Last Updated: Wednesday, December 23, 2020
The Maryland courts continue to follow a Phase Reopening Plan. On Monday, November 30, 2020, the Maryland courts will revert to Phase II in response to an increasing surge in COVID-19 infections throughout the state. For a chart of all phases, see Maryland Court Operations – Phased Reopening Plan.
Clerk's Offices. During current Phase II operations, clerk’s offices remain open to the public for emergency matters, and by appointment for other matters.
Domestic Violence and Peace Order Cases. During the current Phase II, the court will hear new peace and protective order cases during court hours. To file a new peace or protective order case after court hours, visit a District Court commissioner. Your case will be heard.
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.
Courts are encouraged to conduct remote proceedings, following the rules established by previously issued orders from the Chief Judge until further order. 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.
Courts may offer certain services to be determined by the administrative judge, These may include:
- Self-help centers;
- Alternative dispute resolution programs (for example, mediation);
- Family Division services;
- Law libraries;
- Child care for litigants, witnesses and others.
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 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 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.
Through March 14, 2021, 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 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. 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.
- 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 Continue. Grand juries may continue and new grand juries may begin sitting at the discretion of the administrative judge.
Criminal Jury Trials are Suspended Through the End of the Year. Criminal jury trials with trial dates pending November 16 through April 23, 2021, where the jury has not been selected are suspended. These trials will be rescheduled as soon as feasible beginning April 26, 2021. This is subject to change depending on the health emergency. Criminal jury trials where the jury has been selected may continue.
Civil Jury Trials are Suspended Through the End of the Year. Civil jury trials are suspended from November 16 through April 23, 2021. Civil cases where a jury has already been selected, with jury trial dates to begin April 26, 2021, or later, may proceed subject to the need of the court to prioritize criminal or other urgent actions. This also may change depending on the health emergency.
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. This also applies to the period during which jury trials were suspended between November 16 and April 23, 2021.
Jury trials that where pending trial on March 12, 2020 or initiated after that date, resumed on October 5, 2020. Deadlines in these cases are suspended an additional 30 days from October 5, 2020 to November 4, 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 were 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.
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 reopened to the public on July 20, 2020, and filing deadlines to initiate matters are were 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 reopened to the public on July 20, 2020, there would have been 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 reopened to the public on July 20, 2020, and the deadlines for conducting proceedings in pending matters were 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. 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 resumed being heard beginning July 25, 2020. New cases of this type that were filed after May 22, 2020, were 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.
State Protections from Foreclosure. On October 16, 2020, Governor Hogan signed an order providing that until the state of emergency is lifted, foreclosures of properties subject to a federal mortgage loan cannot proceed unless the loan servicer has provided a notice to the borrower at least 30 days prior that the borrower has a right to request a loan forbearance, and that the loan service has complied with all its obligations under the CARES Act.
Under Governor Hogan’s order, foreclosures of properties subject to a non-federal mortgage loan cannot proceed unless the loan servicer has notified the borrower in writing that if the borrower is experiencing a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 health emergency, the borrower may request a forbearance for a period up to 180 days.
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.
Types of Landlord-Tenant Matters to be Heard. During the current Phase II, District Courts will hear the following cases:
- Rent escrow cases (as long as local inspections can be done)
- Emergency breach of lease and related warrants of restitution
- Emergency wrongful detainer and related warrants of restitution
- Emergency tenant holding over and related warrants of restitution
Residential Evictions Were Able to Resume July 25. A previous administrative order stayed all residential evictions. These matters were able to 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 Required in Certain Failure to Pay Rent Cases. Landlords filing a complaint for failure to pay rent from May 20 through August 24, 2020, were required to 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.
Additional State Protection from Eviction. On October 16, 2020, Governor Hogan signed an Executive Order providing that until the state of emergency is lifted, courts cannot grant a judgment for possession of residential, commercial, or industrial property, or issue a warrant of restitution (the document required for eviction) if the tenant can show they suffered a substantial loss of income resulting from COVID-19. This defense can be raised in Failure to Pay Rent and Breach of Lease cases only.
Warrants of Restitution. Except for the Landlord-Tenant matters to be heard in District Court in Phases Two (see the most recent order), the following applies, subject to the CARES Act:
- 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.
- 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.
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.