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.
Maryland Courts To Reopen in Phases
Judge Barbera Outlines What to Expect
This past Friday, the Maryland Judiciary announced a plan for gradually reopening and returning to full operations.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera issued an administrative order outlining a phased approach to a fully-functioning judiciary, as the state continues a similar overall approach to reopening the economy.

Judge Barbera indicated that progress of each phase will inform future plans for reopening. While we are already in Phase 1, which is the current state of emergency, Phase 2 will begin at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, June 5, 2020, when the courts will expand the scope of legal matters that can be heard remotely and on-site, particularly ones that were postponed or deferred during the initial shutdown in Phase 1. The number of people in a courtroom or inside space will be limited and social distancing rules will be enforced, per CDC and MDH guidelines.

Phase 3 will continue to broaden the scope of matters before the courts, including non-jury trials in district courts and attorney disciplinary matters in circuit courts. The transition to Phase 3 is planned to begin on Monday, July 20, 2020 with social distancing guidelines still being enforced.

Phase 4 will resume non-jury trials as well as contested hearings in civil, criminal, family and juvenile cases. This phase will begin tentatively on Monday, August 31, 2020. During this time, the courts will be authorized to conduct remote proceedings using approved virtual communications platforms outlined in a previous administrative order.

Phase 5 will see the resumption of full operations, including jury trials beginning on Monday, October 5, 2020 which will include adherence to any guidance from the CDC and/or MDH.

Judge Barbera's order also encourages courts to consider asking parties to avoid bringing to court matters that can be addressed without a hearing and to determine their capacity for in-person hearings or trials in contrast to virtual sessions with a focus on ensuring public access in the interest of justice.

Additionally, anyone entering a court will be subject to health screening questions, temperature checks and will be required to wear face masks and maintain social distancing at all times.
Administrative Order on Jury Trials and Grand Juries
Another administrative order has indicated that grand juries may resume at the discretion of an administrative judge as necessary. Additionally, grand juries that are already convened may be extended as well. All civil or criminal jury trials that were suspended on an emergency basis will be scheduled beginning Monday, October 5, 2020. Any jury trial previously scheduled between October 5, 2020 and December 31, 2020, will retain its trial date, unless the court’s administrative judge postpones the trial.
Administrative Order on Suspension of Statutes of Limitations Revised
A revised administrative order has declared that statutes of limitations and other deadlines remain tolled while the offices of the clerks of court are closed to the public. The clerks offices are to be reopened to the public on July 20, 2020. The time of court closures does not count against the time remaining for initiating a court matter. The filing deadline for initiating a new case will be calculated by adding the number of days that remained to file before the courts were closed to the public on March 16, 2020, to be counted from the date of reopening July 20, 2020, and extended by an additional 15 days.

Additionally, all statutes and rules deadlines related to pending court proceedings are delayed by the number of days that the courts are closed to the public which means that the time during the closure of courts does not count against the time remaining to conduct judicial proceedings.
Suspension of Foreclosure and Evictions to End on July 25
A 4th administrative order has also been issued indicating that residential foreclosures and evictions may begin again on Saturday, July 25, 2020, having been previously halted.
Special Livestream Briefing
Maryland Judiciary to Brief the Maryland House Judiciary Committee on the Courts Amid COVID-19
Top leadership from the Maryland Judiciary, in addition to criminal justice partners, will participate in a virtual briefing on Thursday, May 28, 2020, at 3 p.m. regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the courts and the criminal justice system. The Maryland Judiciary will also discuss its new phased reopening plan for the state’s court system. 

Hearing Participants
Hon. Mary Ellen Barbera, Chief Judge, Maryland Court of Appeals
Hon. Laura Ripken, Administrative Judge for the Fifth Judicial Circuit and Chair of the Conference of Circuit Judges
Hon. John P. Morrissey, Chief Judge, District Court of Maryland
Pamela Harris, Maryland State Court Administrator
Maryland Association for Justice, Inc.