Jury trials are expected to resume in October.
Annapolis, Md (KM) A reopening plan for Maryland’s courts was released on Friday. It calls for a phased opening over the next several weeks and months for courts across the state, as they gradually return to full operations.
Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera also issued an Administrative Order on the Progressive Resumption of Full Function of Judiciary Operations on Friday. Court officials say this provides direction to all courts across the state as the judicial branch continues to monitor the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“The details in the reopening plan were carefully and deliberately crafted by work groups composed of Judiciary leadership, with health and well being of court visitors and employees as the driving force, in our work to increase access to the courts,” says Chief Judge Barbera, in a statement. “We acknowledge the courts will not be able to immediately return to full operations. This phased return will guide the courts, as we continue to monitor health conditions of each of the twenty-four jurisdictions.”
Her order calls for Maryland courts to resume functions through a phase approach beginning at 5:00 PM on July 5th. Phase Two of the plan will go into affect at that time. The public will still not access to the courts, except for those who are necessary for the matters to be heard.
On July 20th, Judge Babera’s order calls for both the District and Circuit Court Clerks offices to reopen to the public if they are able to do so. At that time, any individual entering the courts, including employees, will be required to answer some coronavirus screening questions, wear a facial covering or mask, and practice social distancing. Administrative Judges may limit the number of people entering the court house or a court room.
Court officials say they’ve made progress in acquiring personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves, face guards, no-contact digital thermometers, hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes, Plexiglas sneeze guards, signs and six-foot separation markers ahead of the courts’ reopening.
Grand juries may resume at the discretion of the local administrative judge.
Judge Barbera’s order also says criminal and civil jury trials may resume on October 5th, with priority given to criminal trials and family law emergencies.
The stay on residential foreclosures and evictions will be lifted on July 25th
The administrative order also encourages the courts to continue using technology for remote proceedings.
By Kevin McManus