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Maryland Bankruptcy Court Coronavirus Updates

Updated: Nov 13


November 12, 2020


In light of the worsening Covid pandemic, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland suspended all in-court hearings and proceedings effective November 16, 2020. This applies to the Bankruptcy Court as well.


These changes are subject to review after two weeks.


October 21, 2020.


The Maryland Department of Labor's latest Financial Relief Guide was issued today. A few highlights:


The residential foreclosure process cannot be initiated until January 4, 2021, pursuant to Governor Hogan’s executive order 20-10-16-01. Business foreclosures, however, unless stopped by the federal guidelines, may still occur.


Until further notice or the state of emergency is lifted, rental evictions are prohibited if the tenant has a verifiable and substantial loss of income related to COVID-19, pursuant to the same executive order.


Landlords of single-family residential properties may qualify for mortgage relief under the CARES Act if they are unable to collect rent from their tenants because of COVID-19. Landlords should contact their mortgage servicer to see if they qualify and to understand the associated tenant protections.


The prohibition against cars and trucks being repossessed is no longer in effect as of October 20, 2020.


The U.S. Department of Education, by Presidential Executive Order, has extended temporary suspension of payments (“forbearance”) and a 0% interest period for most federal student loans until December 31, 2020, among other provisions. This does not apply to private student loans, however.


Creditors are prohibited from repossessing personal property used as a residence, including mobile homes, trailers, and live-aboard boats until further notice or the state of emergency is lifted


The Maryland Public Service Commission, in an emergency action has prohibited terminations of residential utility services (electric, gas, and certain non-municipal water systems) through November 15, 2020.


September 1, 2020. From the Office of the United States Trustee:


The U.S. Trustee Program has extended the requirement that section 341 meetings [Meetings of Creditors] be conducted by telephone or video appearance to all cases filed during the period of the President’s “Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak” issued March 13, 2020, and ending on the date that is 60 days after such declaration terminates. However, the U.S. Trustee may approve a request by a trustee in a particular case to continue the section 341meeting to an in-person meeting in a manner that complies with local public health guidance, if the U.S. Trustee determines that an in-person examination of the debtor is required to ensure the completeness of the meeting or the protection of estate property.


This policy may be revised at the discretion of the Director of the United States Trustee Program.


June 18, 2020. From the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court, Mark Neal:


The United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland will proceed into Phase Two of its recovery plan, effective at 8:30 a.m. on June 22, 2020.  As part of its move to Phase Two, the Court has entered Administrative Order 20-14 rescinding Administrative Order 20-04 (temporary suspension of in-court proceedings in the Greenbelt Division) and Administrative Order 20-08 (temporary suspension of delivery of courtesy copies to Chambers).  During Phase Two, the Court will begin to hold more hearings, most of which will be conducted virtually.  Some limited in-person hearings may also be scheduled at the Judges’ discretion.  Counsel are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Court’s virtual hearing protocols.


The United States District Court for the District of Maryland has also issued the following orders directing operations of the courthouses during Phase Two: (1) COVID-19 Pandemic Procedures Order; (2) Amended Standing Order 2020-10regarding the use of face masks and coverings, which has been amended to allow court participants to remove their mask during in-court proceedings only if so authorized by the presiding judge; (3) Standing Order 2020-14 regarding restrictions on visitors to the courthouses, which supersedes the previous standing order on this topic and updates the list of persons not permitted into the courthouses based on increased Phase Two operations and changing public health guidance; and (4) a COVID-19 Pandemic Procedures order rescinding a series of previously-issued COVID-19 orders that are no longer necessary as the Court progresses into Phase Two and as public health guidance has evolved.


June 12, 2020. The U.S. Trustee Program is extending the requirement that section 341 meetings be conducted by telephone or video appearance to all cases filed through October 10, 2020.

June 9, 2020. The Courts are open...at least in a limited sense. Court hearings have resumed effective June 9, 2020, but all are being conducted by videoconference. I had four hearings on this date, and all went smoothly. As the Court, and trustees, and lawyers get more and more accustomed to this, things will move more quickly and easily.

This does not change our ability to file new cases, which we have been doing remotely even during the Court's closure.

May 14, 2020. Although the State of Maryland will start to gradually reopen on May 15, for your health, and the health and safety of our employees, our office will remain closed to the public. Both my staff and I will continue to work from home, as the guidance from the state on reopening offices states, "Employees are encouraged to continue to work from home where possible.” Additionally, my wife has a compromised immune system, and I will do all in my power to protect her from contacting this brutal illness. Accordingly, all client conferences and Court hearings will continue to be held via videoconferencing and telephone.

Having said all of that, I am available 24/7 via email, phone, and Zoom, and my law firm remains fully operational online. Although state and federal courts are currently closed, I can file new cases, and motions and pleadings in existing cases, electronically from my desk. I am in regular and active communication with the Court, the Bankruptcy Trustees, the United States Trustees, and members of the Bar to make sure that your case stays on track and you continue to receive the best representation possible. If you're in trouble because of the coronavirus (or otherwise), we'll work hard to help you.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay masked, and to the extent possible, stay home. Listen to our public health experts. Stay healthy for your sake and for the sake of those who love and care about you.

Brett


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