Latest COVID-19 Administrative Order Announces The Resumption Of Judicial Activity in Five "Phases"

Mary Ellen Barbera, Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, most recent and comprehensive COVID-19 administrative order, issued last Friday, May 22, 2020, sets forth a detailed schedule for the reopening of Maryland’s state courts over the next several months, in a series of five “phases.”

What do the phases allow?

The phases allow for a progressive resumption of judicial activity keeping in mind public health concerns as COVID-19 continues to remain a threat in the state. While the order prescribes a detailed schedule for resuming court activity, it also retains flexibility, noting that as the COVID-19 profile changes over the next several months, it may become necessary to retreat from a scheduled phase to an earlier one, or to adjust a phase in one or more specific jurisdictions within the state. Regardless of phase, the order encourages courts to take up matters that can be addressed without a hearing, as well as matters that may require a hearing or trial, to the extent they can be reasonably accomplished in person or remotely.

Phase One

We are currently in “Phase I,” which restricts the courts to emergency operations only and closes the Maryland courts to the public with limited exceptions.

Phase Two

On June 5, 2020, it is planned that court system will progress into Phase II, with an expanded scope of matters in all jurisdictions, both remotely and on-site. Most notably, as of June 5, 2020, both the Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals (Maryland’s appellate courts) will become fully operational, hearing all matters appropriately before them (although many hearings will be held remotely). In addition, problem-solving courts including re-entry courts will re-open as part of Phase II.

Phase Three

In Phase III, tentatively scheduled to begin on July 20, 2020, courts will begin to hold some criminal non-jury trials in both the circuit courts and district courts.

Phase Four

On August 31, 2020, Phase IV will include the resumption of non-jury trials and contested hearings in criminal, civil, family, juvenile matters, post-conviction hearings, and three judge panel sentence reviews. The courts are scheduled to return to normal operation, with the resumption of jury trials, on October 5, 2020. If you are looking to find out the phase categorization of a particular type of proceeding, you can follow this link to view the full May 22, 2020 order.


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