As avid trial lawyers, Clark and Steinhorn, LLC strive to keep up with the ongoing impact of covid-19 on the court system and our client's cases. This has been highly challenging as the courts appear to be in a quandary about what will happen and when.
Maryland's Chief Judge, Mary Ellen Barbera, put forth a recent video on this subject that, while well intentioned, did little to clarify how things will work other than the present notion that June 8, 2020 will be the beginning of the court system's return.
What this means is murky. This is not in any way to fault Judge Barbera or the Maryland court system as they are confronting a once a century phenomenon and are focused on public safety.
The issues are many. First, court dockets in District court are heavily laden. Anyone who has appeared in District court knows that the courtrooms are overflowing with participants and represent a perfect transmission medium for covid-19. Thus, there are several options. The first is to appear in District Court remotely through Skype or Zoom or Courtcall.
This is problematic as equal access to the court system might be compromised by the inability of people of lesser economic means to have high speed internet and computers available to participate. It would be patently unfair to penalize our society's least advantaged individuals.
The second option would be to reduce dockets to a much smaller size. This obviously would delay many trials and dispositions and could implicate the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 21 of the Maryland Bill of Rights thus eliminating many criminal prosecutions.
Even smaller dockets would necessarily contemplate social distancing, masks and vigorous efforts to clean courtrooms, restrooms and public courthouse areas far more vigorously and frequently than has ever been done before.
Governor Hogan has not remotely lifted restrictions such that any of these suggestions would be permissible presently. It seems inevitable that the counties with the largest contingent of covid-19 cases such as Prince Georges , Montgomery and Baltimore, will lag behind more rural counties and likely will operate on a different schedule for reopening.
The bottom line it's nineteen days until June 8th and nobody has any idea how things will "reopen" and when.