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Federal in-court proceedings to be suspended amid virus resurgence

U.S. District Chief Judge James K. Bredar

U.S. District Chief Judge James K. Bredar’s order suspending in-court proceedings marks a rollback of the resumption of normal operations in federal courts in Maryland. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

All in-court proceedings and hearings in the U.S. District Court for Maryland will be suspended for at least two weeks beginning Monday due to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the state, Chief Judge James K. Bredar said Wednesday.

Some proceedings will be transferred to virtual formats while others will be postponed, Bredar wrote in his five-page order. Presiding judges will contact counsel and parties regarding the status of scheduled in-court proceedings, Bredar added.

No attorneys, parties or members of the general public will be allowed inside the federal courthouses in Baltimore and Greenbelt without prior permission from Bredar or the clerk of the district or bankruptcy court under the chief judge’s order, which the U.S. Marshals Service will enforce.

Bredar’s express permission will be required for the entry of anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past 14 days; has been in contact in the past 14 days with anyone who has been diagnosed with the virus; has been asked to self-quarantine by a health care provider; has a temperature of at least 100 degrees; has or lives with someone who has COVID-19 like symptoms, including fever, chills, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, and vomiting; or who has returned from international travel or a cruise ship voyage within 14 days.

Bredar said his order was triggered by Maryland’s seven-day positivity rate of more than 5% for COVID-19 tests as well as renewed restrictions and recommendations on businesses and indoor gatherings from Gov. Larry Hogan.

These restrictions include lowering the seating capacity for all bars and restaurants from 75% to 50% and recommending that indoor gatherings be limited to at most 24 people.

Bredar’s order marks a substantial and sudden rollback of the steady resumption of in-court activities following his initial order in March halting in-court proceedings.

In June, Bredar permitted in-court proceeding to resume on a limited basis, including the scheduling of jury trials. Just last month he reopened the front counters of the clerk’s office to the public.

Bredar said the court will “review the triggering criteria on a regular basis to determine whether conditions have sufficiently improved to support rescinding this order and resuming some or all in-court operations

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