ANNAPOLIS, Md. – On March 15, 2021, the Maryland Judiciary will begin Phase IV of its COVID-19 five-phased progressive resumption of operations plan. Phase V full operations resume on April 26, 2021, including jury trials. The Judiciary has been in Phase II emergency operations since November 30, 2020.
Beginning March 15, the clerks’ offices in the circuit courts and District Court locations will be open to the public for all matters, though the number of people may be limited to achieve COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
Related administrative orders have been updated and clarified. The revised administrative orders regarding the phased resumption of operations are located at mdcourts.gov/coronavirusorders.
COVID-19 health protocols remain in place in all courthouses and Judiciary buildings statewide, including the wearing of masks, no-contact temperature checks, a verbal or written COVID-19 health questionnaire, and social distancing. These protocols apply to all people over the age of two, regardless of vaccine status.
“With the reduction in the COVID-19 infection rates in Maryland and vaccines being provided systematically statewide, the Maryland Judiciary will move forward with its phased resumption plan. After expanding court proceedings and making a broader range of court services available to the public, the circuit courts will resume jury trials on April 26th,” said Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera. “Safeguarding the health of members of the public coming to the courts and other Judiciary facilities and the Judiciary personnel who serve them remains an essential priority. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 health emergency and respond when and if conditions require. We also will continue to make access to justice for all a reality as much as is possible during every phase of emergency operations.”
The Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals will continue to be fully operational in Phases IV and V, with both appellate courts hearing all matters within their jurisdiction. Oral arguments scheduled in the Court of Appeals and the Court of Special Appeals in April will be heard remotely, pending further orders of the chief judges of the two appellate courts for the resumption of in-person arguments.
“The circuit courts have been hosting remote hearings efficiently and effectively throughout the pandemic,” said Judge Keith A. Baynes, circuit administrative judge for the 2nd Judicial Circuit (Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties), and chair of the Conference of Circuit Judges. “Entering Phase IV provides an opportunity to include more case types for adjudication.”
In the circuit courts, the following items will be heard in Phase IV in addition to the case types heard in the preceding three phases: civil non-jury trials and de novo appeals; criminal post-conviction hearings and three-judge panel sentence reviews; family hearings and trials, including child support contempt cases; and fully operational dockets for Child in Need of Assistance (CINA), juvenile delinquency, and problem-solving court cases.
In the District Court, Phase IV now includes all civil and criminal matters, minor traffic matters, failure to pay rent cases, fully operational problem-solving courts, and red light, parking, speed camera, school bus, toll/MTA, other civil citations, including previously postponed matters.
“The District Court of Maryland has performed many essential court functions remotely during the COVID-19 emergency and we will continue to be innovative in our approach to providing access to justice during the pandemic,” said Chief Judge John P. Morrissey.
For more information, visit the Maryland Judiciary’s website at mdcourts.gov/coronavirusinformationforpublic and mdcourts.gov/coronavirusphasedreopening.
Individuals who have business with the courts should check the Judiciary’s website, https://mdcourts.gov/, or call the clerk’s office for information before arriving at a local courthouse location. Local court information is online at mdcourts.gov/coronaviruslocationupdates.