These Are Challenging Times...
Read Brett Weiss' comments on the Court closures resulting from the Coronavirus, with current status updates.
March 31, 2022
The latest from the Maryland State Court. Federal Courts (including the Bankruptcy Court) remain almost entirely virtual.
Maryland Judiciary returns to normal operations; exits five-phased COVID-19 resumption of operations plan
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Chief Judge Joseph M. Getty, Court of Appeals of Maryland, issued administrative orders announcing the lifting of the COVID-19 Health Emergency throughout the Maryland Judiciary. The main order, Lifting the COVID-19 Health Emergency as to the Maryland Judiciary, concludes the Judicial Branch’s COVID-19 emergency period and exits the five-phased resumption of operations plan effective April 4, 2022.
“This is the final step in resuming complete Judicial operations, but we recognize that we still have more work to do,” said Chief Judge Getty. “We would not be in this position without the collaboration and commitment of our current and previous leadership. Our progressive five-phased operations plan proved to be a success and kept the Maryland Judiciary operational during the some of the most challenging times in our history. I am confident the Judiciary is coming out of this pandemic with the experience of implementing innovative technologies to improve access to justice for citizens throughout the State.”
Chief Judge Getty issued a total of five new administrative orders, which rescind previous orders of similar titles. All five new administrative orders can be found on the Maryland Judiciary’s website at mdcourts.gov/coronavirusorders.
The new administrative orders include:
Final Administrative Order on Emergency Tolling or Suspension of Statutes of Limitations and Statutory and Rules Deadline Related to the Initiation of Matters and Certain Statutory and Rules Deadlines in Pending Matters During the COVID-19 Emergency
The newly issued administrative orders provide that remote proceedings which were set pursuant to the orders during the health emergency but are now scheduled to occur beyond the emergency period, may proceed, and electronic signatures may continue in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City in conjunction with those proceedings. Further, trial judges who were designated to sit in any state trial court in Maryland during the emergency and who sat, are designated to continue to sit in those matters until they are completed. Also, the administrative orders memorialize measures undertaken regarding certain case types, proceedings, deadlines, and resumes complaints for failure to pay rent actions initiated or pending on April 4, 2022, to proceed pursuant to law.
Courts across Maryland are encouraged to continue using technology for remote proceedings as a robust component of efficient case management in all trial courts, either by video or telephone, but such utilization will vary by court location. Individuals who have business with the courts should check the Judiciary’s website at mdcourts.gov or call the Clerk’s Office for information before arriving at a courthouse location. Please contact local jury offices for questions about jury service and accommodations.
February 2, 2022
Almost at the beginning of the third year of the Covid pandemic, the Bankruptcy Court has adjusted.
Nearly all hearings in Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13 cases are currently conducted remotely via zoom. Meetings of Creditors, Confirmation Hearings, even most evidentiary hearings, will be virtual. At the request of the Court or a party, the Court has the option of conducting in-person hearings, but virtual is now the default.
With the change yesterday in Chief Judge from Judge Catliota (who has been a strong proponent of virtual hearings) to Judge Rice (whose opinions on this issue are unknown), we will see if any changes are in the offing.
September 6, 2021
The Maryland Bankruptcy Court has just entered an Order Effective September 8, 2021, requiring that all persons entering U.S. Courthouses in the District of Maryland must be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, or (for an interim period) provide a negative COVID-19 test result from a test administered no more than 72 hours prior. See this Memorandum regarding the Court's Vaccination Policy for more details.
Zoom hearings in most cases, instead of in-person appearances, will continue.
May 19, 2021
There appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Deaths from Covid-19 are significantly down nationally, about 60% of the American public has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and businesses are reopening. Masks are now optional in many settings for those vaccinated.
With these changes also come changes in how the Maryland Bankruptcy Court will be handling hearings. Previously, all hearings, unless specially set, were conducted virtually. Due to the success of these virtual hearings, although judges can still require in-person hearings, the following matters will, unless otherwise ordered, be conducted via zoom:
Chapter 13 dockets;
Motions to extend and impose the automatic stay under 11 U.S.C. §§362(c)(3) and (c)(4), respectively;
Pre-trial conferences in adversary proceedings; and
Status and scheduling conferences.
In addition, Judges may continue to set other matters for hearing on Zoom, either as a
preliminary or final matter. I expect that this means that most Motions for Relief from the Automatic Stay will be conducted virtually, and the vast majority of court hearings will continue to be conducted virtually.
For the safety of our staff, all client meetings will continue to be conducted by Zoom or telephone, and documents will be provided by email and fax.
September 30, 2020
As we continue to monitor the impact of the Coronavirus/Covid-19, we want to assure you that we remain committed to delivering outstanding legal representation to you during these challenging times.
The safety and well-being of our team members, clients, and families remain our main priority. We greatly care about our communities and want to do our part to keep you healthy, keep our employees healthy, and help minimize the spread of the virus.
