CURRENT STATUS: Phase IV

Last Updated: Monday, September 14, 2020

On Monday, August 31, the Maryland courts entered into Phase 4 of its progressive phased reopening plan. Maryland’s circuit courts and the District Court of Maryland have resumed statewide non-jury trials and contested hearings in civil, family, and juvenile cases. Please call the court and/or review the local court page before visiting a court location. Phases will vary by courthouse location and some courts are operating by appointment only. We appreciate your patience during this time.

The Maryland courts will go through several phases to ensure the public’s safety as we resume court operations. During each phase, courts will resume more activities. If necessary, we may have to go back to a more restrictive phase for a period of time, or in certain areas of the state, if the health emergency worsens. We will issue a new order and provide additional information to the public if the dates below change. For a chart of all phases, see Maryland Court Operations – Phased Reopening Plan.

Phase One

Began March 16, 2020, and will end June 5, 2020, at 4:59 p.m. During this phase we have limited court activity to emergency operations only and court buildings have been closed to the public, with limited exceptions. Phase One Matters.

Phase Two

Began June 5, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. Courts began hearing more matters, some in-person and some remotely. This included matters that were postponed during the health emergency, and other priority matters. Phase Two Matters.

Phase Three

Began July 20, 2020. Courts began to hear a broader range of cases. Phase Three Matters.

Phase Four

Began August 31, 2020. Courts resumed a broader range of activities. Phase Four Matters.

  • Non-jury trials
  • Contested hearings in criminal, civil, family and juvenile cases.
  • Safety measures and social distancing may be required.
  • Local administrative judges may limit the number of people entering the courthouse or courtroom.

Phase Five

Begins October 5, 2020. Courts will resume full operations. Phase Five Matters.

  • Courts will begin holding jury trials.
  • Safety measures and social distancing may be required.

Safety Measures and Social Distancing

In each phase, the Maryland Courts will follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and/or the Maryland Department of Health (MDH). We will require masks and social distancing or other measures those agencies recommend to protect public health and safety.

As those agencies have recommended, before you enter a court building you must:

  • Answer COVID-19 screening questions;
  • Permit staff to check your temperature (non-contact) if asked;
  • Wear a face mask or covering;
  • Maintain social distancing.

If we determine, after screening, that you cannot enter the court, we will give you information on other ways you can accomplish what you need to do.

If you do not comply with the requirements above, you may be denied entrance or required to leave the court.

Remote Proceedings

In Phases One, Two, Three and Four, courts may conduct remote proceedings, following the rules established by previously issued orders from the Chief Judge. If your hearing will be held remotely, instructions will arrive by mail or you may be contacted by the clerk. Call the courthouse right away if you are not able to participate by remote means.

You may ask that the court change your in-person hearing to a remote hearing. Submit this form to ask for a remote hearing.

Court-Based Services

As court operations resume, courts may begin to offer certain services again including:

  • Self-help centers;
  • Alternative dispute resolution programs (for example, mediation);
  • Family Division services;
  • Law libraries;
  • Child care for litigants, witnesses and others.

Press Access

Regardless of phase, credentialed members of the press may be admitted to the courthouse and courtrooms, as long as there is sufficient capacity. They must also comply with safety and social distancing measures.

Court Staff

Court staff must report to work in person or remotely, as required by their administrative judge or other court leadership. Employees who are ill will be excused in accordance with Judiciary leave policies.

Staff Assignments

Staff duties, schedules, and work method may be adjusted or revised. Each court must have sufficient staff available to operate between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for court holidays. There shall be sufficient commissioner staff to operate on existing schedules.

Judges

Through Phase Four, all incumbent judges will continue to be cross-designated so they can serve in any trial court in Maryland. Regardless of phase, judges shall be available to report in person or to serve remotely as determined by their administrative judge.

Search Warrants

Search warrants will be addressed 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, in all phases. Search warrants will be handled electronically, if at all possible. Administrative judges will assign a judge to cover search warrant duty for specific timeframes.

