My desk calendar, with Isaac Neuberger's arraignment listed for March 27. (Yes, I still use an actual calendar on my desk.)

It’s a date… unless it’s not

I, like many journalists, like to be present when an event happens to better chronicle what’s going on. For my beat, this means being in courtrooms for hearings to better keep up with the latest news in cases.

One case I’ve been trying to follow recently is that of Isaac M. Neuberger, a Baltimore law firm partner accused of inappropriately touching a member of the catering staff at his firm’s holiday party. According to the Maryland Judiciary Case Search, Neuberger’s arraignment is scheduled for today, March 27. I was all set to go until I learned Neuberger pleaded not guilty last week.

So how and why did I miss the hearing? The short answer, according to a Maryland Judiciary spokeswoman, is a clerical error. The story of clerical error, however, goes back six weeks.

The original arraignment, scheduled for Feb. 13 in Baltimore City Circuit Court, was postponed after the courthouse closed because of snow. Online case records showed the arraignment was rescheduled for March 10. But Neuberger did not appear in court that morning, at which point I called the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office. Mark Cheshire, the office’s spokesman, told me the case had been rescheduled for March 24, which I reported later that day.

A few days later, however, the arraignment date in the online court file was March 27, which is why I wrote it down in my calendar.

(In hindsight, I should have called Cheshire right then to explain the date discrepancy. But I did not, so our journey continues.)

Then, late last week, I noticed Neuberger’s arraignment date was still March 27 but that he also had a trial date of May 29. I thought that was odd, since Neuberger, as far as I knew, had not yet entered a plea. So I went to the criminal clerk’s office Tuesday to review Neuberger’s file, only to be told it was with the judge. Not surprising, I thought, since judges get files a few days before a scheduled hearing.

I spoke with the judge’s clerk Tuesday afternoon. When I mentioned the case I was looking for, she told me the case was heard March 20 before another judge she was working with for the day. I tried to explain how the case was scheduled for March 27 online but she reiterated the case was heard last week.

So I called back to the state’s attorney’s office. Cheshire told me that he found out Monday the arraignment already had happened and did not know why it had been rescheduled nor why the March 27 hearing date remained listed incorrectly online.

Teri Bolling, the Judiciary spokeswoman, said clerks enter data into a case management system that gets updated online almost in real time. Which means a clerk, at some point after the March 10 postponement, entered the wrong date for the rescheduled hearing. I was annoyed when I found out I missed the hearing but at least now I understand what happened.

And I’ll be sure to check in periodically and make sure the trial date doesn’t change. Speaking of that, online court records Tuesday indicated the trial was scheduled for May 29, while Cheshire told me it was May 19.

As of Wednesday afternoon, however, the trial date online has been changed to May 19.

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