Our physical office remains closed. We encourage clients to use electronic means to communicate and send information at this time.
Our professionals are available via email, phone, chat, and video conferencing to continue to serve you.
We strongly recommend using email or fax to send us documents. If this does not work for you, mailing or drop-off of documents is currently allowable as a last resort. Please use the mail slot to minimize contact for you and our professionals. Note that, due to the time required for quarantine and delivery of physical documents, there will be a delay of up to two weeks in our review of such documents.
There will be no signing of documents on-site. We will electronically send documents for signature.
Other Steps Being Implemented
Other steps we are taking to help prevent the spread of the virus include minimizing the number of team members in our office. We will primarily work remotely during this time. This is necessary to preserve the health of our team and help curtail the spread of the virus while upholding our commitment to you, our clients. As the Courts are currently conducting almost all hearings via videoconference or telephone (and has strict safety protocols for any in-person hearings), you should not have to expose yourself either. As we continue to monitor the impact of the coronavirus, we will keep you informed of further changes.
On behalf of all of us at The Weiss Law Group, thank you for your understanding and support during this challenging time. Remember, we are all in this public health situation together. We wish you and your families much good health.
April 1, 2020
The coronavirus has changed everything.
Layoffs, closures, and social distancing, while necessary for public health, have had a devastating impact on individuals and businesses. Even the Courts have been closed. Lost wages and business closures have changed your financial picture and require you to look at things in a new light.
Because this is a difficult and seemingly desperate time for many people and business owners, I want to provide some basic financial advice about what to do and not to do during the ongoing crisis. As a bankruptcy attorney, I deal with many people and business owners on the brink of financial turmoil every day. Many people are finding themselves out of work at this time and may need help prioritizing their finances. Here are some basic tips.
These are tips if you do not file for bankruptcy. A Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, or Chapter 13 will deal with most or all of these issues directly, without your needing to make individual arrangements.
Do NOT cash out retirement accounts. If you file for bankruptcy, all of the money in your retirement accounts -- 401(k)s, IRAs, etc. -- are fully protected and cannot be taken by your creditors.
DO prioritize payments to creditors carefully. Food and bare essentials first. Then basic housing expenses (assuming Congress does not pass legislation dealing with housing payments. Foreclosures and evictions are stayed right now by state law, but not payments or the accrual of payments, interest, and fees, and there is no current law saying what will happen once the stay expires).
If you rent, reach out to your landlord and ask for an extension on rent if necessary.
If you have a mortgage, immediately go online to the mortgage company’s loss mitigation options. It probably has a new page dealing with special options as a result of the coronavirus.
Reach out to utility companies -- BGE and PEPCO -- and ask for a hardship extension on payments. Again, their websites likely have new resources (see below), since many of their customers are or shortly will be struggling.
Lost your job? Immediately apply for unemployment benefits online (see below).
Student loan payments should immediately be deferred or placed on forbearance during this time if possible. Apply for an income-based repayment plan. Try to keep basic cash savings of at least $1,000 for emergencies.
Do NOT pay any medical bills from BIG hospitals in full. Request a payment plan.
Tickets from the city? Call and ask for an extension of time to pay fines and tickets. This also applies to court fines.
Tolls owed to the tollway authority? Apply for a hardship settlement.
The filing deadline for 2019 income taxes has been extended to July 15, 2020. If you owe the IRS or state taxes, call and work out a payment plan.
Credit cards should not be a priority unless your basic living expenses are met. Ask for payment deferments but expect all lines of credit to be shut down quickly.
Finally, ask for help. Ask questions, stay INDOORS, and stay safe.
Focus on family and friends and above all prioritize kindness and compassion to others.
I have compiled a list of resources to help people who live in Maryland. Please go through the list asap to see if you qualify for any assistance if you need it.
1. Apply for unemployment benefits: Unemployment Benefits
2. Navigate the SBA (Small Business Association) site for additional help: SBA Resources
3. Facebook has announced a Facebook Small Business Grants Program that you can apply for: FB Small Business Grants
5. IRS tax relief help including a NEW tax deadline of July 15th: IRS Tax Relief
6. Information from Navient for student loan relief: Navient
7. General student loan relief information: General Student Loan Relief
8. Bartender Emergency Assistance Program: Bartender Emergency Assistance
9. Emergency Rental Assistance: Emergency Rental Assistance
10. Maryland Domestic Violence hotline: Domestic Violence Hotline
11. Recommendations from the CDC on how to protect yourself from the COVID-19 virus: Protecting Yourself from COVID-19
12. Free school meals for children while schools are closed: Link
13. Resources for kids to do work while out of school: Resources (and check your local school district)
14. The most up to date statistics on the Coronavirus here in Maryland: Maryland statistics on COVID-19
15. A CDC household checklist to prepare your home for an outbreak: Household Preparation Checklist
16. BGE Coronavirus Customer Support: BGE
17. PEPCO Coronavirus Customer Support: PEPCO