As the current health and economic crisis associated with COVID-19 (coronavirus) develops, MAJ will continue to update members with important developments, news and opportunities to help in the trial attorney and greater legal communities.
Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera has issued a series of Administrative Orders regarding court operations across Maryland. The new Orders return the Courts to Phase III, beginning November 16, 2020 through December 31, 2020.The order that has the most impact for trial attorneys indicates that all civil jury trials in Circuit Courts currently scheduled between now and December 31, 2020 will be suspended. There is an exception for jury trials that have already been empaneled. New jury trials will be rescheduled for after January 4, 2021.

In addition, Courts are authorized and encouraged to conduct remote proceedings to the greatest extent possible. The clerks’ offices in the District and Circuit Courts will remain open to the public.

Statute of limitations will also be affected. The deadline to file will be extended, specifically calculated by however long the court is closed. (For example, if two days remained for the filing of a new matter on March 15, 2020, then two days would have remained upon the reopening of the offices of the clerks of court to the public on July 20, 2020. With the additional fifteen days, seventeen days would be left for a timely filing, beginning July 20, 2020.)

The full text of the administrative orders can be found below:

Federal courts in the state are planning to revert back to COVID protocols from Phase 1 of the state's emergency pandemic response. U.S. District Court for Maryland Chief Judge James K. Bredar issued a standing order that operations will be reduced in order to protect the health and safety of the court's staff, legal professionals and members of the public.

The switch to Phase 1 protocols will be effective on November 16, 2020 and last for a minimum of two weeks. During this time, all in-court hearings and proceedings will be suspended and no one will be able to enter any federal courthouse without permission. The public will still have access to dropboxes between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday thru Friday and court staff will contact parties and counsel to determine whether proceedings will become virtual or be postponed.

On Thursday afternoon, Governor Hogan held a press conference warning of "difficult months ahead." He ordered no new restrictions but indicated to journalists that more measures by state health officials are very likely. He also indicated that their efforts are being made more difficult by a lack of leadership at the federal level.

This past Tuesday, Hogan ordered that restaurants must scale back from 75% capacity to 50% capacity. Hogan also discouraged indoor gatherings or more than 25 people and advised Marylanders to avoid travel to states with a positivity testing rate of greater than 10%. Should residents travel to any of those states, they should get tested and quarantine until they receive their results upon their return.

All employers are encouraged to implement telework for employees or alternate scheduling to limit exposure. With positivity rates rising in Maryland, hospital beds are filling up and the state is concerned about reaching capacity.

"We have now crossed over into the danger zone. Too many residents and businesses have ‘COVID fatigue,’ and they are letting their guard down," Hogan remarked. “The reality is that you can just as easily get the virus by hosting a group of friends to watch football on Sunday, or celebrating a family birthday, or the Thanksgiving holiday that’s fast approaching, Each of us has to be more cautious and more vigilant.”
MAJ will continue to monitor developments as they occur and keep members informed.
Maryland Association for Justice, Inc.