All civil and criminal trials in Maryland’s courts, except for those for which a jury has already been seated, will be suspended through December 31 and other court functions will operate on a limited basis. Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera made the announcement on Nov. 12 in response to the surge of coronavirus cases in Maryland and nationwide.
“After consultation with the leadership of the Maryland Department of Health and Judiciary leaders, I have determined that the Maryland Judiciary must return to restricted operations as described in Phase III in response to the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland,” Barbera said in a statement.
Clerk’s offices will remain open to the public.
District courts will continue to be open for some criminal and traffic cases, along with some civil actions and can handle landlord and tenant cases in a limited capacity.
Civil matters allowed to continue in circuit courts include settlement hearings, attorney disciplinary hearings and motions requiring witness testimony.
Criminal cases in circuit courts are limited to motions, expungements, violations of probation, non-jury trials and sentencings that were previously deferred.
Grand juries that are already in session are allowed to continue and may operate at the discretion of the administrative judge in each jurisdiction.
The courts are authorized and encouraged to conduct remote proceedings to the greatest extent possible, according to the order.
It’s the second time this year that the courts have shut down. Many court functions, except for emergency hearings and matters that could be handled remotely, were placed on hold on March 16 and the judiciary operated in a limited fashion until Oct. 5, when jury trials resumed with health protocols in place aimed at preventing the infection of the coronavirus.
The Maryland Coast Dispatch, which covers Ocean City and surrounding areas such as Snow Hill and Berlin, has reported that the return to Phase III represents a setback for the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office at a time when the office was making progress on cases backlogged since last spring. Many of the most serious cases from the summer in Ocean City were heading toward jury trials in the coming weeks.
The State’s Attorney said a major concern is the number of defendants being held without bond while awaiting trial who could end up serving more time in jail than is required by their eventual sentences because of the delays.
Federal courts also shutdown
Maryland’s federal courts also announced a shutdown starting Nov. 16 and lasting for two weeks. All court hearings and proceedings in the federal courts are suspended. Court officials will contact parties and counsel regarding already scheduled in-court proceedings, according to the order. Some of the proceedings will be held virtually while others will be postponed.
Access to the court will be limited. No member of the public, attorneys, prosecutors, witnesses or other court users will be allowed to enter either the Baltimore City or Greenbelt courthouse without having already obtained permission.
The public will retain access to drop boxes located 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, the court has noted.
Maronick Law Office is open
If you are facing criminal charges in Annapolis, Baltimore, Essex, Glen Burnie, Ocean City, Towson or White Marsh, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney. The Law Office of Thomas J. Maronick is open during the pandemic. We can meet with you remotely if you have access to Zoom. Consultations are free. In addition to criminal defense, we also offer estate planning, wills, domestic and bankruptcy. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.934.3007 or through the website.