SNOW HILL — With a steady increase in new COVID cases in Maryland, the state’s judiciary system last week announced it was extending phase two of its five-phase coronavirus reopening plan through mid-March with no jury trials scheduled until late April at the earliest.
The Maryland Judiciary announced last week it is extending phase II of its COVID-19 progressive reopening plan through March 14. Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera last week issued five new administrative orders, including the extension of phase II through March 14. Another order issued by Barbera extends the suspension of jury trials through April 23.
“The surge in COVID-19 cases during November is expected to be sustained through the winter, making it necessary for the Maryland judiciary to remain in phase II of its operations plan,” said Barbera. “We will continue to monitor the public health emergency and adjust court operations as necessary to protect the safety of the public, judges and judiciary personnel. We will also ensure that as many of the judiciary’s core functions continue to the extent the emergency conditions allow.”
With COVID-19 health protocols in place statewide, the Maryland judiciary had resumed full operations, including jury trials, on Oct. 5. However, due to a surge in new cases in Maryland, the judiciary restricted its operations to phase III on Nov. 16 and reverted back to phase II on Nov. 30. The new orders issued by Barbera last week extend phase II through mid-March.
In phase II, the District and Circuit courts continue to hear specific case types either remotely or in-person, but jury trails will not be held until the judiciary is able to re-enter phase V of its resumption of operations plan. The suspension of jury trials until late April comes at a time when many of the serious crime cases from last summer in Ocean City were headed to court.
Clerk’s offices in both the District and Circuit Courts in Maryland remain open to the public for emergency purposes and by appointment for other matters. Individuals who have business with the courts should check the judiciary’s website at www.mdcourts.gov, or call the clerk’s office for information before arriving at a courthouse location. The judiciary’s website also has detailed information about the various phases of the reopening plan along with information about the types of cases being heard.