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Update: Impact of COVID-19 on Maryland Courts and Litigation

In "How the Coronavirus has Affected Maryland Courts and What That Means for Litigation During and After the Crisis," I discussed how the coronavirus pandemic was affecting Maryland courts.

I included timelines summarizing administrative orders issued by the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland and the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, regulating the operations of all Maryland state courts and Maryland’s federal district courts, respectively.

Since then, each Chief Judge has entered additional orders. Here, I will summarize each of those orders and their effects, along with an Executive Order issued by Governor Larry Hogan.

Maryland State Courts

  • March 25: All foreclosure proceedings regarding residential properties; all foreclosure proceedings regarding tax sales of residential properties; all executions on liens against residential properties; all actions for possession of residential properties, including eviction procedures in District Court; and all new proceedings regarding any of those actions are stayed immediately. However, if “the parties can demonstrate that a delay of a residential foreclosure will place an undue burden on the defendant, a consent motion to lift stay to allow ratification, signed by the defendant, shall be considered on an expedited basis.”
  • March 27: In appeals from actions originating in Baltimore City, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County (which are not yet covered by Maryland’s electronic filing system, MDEC), counsel and self-represented parties may file papers through the MDEC system.
  • March 31: Postponing April 30, May 1, and May 4 oral arguments in the Court of Appeals; and providing that the arguments that had been scheduled for April 2 and April 3, but which were postponed by the March 17 Administrative Order, are rescheduled for May 12 and 13, and those arguments might be held via video conferencing or other electronic means.
  • April 3: All grand juries are suspended; all civil and criminal jury trial scheduled to begin on or after March 16 are suspended; any currently scheduled trial date that is at least six weeks after the date that concludes the COVID-19 emergency period as ordered by the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals will be maintained, absent further order of the court in which the trial is scheduled; and deadlines in pending criminal matters are suspended and extended by the number of days that the courts are closed to the public and until the time when jury trials are authorized to resume.
  • April 3: All deadlines related to the initiation of actions, including statutes of limitations, are tolled or suspended “effective March 16, 2020, by the number of days that the courts are closed to the public due to the COVID-19 emergency;” and all deadlines to hear pending matters, including, but not limited to juvenile matters, are tolled or suspended “effective March 16, 2020, by the number of days that the courts are closed to the public due to the COVID-19 emergency.”
  • April 3: Courts, offices, administrative offices, units of the Judiciary, and the Offices of the Clerks of the Circuit Courts and the clerks’ offices of the District “shall remain restricted to emergency operations, except as otherwise described in this Order, and closed to the public with limited exceptions, through May 1, 2020, pending further order of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals;” the Order lists the emergency matters courts may hear, encourages courts to conduct remote proceedings, authorizes court to consider matters that may be addressed without a proceeding, and makes efforts to assure that an adequate number of judges and essential staff are available to handle the matters authorized by the Order.

Governor Hogan’s Executive Order

In addition to Chief Judge Barbera’s March 25 Administrative Order, restricting foreclosure and eviction proceedings, on April 3, Governor Hogan issued a very detailed Executive Order that also restricts evictions, providing in part: “No court shall give any judgment for possession or repossession, or warrant for restitution of possession or repossession of residential, commercial, or industrial real property, if the tenant can demonstrate to the court, through documentation or other objectively verifiable means, that the tenant suffered a Substantial Loss of Income.”

Maryland Federal District Court

  • March 20: Effective March 23, “no members of the public, other than litigants with a scheduled proceeding, counsel of record, investigators or employees of counsel, and credentialed press, may enter any U.S. Courthouse in the District of Maryland without prior permission from the Chief Judge or any U.S. Probation Office in the District of Maryland without prior permission from the supervising U.S. Probation Officer;” entry is prohibited for by any person who has been in certain specified regions or countries within the last 14 days, as well as persons who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 or been asked to self-quarantine, as well as other persons who fall within specified categories; and appropriate health screening is authorized before entry to a courthouse will be permitted.
  • March 31: All “in-court proceedings in the District of Maryland shall be heard on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays, unless otherwise ordered by a presiding judge in a particular case,” although the court remains “sufficiently staffed to retain the capacity to hear emergency proceedings on Tuesdays or Thursdays on short notice, when unique circumstances make that necessary and appropriate;” and electronic filing remains available “and self-represented litigants may continue to deposit and date-stamp papers in both the Northern Division and Southern Division drop boxes between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.”

Brad McCullough represents businesses and individuals in a wide variety of cases in federal and state trial and appellate courts, as well as before arbitration panels and in mediation proceedings. For more information, contact him at at 301-657-0734 or jbmcullough@lerchearly.com.

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This content is for your information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney before acting on any information contained here.

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