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District Court Bench Bar Committee

     The District Court Bench Bar Committee had its February meeting on February 5, 2015, and the following topics were discussed.

ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR CIVIL CASES AND PROCEDURES
     Silver Spring Civil: Effective immediately, the Court will have an additional civil judge in Courtroom 403 at the Silver Spring District Court each week on Wednesdays. A third Hispanic interpreter is also being added to the Silver Spring civil docket. 
     Continuance Policy: Judge Wolfe noted that a number of lawyers have filed joint requests for postponement based on failure to complete discovery. Practitioners are advised there will be no automatic postponement, even though both parties agree, because Maryland Rule 3-508(b) does not require a postponement to complete discovery unless there is "good cause." Ignoring discovery before the first trial date set is not "good cause" for a continuance. 
     Large Firm Overbooking: The Court is concerned that large firms should not permit any of their attorneys to carry more than two contested cases on any one court date. The court has noted several instances where multiple plaintiffs or defendants have been forced to wait while one attorney tries the first of his or her contested cases. 
     Application of Courts Article, § 10-105: The Court noted that some attorneys are using the provisions of 10-105 to sponsor estimates, or for the purpose of establishing lost wages. This statute applies only to "paid bills for goods or services." It is not appropriate for estimates, or for establishing the amount of lost wages. 
     Attorneys Doing HOA or COC Collection Work: District Court judges are requesting that all affidavits listing amounts due to a HOA or COC separately list dues, late fees, and assessments of various kinds. Attorneys should also provide a copy of the governing HOC or COC documents, and should never file bills that provide only vague information like "balance forward." The specific concern here is that attorneys fees must be dealt with separately and found to be reasonable by the Court, and should not be lumped in with dues, late, fees, etc. 

ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR CRIMINAL CASES AND PROCEDURES
     Beginning on February 16, 2015, District Court has started issuing notices for preliminary inquiries in serious traffic cases other than DUI’s. These notices provide that the person charged with offenses like driving while suspended appear before a District Court commissioner within seven days after receipt of the notice. The purpose of preliminary inquiries is to make certain that these defendants are advised of the right to counsel. There is a Silver Spring Commissioner open at the Silver Spring District Court until midnight each night, and the Rockville Commissioner at 191 East Jefferson Street is open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. At the same time that preliminary inquiry notices go out, Annapolis will also send a trial date in a separate notice. The Court does not plan to issue bench warrants for those defendants who fail to appear for preliminary inquiries on these cases, but warrants will still issue for any DUI case where the defendant has failed to appear for a preliminary inquiry at the Rockville District Court.

Drug Education in Marijuana Cases
     The court has implemented a program to comply with current law requiring that persons charged with under 10 grams civil citations who are under the age of 21 must participate in a drug education program. The Court has made arrangements for this program to be given at the Rockville District Court, and it will be a four hour presentation in a 6th Floor courtroom. 
     DV Criminal Cases in Rockville District Court: Beginning in February, there will be an additional judge sitting in Rockville District Court, Courtroom 612, who will be available to help handle the overload from the Domestic Violence cases held in RDC 411.

TECHNOLOGY UPDATE, MDEC, etc.:
     E-filing is fully operational in Anne Arundel County for all civil cases. This means that attorneys from any part of Maryland who wish to file a civil case in Anne Arundel County must e-file. In 2016, Howard County will be online with MDEC and refinements to the system are expected by that time. Bulk filing will become possible in approximately 2016. 
     Judge Everngam reports that the Court Technology Committee is looking into wi-fi for all District Court locations in the State, as well as refinements to policies concerning various kinds of electronic devices that can be used in the courtroom by attorneys to access calendars, legal research, and the internet. However, Judge Everngam notes that MDEC is not compatible with iPads at the current time

 

District Court Practice Pointer

Inclement Weather or Other Delays Involving Counsel  
     Due to the recent inclement weather, the court has requested that we once again notify the bar of the inclement weather policies and the number to call in the event that an attorney is unavoidably running behind, or otherwise has a last minute issue in getting to court on time.

Closures
     As previously reported, on days where there is bad weather that could impact court openings, a decision will be made no later than 5:30 posted on the Judiciary website, and announced to the press and other news outlets by no later than 6 am.  The District Court and Circuit Court will coordinate and make a joint announcement.

Attorney is delayed
     If court is open but an attorney for reasons of bad weather, traffic or other personal issues is running behind, the court encourages the attorney to contact the court to advise of their status so that the court will be aware of the attorney’s situation.
     The phone numbers to call to report unavoidable delay’s are as follows:
     Rockville – (301) 563-8867
     Silver Spring – (301) 563-5820
     If an attorney does not reach an individual in person on either of these lines, they have voice mail and the attorney should leave a message regarding his or her status and the message will be picked up by the court.

Co-Chairs

Reginald W. Bours
Richard D. London

 

Meeting
Dates

March 5, 2015
April 2, 2015
May 7, 2015

Meetings will be held on the 1st Thursday of the month at 8AM in the Judges Conference Room in the District Court building, 191 East Jefferson St., Rockville, MD, unless otherwise noted.