District Court Bench Bar Committee
The District Court Bench Bar Committee held its February meeting on February 6, 2014.
There are several topics of interest that the Bar should be aware of.
New Court Dockets: This is a further reminder that starting in March, 2014, the revised dockets will be in place. The major change is that the incarcerable traffic cases will now be scheduled for 8:30 in the morning and the non-incarcerable traffic cases, as well as the V.O.P. cases will be on the afternoon dockets.
The timing of the new schedule once again is an opportunity to remind counsel that they must be in court timely when they are scheduled to be there. The court functions smoothly without unnecessary delays. It is particularly a problem when late or missing attorneys delay the court, staff, witnesses, and the public.
General Matters: Another recurring issue is the last minute request for continuances. Continuances are being denied with more frequency when counsel files the request at the last minute because the parties are “working on a settlement”, particularly when the case has already been continued previously.
Criminal Matters: Counsel who enter their appearance prior to the Preliminary Inquiry do not have to appear in court. If counsel enters an appearance on the morning of the Preliminary Inquiry, they are excused to leave court.
Civil Matters: The new attorney fee rule is now in place. Counsel should review the rule carefully since it applies to cases filed on or after January 2, 2014.
Electronic Filing: The implementation of Maryland electronic filing has been deferred, and is now scheduled to start October 14, 2014. As previously reported, it will start in Anne Arundel County. Montgomery County will not be put on electronic filing until the summer of 2017. However, since counsel in Montgomery County may have the occasion to file legal actions in Anne Arundel County, and other places that will have implementation prior to Montgomery County, all counsel will need to become familiarized and able to electronically file early on.
1. Pending Legislation: There are several bills in the Maryland Legislature that could affect practice in the District Court. These will be further reported on as they develop, particularly if they pass the legislature.
2. Practice Pointer: Elsewhere in the newsletter is a practice pointer concerning whether a case filed in the small claims jurisdiction of the District Court can be removed by the defendant to Circuit Court by filing a counterclaim with a jury demand.
District Court Practice Pointer
Can They Do That?
The judges of the District Court advise that they have seen instances where a defendant in a small claims case will file a counterclaim in the case for an amount that would entitle the defendant to a jury trial, request the jury trial, and thereby have the case removed to Circuit Court to avoid the trial of the initial complaint under the small claims rules in District Court.
The Court of Special Appeals has held that this is not permissible. The case is Sharon McKlveen v. Monika Courts Condominium, 208 Md. App., 369, 56 A.3d 611 (2012). The McKlveen case held that the amount of the counterclaim should not be considered in determining whether the amount in controversy entitles a party to a trial by jury. The amount in controversy depends on what is alleged in the plaintiff’s complaint. Therefore, the initial case was remanded to the District Court.
Richard D. London
February 6, 2014
March 6, 2014
April 3, 2014
Meetings are held at 8:00 a.m. in the Judges Conference Room in the District Court Building, 191 East Jefferson St., Rockville, MD, unless otherwise noted.