Frederick Courthouse

The Frederick County Courthouse on West Patrick Steet as seen from the roof of the Patrick Center.

Criminal and civil jury trials are again on hold as Maryland courts take a step back to increase restrictions in response to the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Just over a month after Maryland Court of Appeals resumed jury trials after a months-long hiatus, Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera issued an order that will roll court operations back from Phase V to Phase III of reopening. This phase starts Monday and is scheduled to run through Dec. 31. Juries that are already seated may continue.

“After consultation with the leadership of the Maryland Department of Health and Judiciary leaders, I have determined that the Maryland Judiciary must return to restricted operations as described in Phase III in response to the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland,” said Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera in a statement.

“The health and safety of the public, judges, and Judiciary staff remains a top priority, and we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 heath emergency and adjust Judiciary operations as necessary," Barbera said.

With this change, courts may continue non-jury trials in District and Circuit courts, according to Barbera's Nov. 12 order. Matters that can be held remotely are encouraged to be handled in that manner.

Grand juries already in session may continue, by Barbera's order, at the discretion of the administrative judge. In criminal court, motions, expungements, preliminary hearings and violation of probation hearings are among court matters that may continue. Protective orders can still be obtained, and minor traffic matters will continue to be addressed in District Court. Certain landlord and tenant disputes, such as processing warrants for failure to pay rent, will continue.

The clerks offices for District and Circuit courts remain open to the public.

Administrative judges may limit the amount of people entering a courthouse or courtroom to maintain social distancing.

Barbera's orders can be read in full online at mdcourts.gov.

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller 

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