We have ruminated on this blog about the timing and feasibility of reopening Maryland's courts. Our idle speculation has now been formally answered by Court of Appeals Chief Judge, Mary Ellen Barbera. The courts will rely on a five phase plan.
Courts will resume a limited array of functions on June 5, 2020 with a much greater expansion July 20, 2020. To be clear, for a limited menu of court functions they never closed.
However, the July 20th date will see courts functioning more normally which for the purposes of the personal injury lawyers at Clark and Steinhorn, LLC will include settlement hearings or conferences.
August 31st will see the resumption of civil trials including personal injury and car accident cases in both circuit and district courts.
The blockbuster is the return of jury trials October 5 , 2020. Jurors are often in close proximity to one another indoors for hours at a time and could be a major disease vector. Nothing is presently spelled out as to how juries will both be constituted and function
We have previously opined on the inherent issues with reactivating the court system in Maryland and it is clear that the judges plotting out the return of the courts have thought similar thoughts. A continuing preference for conducting proceedings remotely is mandated as is a battery of health measures including temperature checks, face covering and social distancing.
We have previously suggested the necessity of reducing docket sizes and altering courtroom layouts which are evidently part of the plan.
Many aspects of this are not yet spelled out and one inevitably wonders if an ad hoc approach will ultimately be necessary given the likelihood of subsequent waves of covid 19.
Finally, what of lawyers, parties, jurors and other courtroom participants, who are not willing to risk their health before a vaccine is developed and disseminated? Good question.