COVID-19 AND PENDING COURT CASES
March 25, 2020 UPDATE: On March 25, 2020, Chief Judge Barbera, as we anticipated, extended her previous order of closing the courts. Courts will not resume on April 6, 2020, as originally ordered. The closure order has been extended, and the courts are now closed to most proceedings from March 16, 2020, to and including May 1, 2020. A copy of her order can be found here: https://www.courts.state.md.us/coronavirusorders
March 23, 2020 UPDATE: Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, on March 23, 2020, ordered all nonessential businesses closed at 5 p.m. Under guidance from the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel, because lawyers are necessary to support the court systems, law firms are considered an essential business and are not required to close under the Governor’s order.
To continue supporting our clients, especially during this coronavirus crisis, Anthenelli, Phoebus & Hickman, LLC will continue to operate from both our Salisbury and Crisfield, Maryland locations. However, we are offering all of our clients the opportunity to meet with us using Zoom videoconferencing or to schedule telephone appointments if they would prefer not to come into our offices.
We would ask anyone who is sick, has been exposed to people who are sick, or may be experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus not to meet in-person or to come into our offices.
What court proceedings have been canceled
If you have a scheduled trial (bench or jury), motions hearing, pre-trial conference, or sentencing hearing in a criminal case between March 16, 2020, and May 1, 2020, in either the circuit court or district court, those proceedings are almost certainly postponed. If you have a merits hearing or modification hearing in a family law case during this time period, those proceedings are postponed. If you have an in-court settlement conference, motions hearing, or civil jury trial in a personal injury case during this time period, those proceedings are postponed.
The new, March 25, 2020 order envisions the courts beginning to address scheduling orders in civil and family law matters on a case-by-case basis. The order also permits the resolution of matters that can be considered by the court without testimony or argument.
Chief Judge Barbera of the Court of Appeals has entered a court order dramatically limiting what cases will be held by trial courts in Maryland during the COVID-19 emergency. From March 16, 2020, through and including May 1, 2020, all criminal and civil trials are postponed. Most hearings are also postponed. The most up to date information on Maryland circuit and district courts can be found online at: https://www.courts.state.md.us/coronavirusupdate
What court proceedings are still occurring
Under the terms of the March 25, 2020 court order, the following proceedings are still occurring in the circuit courts:
(A) bail reviews/bench warrants
(B) arraignments for detained defendants
(C) juvenile detention hearings
(D) peace order petitions (juvenile respondents)
(E) emergency evaluation petitions
(F) quarantine and isolation petitions
(G) extradition cases
(H) body attachments
(I) extreme risk protective order appeals
These proceedings are closed to the public. Most counties on the lower shore are admitting attorneys to the court proceedings, while incarcerated defendants are appearing by video conference. Recent changes to the rules have loosened the restrictions on hearings occurring remotely and we have participated in telephone hearings at some of our local courts. The most recent March 25, 2020, order envisions the resumption of additional hearings that can be conducted without testimony or non-party witnesses.
In personal injury and family law matters, out-of-court settlement conferences are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Some settlement conferences have been converted to video conferences. We are equipped at both of our office locations to host video conferences.
The Administrative Judges of the local courts have been given the authority to conduct the following types of hearings, which the courts are considering on a case-by-case basis and often by remote, video conferencing or teleconferencing:
(1) shelter care hearings and/or related adjudications
(2) emergency delinquency hearings
(3) emergency Habeas Corpus petitions
(4) emergency issues in guardianship matters
(5) domestic violence protective orders
(6) appeals from peace orders
(7) family law emergencies
(8) temporary restraining orders
(9) criminal competency matters
(10) motions regarding:
(A) extreme risk protective orders
(B) domestic violence protective orders
(C) peace orders
(11) contempt hearings related to peace or protective orders
(12) matters involving locally incarcerated defendants;
Rescheduling of postponed cases
The Circuit Court for Wicomico County is not setting new dates for postponed cases until such time as it is clear that the courts will be reopened. Both the Circuit Court for Somerset County and the Circuit Court for Worcester County are resetting matters. Presently, May dates are being provided for the cases that are now being postponed.
In District Court, all matters set between March 16, 2020, and May 1, 2020, are being automatically postponed. In the three lower counties, court clerks are calling to reschedule these matters, which April and May trial dates being assigned.
Courts closed to the public, but still operational
All circuit and district courts are closed to the public, but are presently fully staffed by the judiciary and the clerks. Although every county on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland has switched to electronic, online filing through MDEC, the clerk’s offices have drop boxes at their main entrances to accept paper filings for persons who are authorized to file in person. The general public and even family members are not being allowed into the courthouse for those proceedings that are occurring.
Motor Vehicle Administration Hearings
All Motor Vehicle Administration hearings, such as hearings concerning a failed or refused breath test in a DUI case have been postponed. Additionally, the branch offices of the MVA have been closed indefinitely, which affects an accused DUI driver’s ability to opt in to the ignition interlock program. If you have been charged with a DUI, we encourage you to contact us immediately for a free, no obligation telephone consultation during which we will advise you on how best to protect your ability to drive during this crisis.
ANTHENELLI, PHOEBUS & HICKMAN, LLC’s present operations
Our firm is presently open for regular business hours at both our Crisfield and Salisbury, Maryland locations. We are offering telephone and secure video conferencing consultations to our clients who do not wish to meet in person. If you have an appointment and would like to convert it to a telephone conference or a video conference, please contact us, and we will provide you with the information necessary to set up the appointment.
Our attorneys are making both in-person and virtual court appearances in support of our clients. We are advocating on behalf of our clients who are incarcerated pending trial in efforts to obtain emergency releases of clients pending their trials or sentencing until this crisis passes.
If you have recently traveled to Washington, New York, China, or Italy, if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 such as a dry cough, fever, or shortness of breath, or if you have been exposed to persons who have symptoms of COVID-19, please do not visit our offices. We are offering telephone and Zoom videoconferencing to our clients and prospective clients in lieu of an in-person meeting.
ANTHENELLI, PHOEBUS & HICKMAN, LLC’s future plans
If and when government directs us to close our physical business operations, we are well-positioned to continue to work on behalf of our clients and to accept new clients if our attorneys and staff switch to telecommuting. Because we have two office locations, our operations are already in the cloud, and we have the ability to conduct all essential operations remotely.
In the event that we shift to telecommuting, the most significant impact on our clients will be the inability to walk into either of our office locations to drop off papers. We will continue to meet virtually with all clients, new and existing, and be available to handle all of our clients’ legal matters.