Maryland Circuit and Federal Courts Are Processing Filings While Closed Publicly Until June 5, 2020
Maryland courts remain operational during April and May 2020, but remain closed to the public until June 5, 2020, based upon recent administrative Orders from our state and federal judiciary.
The Courts are operating on a limited and emergency basis, as well as accepting new filings as well as motions, responses, and petitions during this time.
The Baltimore County Circuit Court, for instance, has a drop box for unrepresented persons to drop off filings as does our state's two U.S. District Courts, our federal judiciary. Maryland attorneys can file matters electronically through most jurisdictions of Maryland at any time, and can mail and deliver filings to the few non-electronic Maryland Courts that includes Baltimore City.
Maryland's Courts (Updated May 5, 2020):
The Courts however are closed to non-emergency matters. Administrative Order (Mar. 25, 2020), Court of Appeals (J. Barbera). On April 14, by way of a new Administrative Order, the Maryland Judiciary extended this through June 5, 2020.
Specified criminal and emergency are being handled by emergency judges.
Routine matters such as motions and responses can be handled by the Circuit Courts if these do not require any hearing, or can be handled via remote telephonic or other means, including processing filings as well as deciding motion requests. Administrative Order (Expanded, April 14, 2020), Section (b)-(c). I myself have seen my clients' routine matters handled, in a slower than usual, but still steady, manner.
A settlement for instance, or scheduling matter, might be appropriate to handle via remote contact, from the Court's point-of-view. See id. However, what the Court handles remotely has yet to become well-published.
For example, I recently handled a scheduling matter at Baltimore City Circuit Court, pursuant to a joint motion, through email exchange among the parties and the deciding Judge, after the Judge first reached out and invited this remote contact.
Family Law & Domestic Matters:
Emergency family matters, and domestic violence and protective order requests and proceedings, for instance, are handled according to the Court's discretion. Administrative Order (Expanded, April 14, 2020), Section (j).
The Court has discretion to review the related emergency filings to determine if it can be addressed immediately without a hearing, requires a hearing, or can be delayed until Court re-open. See id.
New Maryland Filings:
On April 3, and re-issued on April 8, the Maryland Judiciary also issued an Administrative Order on Emergency Tolling (abbreviated title) that extends deadlines as well as time-to-file new lawsuits by the number of days from March 16, 2020 to when Courts re-open. See id., Section (a)-(b). The new Administrative Order maintains it. Order (April 14, 2020), Section (m).
This matter of deadlines will be addressed again as matters progress. Administrative Order on Emergency Tolling, Section (c). Nevertheless, if you have a new matter to file and are running up against a deadline to file, you are advised to consult an attorney and mind your statutory deadline(s). Further, this article is only updated through April 23, 2020.
These rules do not apply to our federal courts or necessarily to U.S. law. Maryland court rules apply to pending suits in the Maryland judiciary and to claims and disputes under Maryland law.
Maryland's Federal Courts (Updated May 5, 2020):
The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, our federal court system, on April 10 suspended filing deadlines until June 5, 2020 for already-filed cases, unless a Judge has issued a specific order in that case.
However, the federal court has a dropbox. New filers must meet their statute-of-limitations deadlines under the law, and can have their suit filed electronically through an attorney or file it through the Court's drop box. Standing Order 2020-07 (April 10), p. 3.
Discovery can proceed if mutually agreed and if it does not endanger anyone, under the Court's April 10 discovery administrative Order. Yet, if there is disagreement, the Order instructs the parties to seek guidance via letter filings.
As the situation is evolving, this information should be checked against the most recent court and state orders before making any decision.
Maryland's Stay at Home Order (A Summary)
On March 30, 2020, Maryland Governor Hogan issue a stay-at-home emergency Order for Maryland, which amended and expanded the prior Order issued on March 23, 2020, to protect everyone from the spread of COVID-19. See Order, Md. (No. 20-03-30-01).
As part of the prior Order, Governor Hogan recognized the legal industry as an essential service. Thus, lawyers can continue to operate and serve each of thier clients and the community.
See Interpretative Guidance, No. COVID19-04 (Mar. 23, 2020), p. 3 at 2(j), Office of Legal Counsel, State of Maryland.
Governor Hogan's Order also permits travel "required by a law enforcement officer or court order." Order, Md. (20-03-30-01), at II.b.vi. So, visitation under custody orders can proceed.
If you are traveling in a car to fulfill a court order, have a paper copy of the court order in your car, say, in the glove compartment.
Gregg H. Mosson, Esq.
Mosson Law, LLC
For information on representation in the fields of employment and family law, I invite you to get in touch. Please visit my website at www.mossonlaw.com. The office is based in Towson, Maryland, and the practice ranges Maryland-wide.