxes at the entrance of each Courthouse to deposit and date-stamp papers between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
- Court staff may continue to enter the Courthouses consistent with the instructions of their supervisors; and it is further
- The following persons shall not enter any U.S. Courthouse or U.S. Probation Office in this District without the express permission of the Chief Judge:
- Persons who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or told to presume they have COVID-19 by a health professional within the last 14 days;
- Persons who have had contact in the last 14 days with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or told to presume they have COVID-19 by a health professional, unless the diagnosis was more than 14 days ago and the person diagnosed has been symptom-free for the past 72 hours;
- Persons who have been asked to self-quarantine by any physician, hospital, or health agency;
- Persons who have a temperature of 100.0 degrees or higher, as measured by the touchless thermometers at the entrance to each Courthouse, which all persons are required to use prior to entry;
- Persons who have had fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea within the last 14 days, unless the symptoms are attributable to another known condition;
- Persons who reside with someone who has had fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea within the last 14 days, unless the symptoms are attributable to another known condition;
- Persons who have returned from international travel or a cruise ship voyage within the past 14 days; and
- Persons who have been released from a federal, state or local jail, prison, or other correctional institution within the last 14 days, except those who are reporting to be fit with a location monitoring device or as otherwise ordered by the Court.
- These restrictions shall remain in place for a minimum of two weeks. The Court shall review the triggering criteria on a regular basis to determine whether conditions have sufficiently improved to support rescinding this Order and resuming some or all in-court operations.