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State, federal courts further restrict entry and proceedings over virus

State and federal courts in Maryland are further reducing activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new and revised administrative orders issued Monday night.

Maryland state courts, which Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera previously closed to the public but kept open for emergency proceedings, will move to restricted operations beginning Tuesday.

The latest administrative order was Barbera’s first exercise of new emergency powers under revisions to the Maryland Rules approved by the Court of Appeals on Monday.

“In response to COVID-19, the Maryland Judiciary is taking further action to protect court visitors and Judiciary personnel,” Barbera said in a statement. “The health and well-being of all Marylanders continue to be a top priority as we ensure that essential court operations continue during this public health emergency.”

Under the order, Maryland courts, court offices, administrative offices, units of the judiciary and clerk’s offices will be restricted to emergency operations and closed with limited exceptions until April 3. Each jurisdiction is required to have enough judges to hear specified emergency measures during the week and essential personnel, identified by administrative judges, other administrative heads and clerks, must report as required.

During the emergency, all Maryland judges are allowed to sit in any trial court in the state and must be available to respond in person or remotely, according to the order.

U.S. District Chief Judge James K. Bredar on Monday issued new and revised administrative orders affecting Maryland federal courts. One order established a miscellaneous case number (1:20-mc-00146) for temporary COVID-19 orders that will be rescinded as necessary. Bredar also revised last week’s order that barred individuals with certain travel histories and contacts from entering courthouses, adding people who recently traveled from Europe or from any country with a Level 3 travel health notice from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal courts had already postponed all proceedings scheduled to be heard though March 27.

Barbera’s order specified the cases and proceedings that will still be heard during the pandemic.

The Court of Appeals will continue to hear certain cases involving election law, writs of mandamus and certified questions of law. The Court of Special Appeals will hear requests for injunctive relief pending appeal and appeals where a lack of action will have a dispositive outcome. Both appellate courts will hear matters involving quarantine and isolation.

Circuit courts will hear bail reviews, arraignments, juvenile detention hearings, emergency evaluation petitions, quarantine and isolation petitions, extradition cases, body attachments and extreme risk protective order appeals. District courts will hear bail reviews, emergency evaluation petitions, and matters involving quarantine and isolation violations and body attachments.

For other emergency matters, the administrative judge will review the petition and determine if it must be heard in person or can be heard remotely, according to the order. Courts can still consider matters that do not require a testimony or argument.

All other matters scheduled to be heard between March 17 and April 3 are postponed by the order and deadlines related to criminal and juvenile matters are extended by at least 21 days.

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