Filing Court Documents

  • In Person. Beginning in Phase Three (July 20), documents not required to be filed electronically may be filed in person at clerk’s offices.
  • MDEC. The Maryland Electronic Courts (MDEC) may still be used for electronic filing. If you are in a county that does not yet use MDEC, you may continue to use MDEC for appellate filings through October 4.
  • Virtual Drop Box. Non-MDEC jurisdictions (Baltimore City, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties) may still make “virtual drop boxes” available for filings through Phase Four.
  • Other Filings Not Required to be Electronic. Individuals may still file documents via mail or using physical drop boxes when permitted.

Grand Juries, Jury Trials, Jury Service, and Trial Deadlines

Grand Juries May Resume. Grand juries were previously suspended due to the COVID-19 health emergency. Administrative judges may, at their discretion, resume convening grand juries. New grand juries may be created. Grand juries that were already convened may be extended by the administrative judge.

Criminal Jury Trials May Be Rescheduled to Begin after October 5. Criminal jury trials that were scheduled to begin on or after March 16 were previously suspended due to the health emergency. Those criminal jury trials may resume. Trial dates will be scheduled beginning October 5, 2020, or later.

Civil Jury Trials May Be Rescheduled to Begin after October 5. Civil jury trials that were scheduled to begin on or after March 16 were previously suspended due to the health emergency. Those civil jury trials may resume. Trial dates will be scheduled beginning October 5, 2020, or later.

Petit Jury Service May Resume October 5. Maryland citizens may again be summonsed for petit jury service beginning October 5, 2020.

Jury Trials Originally Scheduled Between October 5 and December 31. Previously scheduled jury trials set to begin between October 5 and December 31, 2020, may proceed as scheduled. Criminal trials and other urgent matters may, however, be given priority at the discretion of the administrative judge.

Deadline for Offering Jury Trials to Defendants Extended. An earlier order stated that deadlines established by Maryland law or court rules regarding when criminal matters must be heard in state court were tolled or suspended effective March 16 by the number of days the courts are closed. This means that days that jury trials could not be offered to defendants due to the COVID-19 health emergency do not count against the time remaining for the start of a criminal jury trial. The deadline for holding criminal jury trials will be suspended for an additional 30 days after jury trials resume on October 5, 2020, and ending on November 4, 2020, for cases that were pending trial on March 12, 2020.

For example, suppose in a particular case there were two days remaining for the time of a jury trial on March 12, 2020. When jury trials are permitted to resume October 5, 2020, the case would have two days remaining on that date, plus an additional 30 days. This will give circuit courts an opportunity to conduct status hearings and reschedule jury trials as appropriate.

Deadline for Preliminary Hearings in Criminal Matters Extended. For criminal cases pending or begun on March 16, 2020 through July 30, 2020, the deadline to conduct preliminary hearings shall be August 30, 2020.

Deadlines for Court Actions and Statutes of Limitations

Deadline for Initiating New Matters Extended. Deadlines established by Maryland law or court rules regarding when new matters must be filed in state court, including statutes of limitations, are tolled or suspended effective March 16 by the number of days the courts are closed. This means that the days the offices of the clerks of court were closed due to the COVID-19 health emergency (March 16 – July 20) do not count against the time remaining to initiate that matter. Clerks offices will reopen to the public on July 20, 2020, and filing deadlines to initiate matters are now extended by an additional 15 days.

For example, suppose in a particular case there were two days remaining for the filing of a new matter on March 15, 2020. When the offices of the clerks reopen to the public on July 20, 2020, there would be two days remaining on that date, plus an additional 15 days. This means there would be 17 days left for a timely filing, beginning July 20, 2020.

Deadline for Conducting Pending Judicial Proceedings Extended. Deadlines established by Maryland statute or court rules regarding when state courts must conduct pending judicial proceedings are tolled or suspended effective March 16 by the number of days the courts are closed. This means that the days the offices of the clerks of court were closed due to the COVID-19 health emergency (March 16 – July 20) do not count against the time remaining to conduct judicial proceedings. Clerks offices will reopen to the public on July 20, 2020, and the deadlines for conducting proceedings in pending matters are now extended by an additional 60 days. This will give the courts time to reschedule and hold those proceedings.

