Civil Case Status due to COVID-19 Emergency
The Court has returned to Phase 3 of the Maryland Judiciary’s reopening plan. Civil jury trials and certain other types of in-person proceedings have been suspended until January 4, 2021. This statement provides important information on the status and handling of CIVIL/NON-DOMESTIC CASES in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.
FILING PAPERS. The Civil Division of Clerk’s Office is open to the public. Filing of papers in civil cases, however, may continue to be done by mail or by delivery to the filing lockboxes available on business days from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Calvert Street and Fayette Street (ADA accessible) entrances to the Mitchell Courthouse. Parties are encouraged to use the filing lockboxes for filings that are not time-sensitive and do not require a transaction in the Clerk’s Office. All packages for filing should be marked prominently on the envelope as EMERGENCY or NON-EMERGENCY to assist in giving priority to emergency matters. See Administrative Judge Carrión’s Updated Letter Regarding Processing of Filings/Need for Email Address. For emergency matters, the filing party also should contact either the Civil Assignment Office ((410) 333-3755) or Judge Fletcher-Hill’s chambers ((410) 396-6826) to direct attention to the matter.
POSTPONEMENT COURT. Daily postponement court is being conducted by telephone conference call. Please call the Civil Assignment Office ((410) 333-3755) well in advance of 1:45 p.m. to provide the information for the postponement request. That office will give instructions on when and how the matter will be heard.
REMOTE ELECTRONIC HEARINGS. Most hearings on the chambers and fast track dockets continue to be heard by remote electronic means pursuant to Maryland Rules 2-802 and 2-803 using Zoom for Government. If a hearing is to be conducted in this way, the court will contact the parties with the conference call information.
CIVIL DISCOVERY MOTIONS. Pursuant to Administrative Judge Carrión’s Administrative Order 2020-07, all motions and responses concerning discovery matters in civil/non-domestic cases must be filed both virtually at email@example.com and physically by mail, in the courthouse filing lockbox, or at the Clerk’s Office. The papers may have an electronic signature that complies with Maryland Rule 20-107 for signatures in MDEC jurisdictions. Administrative Order 2020-08. Please make sure these filings distinguish between emergency and non-emergency matters and that counsel’s email address, if any, is included in the signature block. Note that the virtual filing lockbox is for discovery motions ONLY.
PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCES. All pre-trial settlement conferences and early neutral evaluation conferences are being conducted by remote electronic means using Zoom for Government. Pre-trial conferences associated with December 2020 jury trial dates will proceed as scheduled even though the trial dates will be postponed.
CIVIL NON-JURY TRIALS are proceeding as scheduled if they can be conducted by remote electronic means. Some civil non-jury trials may be postponed inadvertently because of the difficulty identifying non-jury matters. If you have a civil non-jury matter that is postponed without a request by the parties, please contact the Civil Assignment Office ((410) 333-3755) to see if the trial date can be preserved or restored.
CIVIL JURY TRIALS. Civil jury trials scheduled through December 31, 2020 are being postponed for good cause because of the continuing pandemic. The parties will receive notification of a new trial date in 2021. If civil jury trials resume on January 4, 2021, juries will be selected in these cases only on certain dates. Jury selection is being conducted by remote electronic means, and the evidentiary portion of the trials is proceeding in-person. The Court will contact counsel about schedule adjustments necessary for certain jury trials to proceed.
TRIAL POSTPONEMENTS. Even if civil jury trials resume on January 4, 2021, some trial dates will have to be postponed at the Court’s initiative because of the limited number of civil jury trials that can be conducted. The parties will receive notice of the new pre-trial conference and trial dates as they are scheduled.
SCHEDULING ORDER MODIFICATIONS. As Administrative Judge Carrión has stated, see Updated Letter Regarding Processing of Filings/Need for Email Address, the court is aware of the impact the COVID-19 emergency is having on parties’ ability to proceed with discovery and to meet other scheduling order deadlines. There has not been a blanket extension or suspension of those deadlines. The court is now considering scheduling order modifications either by motion or through status conferences. If counsel are filing a motion to modify the scheduling order, counsel are urged to seek consent of all parties to any proposed modification.
FORECLOSURE CASES. Pursuant to Chief Judge Barbera’s November 12, 2020 Fourth Amended Administrative Order Lifting the Suspension during the COVID-19 Emergency of Foreclosures, Evictions, and Other Ejectments Involving Residences, mortgage foreclosure and tax sale foreclosure actions involving residential property may proceed only upon filing of a Declaration of Exemption from Moratorium, as required by that Administrative Order. Counsel are urged to review the Fourth Amended Administrative Order carefully to be certain that all necessary statements are included in any Declaration of Exemption.