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News Release, Maryland Judiciary

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Maryland Judiciary is preparing to reopen clerks’ offices in the District Court of Maryland and circuit courts throughout the state as the judicial branch moves cautiously into the next phase of its COVID-19 emergency progressive reopening.

On Monday, July 20, courts across the state will move into Phase III of the Judiciary’s reopening plan and will open to the public as outlined in the Amended Administrative Order on the Progressive Resumption of Full Function of Judiciary Operations Previously Restricted Due to the COVID-19 Emergency.

“The third phase in the reopening of the Maryland Judiciary provides for court clerks’ offices to reopen and for the courts to hear additional matters, including some matters that are contested,” said Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, Maryland Court of Appeals. “We are moving forward with care. Judiciary leadership will continue to monitor health trends and keep staff, the public, and legal community apprised of any changes to the Judiciary’s return to full function.” 

Part of the implementation of Phase III includes a change in the way domestic violence protective orders, peace orders, and Extreme Risk Protective Orders (ERPOs) previously have been handled by the courts during the COVID-19 emergency.  During Phases I and II, commissioners with the District Court of Maryland have been hearing and processing these emergency matters 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Commissioners throughout the state have played a crucial role in assisting Marylanders in need of emergency protection and related assistance from the courts during the global pandemic,” said Chief Judge John Morrissey, District Court of Maryland.

Phase III will shift those emergency hearings back to the courts during normal court hours. As a result, beginning Monday, July 20, the District Court of Maryland will hear all new domestic violence protective orders, peace orders, and ERPOs during court hours.  Commissioners will continue to hear these matters after normal court hours and on weekends.

All courts are scheduled to reopen on July 20.  Individuals who have business with the courts should check the Judiciary’s website or call the clerk’s office for information before arriving at a courthouse location.

The courts are requiring any individual, including employees, seeking access to a courthouse or court office location, to answer a set of screening questions, be subject to temperature checks, wear a facial covering or mask, and practice social distancing.

Additionally, courts across Maryland will continue using technology for remote proceedings, either by video or telephone, but it will vary by court location. 

“Administrative judges continue to work with justice partners to expand the technology to permit and expedite remote hearings,” said Judge Laura Ripken, Administrative Judge for the Fifth Judicial Circuit and Chair of the Conference of Circuit Judges. “We are also maintaining a strong relationship with the Maryland State Bar Association, and other state and local bar associations, to ensure the most accurate and timely information is shared as we enter into each new phase in the plan.”

The Maryland Judiciary plans to move to Phase IV on August 31, 2020, as outlined in the current administrative order, subject to COVID-19 conditions.  Phase IV will mark the continued expansion of court operations to include non-jury trials and other contested matters in the District Court of Maryland and the circuit courts.

Find more information on COVID-19 and court operations online at https://mdcourts.gov/coronavirusinformationforpublic.