Dismissals for Lack of Jurisdiction or Prosecution. Under normal circumstances the court may dismiss a civil case for lack of jurisdiction (failure to serve the defendant within a specific time) or lack of prosecution (failure to take any action within 1 year, for most case types). The court will recalculate when cases are eligible to be dismissed for these reasons in light of these modified deadlines.

Foreclosures, Evictions, and Failure to Pay Rent Matters

Foreclosures and Ejectments Can Resume July 25. A previous administrative order stayed all proceedings related to home foreclosures, home tax sale foreclosures, executions of liens on residential properties, and actions for possession (ejectments) of homes by ground lease holders. These matters can now be heard beginning July 25, 2020. New cases of this type that are filed after May 22, 2020, shall be stayed upon filing until July 25, 2020. A federal moratorium may apply to certain foreclosure matters. Persons seeking to advance a foreclosure or tax sale case that was initiated or pending during the emergency period may file a Declaration of Exemption from Moratorium.

Certification of CARES Act Compliance Must be Filed in Certain New Foreclosure Matters. If the property is not subject to the CARES Act, a certification to that affect must be filed with home foreclosure actions and motions for foreclosures orders of sale that were begun March 18 through May 15, 2020. That certification must be filed within 30 days of May 22, 2020. If a certification is not filed, the court shall issue a deficiency notice under Rule 14-207.1.

Residential Evictions Can Resume July 25. A previous administrative order stayed all residential evictions. These matters can resume July 25, 2020.
Read more information about housing matters for landlords here.
Read more information about housing matters for tenants here.

Certification of CARES Act Compliance Must be Filed in New Failure to Pay Rent Cases. Landlords filing a complaint for failure to pay rent from May 20 through August 24, 2020, must include a Declaration of Compliance with the CARES Act. Filings that do not include the certification will not be accepted by the clerk. The certification must be in substantially the form of the Declaration of Compliance Form DC-CV 113.

Additional Federal Protection from Eviction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order that says a landlord cannot evict a tenant before December 31, 2020 if the tenant provides the landlord a declaration stating they meet certain conditions. For more information on the CDC Order visit the pages below:

  • Information about housing matters for landlords here.
  • Information about housing matters for tenants here.

Warrants of Restitution. Except for the Landlord-Tenant matters to be heard in District Court in Phases Two and Three (see Amended Resumption Order), the following applies, subject to the CARES Act.

  1. For warrants of restitution issued and in effect on March 16, 2020, or for warrants of restitution where the time remaining for the filing of a petition was 1-60 days on March 16, 2020, the days that the offices of the clerks of court were closed to the public (from March 16, 2020 through July 20, 2020) do not count against deadlines. These deadlines may extend for an additional 15 days after the clerks’ offices reopen on July 20th.
  2. For warrants of restitution pending or filed between March 16, 2020, and July 25, 2020, the days that the offices of the clerks of court were closed to the public (from March 16, 2020 through July 20, 2020) do not count against deadlines. These deadlines may extend for an additional 60 days after the clerks’ offices reopen on July 20th.

Marriage Licenses
The issuance of marriage license applications have been expanded and all Maryland courts have begun remote processing of marriage licenses during this emergency.  Please see the revised Marriage License Application and Marriage License Application Instructions.

Water, electricity or other utilities
Governor Larry Hogan has issued an order requiring that no electric, gas, sewage disposal, telephone, water, cable, or internet provider can terminate your service if it is being used in your home, until the health emergency is over.

A company providing those services cannot charge you a late fee during the health emergency.

Family Law Matters
The Maryland courts have issued special guidance for families during the health emergency. Please review the Statement from the Maryland Judiciary Concerning Children and Families for information on child custody and parenting time, child support, and domestic violence matters.

Guardianship
The Maryland courts have issued special guidance about guardianship matters during the health emergency. Please review the Statement from the Maryland Judiciary Concerning Guardianships of Adults and Minors for information on guardianship emergencies, matters that need to be expedited, and for what court-appointed guardians should do during the health emergency.