Already Backlogged Maryland Courts Will Have No New Jury Trials in 2020

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Courts throughout Maryland partially shut down Monday due to the pandemic.

Just weeks ago, on Sept. 29,Maryland loosened its restrictions and allowed jurors to return and more cases to proceed with plexiglass, cleanings and rules for distancing.

That didn’t last long. With the new coronavirus surge nationwide, there’ll be no new jury trials in Maryland in 2020.

“We've been unable to provide those trials because of the order of our Court of Appeals, and understandably, in the pandemic, we just can't conduct business like we used to,” Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert Greenberg said.

The federal court system is closing, too. Both courthouses in Maryland — one in Greenbelt and another in Baltimore — are closed to jurors. The courthouses had added personal protective equipment and just recently resumed jury trials.

Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia

COVID-19 cases by population in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia

Source: DC, MD and VA Health Departments
Credit: Anisa Holmes / NBC Washington

The top federal law enforcement officer in the state, U.S. Attorney Robert Hur, argued the first case personally in hopes of sending a message about the safety of returning to court.  

Defense lawyers say the federal system is backlogged, too.

“If your client’s not in jail, maybe not such a big deal,” defense attorney Robert Bonsib said. “If your client’s in jail and wants to get their case resolved, it is a big deal.”

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