Maryland courts now closed through May 1

ANNAPOLIS — With limited exceptions, including certain emergency matters, Maryland state courts will remain closed to the public through May 1, 2020, due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera on March 25 issued the “Administrative Order Extending the Length of Statewide Judiciary Restricted Operations Due to the COVID-19 Emergency.”

Courts throughout the state will continue to conduct remote proceedings using various communication platforms consistent with the “Administrative Order on the Implementation of Remote Electronic Participation in Judicial Proceedings” and the “Administrative Order on Remote Hearings Held During the COVID-19 Emergency.”

The latest order replaces the order issued on March 16 that closed the courts to the public, reduced staffing in courthouses, and authorized essential court staff to process emergency court matters.

Emergency matters include:
• Bail reviews/bench warrants;
• Arraignments for detained defendants;
• Juvenile detention hearings;
• Peace order petitions (juvenile respondents);
• Emergency evaluation petitions;
• Quarantine and isolation petitions;
• Extradition cases;
• Body attachments; and
• Extreme risk protective order appeals.
District Court Commissioners will handle the following matters:
• New extreme risk protective order petitions;
• New domestic violence protective petitions;
• New peace order petitions (adult respondents);
• Initial appearances;
• Applications for statement of charges;
• Acceptance of bail bonds; and
• Bench warrant satisfactions.
All other emergency matters shall be evaluated by the administrative judge to determine whether it must be heard in person, or can be heard with remote electronic participation, or can be scheduled after the emergency period has ended, or can be resolved without a hearing.

Essential personnel including administrative judges, court administrators, clerks of courts, administrative clerks, administrative heads of units of the Judiciary, will report as required.
All non-emergency matters scheduled for a court hearing or proceeding, including jury trials, scheduled to begin March 17 through May 1 will be postponed, unless otherwise noted.

Scheduling orders issued in civil and family law matters will be addressed by motion on a case-by-case basis.
Foreclosures of residential property, foreclosures of the right to redeem residential property sold in a tax sale, residential evictions, and executions on residential real property under levy or lien are stayed and new or pending types of these actions will be accepted but not processed during this time.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the Maryland Judiciary to take further action to protect court visitors and Judiciary personnel,” said Chief Judge Barbera. “The courts remain committed in this challenging time to ensuring the public’s justice needs are met to the extent possible during this public health emergency.”
The Maryland Judiciary’s electronic filing system, referred to as MDEC, remains available and is required to be used in all MDEC counties. In non-MDEC counties or for self-represented litigants, filings can be mailed to your local clerk’s office or can be dropped off in a drop box.

The Maryland Judiciary’s online portal CaseSearch continues to be updated as clerk’s offices across the state process filings during this public health emergency.
Credentialed members of the media are permitted inside courthouses while the order is in effect but at Somerset County Circuit Court it is advised to contact the clerk’s office ahead of time, 410-845-4840.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Maryland Department of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage

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