Maryland Court of Appeals Coronavirus Timeline

Starting with two Orders issued March 12, the Chief Judge of Maryland’s Court of Appeals, Mary Ellen Barbera, issued a series of Administrative Orders restricting activities in Maryland state courts, and the pace and steadily increased scope of those restrictions demonstrate the severity of the situation:

Thursday, March 12

  • Chief Judge Barbera suspends all civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin on March 16 through April 3, pending further Order, and she also orders county administrative judges to hold hearings as necessary to resolve scheduling issues regarding criminal jury trials that were then pending.
  • A second Administrative Order is issued banning or curtailing non-essential activities (e.g. judicial education classes); encouraging arrangements for alternative work arrangements for judicial personnel; and banning from judicial facilities all persons who have been diagnosed and are ill with the disease, or have been quarantined.

Friday, March 13

  • An order is issued declaring that “courts in the Maryland judiciary, court offices, administrative offices, units of the Judiciary, and the Offices of the Clerks of the Circuit Courts shall be closed to the public on an emergency basis, effective March 16, 2020;” judicial operations, however, were to continue “to the extent practicable,” and certain designated “mandatory matters shall continue to be scheduled and heard in keeping with the urgency of those matters and consistent with statutory requirements, either in person or remotely.”

    The Orders also gave individual courts discretion to hear additional matters if the court had capacity to do so, and the Order did “not affect the courts’ consideration or resolution of matters that can be addressed without a proceeding that involves testimony or argument,” but all “other matters scheduled to be heard between March 16, 2020, through April 3, 2020, are postponed pending further order of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.”

    Although court proceedings were largely suspended, court filings were still to be accepted: “Court personnel will be available by telephone and mail and paper filings will be received. MDEC continues to be available for electronic filings [in those counties where MDEC operates].”

Monday, March 16

  • Another order is issued, tightening the one issued the preceding Friday, and further limiting the proceedings courts are authorized to hear. Courts, offices, units of the judiciary, and clerks’ offices are now “restricted to emergency operations and closed with limited exceptions as described in this order beginning on March 17, 2020, through April 3, 2020, or until further order of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.”

    The Order contained a more truncated list of emergency matters that courts would hear and made efforts to assure that an adequate number of judges would be available to hear and address those matters. The Order also contained specific provisions regarding court filings: “MDEC continues to be available for electronic filing and is required to be used for all MDEC counties. For pleadings not required to be filed electronically, filings will be received by mail and may be received via drop boxes installed at local courthouses.” And deadlines still remain in effect: “Other than as set forth in this Administrative Order, deadlines established by Maryland statutes or rules remain in effect,” and, while this emergency is in effect, “the date of filing will be considered the date a mailed filing has been postmarked or, if filed via a drop box, the previous business day, unless there is a timestamp on the drop box.”

Tuesday, March 17

  • Oral arguments in the Court of Appeals scheduled for April 2 and 3 were postponed, and the next day an Order was issued suspending residential foreclosure and eviction proceedings.

Friday, March 20

  • Chief Judge Barbera issued an Administrative Order directing that if “courts have the capacity to hear emergency and other matters remotely, this Administrative Order authorizes such proceedings, with access to members of the public as justice requires.”