Message from the Circuit Court

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June 10, 2021 - Message from the Circuit Court Regarding Future Operations

As the public health situation in Montgomery County and the state continue to improve, the Circuit Court is further expanding its operations. Beginning June 28, 2021, the court will expand in-person proceedings to include all hearings and trials, with exceptions noted below. Please read the following information carefully, as it will affect all cases pending in the Circuit Court.

Coming to the Courthouse

Pursuant to Chief Judge Barbera’s orders of May 24, 2021, any unvaccinated persons entering the courthouse will be required to wear masks and maintain social distance from others until further notice. The Visitor’s Log will be abolished for all purposes, effective June 28, 2021, but health screening and temperature checks, where appropriate, will continue.

Continuation of Virtual Hearings

The COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for our judicial system, but there were some protocols this court developed that will be retained. Virtual hearings save counsel and litigants travel time and expense, and save the court time, as well. The following types of cases will continue to be heard virtually unless you are notified to the contrary by the court:

  • all motions, including Register of Wills proceedings, set on the 10:00 a.m. civil motions docket;
  • guardianship proceedings on the Thursday 1:30 p.m. docket;
  • all pretrial hearings in Track 2 and Track 3 civil cases;
  • all Rule 4-215 and criminal pretrial hearings (in Rule 4-215 cases, counsel will be expected to clear dates with the Assignment Office before the hearing date; otherwise, counsel and/or the parties must appear in court at the hearing. For criminal pretrial hearings, no personal appearance by the defendant is necessary if counsel can represent that he or she has been in recent contact with the defendant);
  • all uncontested divorce cases and all scheduling hearings before the Family Law Magistrates;
  • all juvenile cases, both CINA and delinquency, except for adjudicatory hearings.

Virtual hearings will continue to operate as they do presently; before the day of the hearing, users will be provided a link from the court for access.

In-Person Hearings

All other hearings, including but not limited to trials, criminal motions, violations of probation and sentencings will be conducted in-person unless users are notified to the contrary by the court.

TBA Designation

The “To Be Assigned” (TBA) docket will resume on June 28. TBA means that a civil or family trial has not been assigned to a specific judge. The parties in TBA cases will be expected to report to the Assignment Office on the date and time of trial with the expectation that a judge may become available to hear the case. If no judge is available, the parties may be asked to return the next day, when a judge may be available, or the case will be postponed. Unfortunately, because of the court’s case backlog, this may result in inconvenience to the parties and counsel. There is no other way, however, to reduce the number of pending cases.

Jury Trials

For cases scheduled for jury trial, the parties will be required to file voir dire and jury instructions in the court file at least two weeks prior to the trial date. Counsel are also expected to ensure that all pending motions have been heard in advance of the trial date. The Jury Trial Prioritization procedure will be abolished as of June 28, and thereafter jury selection will occur in the courtroom of the presiding trial judge. For the period from June 14 through June 25, trial participants who have been vaccinated need not wear masks, but must maintain social distancing. Beginning June 28, this policy will continue, except social distancing will be eliminated among those who have been vaccinated.

Court Services

Most pre-COVID court services are being restored.

  • Marriage ceremonies, subject to certain time and guest limitations, will resume on July 1.
  • The Law Library will open on July 1, without restriction.
  • The Family Law Self-Help Center will open to walk-ins on July 1.
  • Kids Spot reopens on June 21.
  • The Land Records Department will continue to accept recordings outside at the Maryland Avenue entrance at 10:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, and 2:00 p.m. for those patrons who would rather not come inside the courthouse to conduct their business.
MDEC and Court Filings

Maryland Electronic Courts filing system (MDEC) is coming to Montgomery County, after long delays, on October 25, 2021. Until then, the court will retain its present electronic filing system, together with the dropbox on Maryland Avenue and in-person filing. Walk-through motions by attorneys will resume on June 28. Please remember to file court documents by one mode, only: either by email, dropbox, or in-person.


This court has maintained a conservative approach in dealing with the pandemic since last March, but the rate of infection (0.44%, compared to the state’s 0.95% as of June 13), and the increasing number of vaccinations (64.7% of all residents in Montgomery County have received at least one vaccination) convinces the court that it is time to resume a more normal operations schedule. The court will continue to monitor the county’s health situation and make any changes dictated by review of that data. Last week we surveyed 225 jurors over three days, and the results of the survey suggest that the vast majority of the respondents were comfortable in social settings where there are unmasked (but vaccinated) persons.

The court is working diligently to get cases tried promptly. There will undoubtedly be some confusion and uncertainty as we resume normal operations. We are changing what have become “new normal” procedures so that we can return to the “old normal.” We ask for the continued cooperation of the Bar as we confront problems that will be presented as we move on.

Robert A. Greenberg
Administrative Judge