Can Maryland Courts Really, Safely Reopen June 5, 2020?

In a word, NO! For courtroom denizens, it seems impossible to imagine that Maryland courts can reopen for most purposes on June 5, 2020.

District Court is invariably packed to the gills with litigants and lawyers and social distancing would be physically impossible. Perhaps case dockets could be reduced but such a reduction would have to be of a magnitude that only 10% of the existing daily caseloads could be accommodated thereby pushing trial dates out for months or years.

Even with such a reduction and mandatory use of gloves and masks the potential for covid 19 exposure would be great. Circuit Court dockets tend to be smaller but still any motions days have full courtrooms with lawyers crammed together in pews. Courtroom personnel also work closely together and it is inevitable that outbreaks would occur and that contact tracing would result in entire law firms, states attorneys offices, public defenders and judge's chambers being subject to quarantine.

At Clark and Steinhorn, LLC, we are hearing from defense lawyers who are eager to schedule depositions assuming that courts will reopen in June but we are most hesitant to make commitments that we feel will not be feasible to carry out.

The one potential avenue for reopening that might bear fruit is through video conferencing but that too has inherent problems. Specifically, it presupposes that litigants have both internet access and a computer. This is not a given in every household.

Lawyers and judges also like to see witnesses and litigants in person to gauge their demeanor. So don't expect a great deal of substantive courtroom activity in Maryland for the next year or so.

Robert V. Clark
Maryland Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer
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