District Court Bench Bar Committee
The District Court Bench Bar Committee held its November, 2013, meeting on November 7, 2013.
There are several topics of interest that the Bar should be aware of.
New Rules of Procedure
Criminal Rules: There has been a significant amount of controversy and discussion concerning the Court of Appeals decision in DeWolfe v. Richmond. This is the decision that deals with the right to counsel at the earliest stages in a criminal matter.
The implementation of the requirements of the DeWolfe v. Richmond case were on hold due to a Motion for Reconsideration which has recently been ruled upon. The case has been remanded for the Circuit Court of Baltimore City to issue a declaratory judgment in accordance with the mandate of the Court of Appeals. This declaratory judgment will presumably be issued in the near future.
In the meantime, the Court of Appeals has adopted emergency rules on November 6, 2013, which is the same date as the Court of Appeals order that resolved all of the other pending issues in the Richmond appeal.
The Rules that were adopted by the Court of Appeals on November 6, 2013, govern the implementation of the Richmond decision, but as of that time, and the time of submission of this article to the Bar Newsletter, the rules are not in effect. The rules will take effect upon further order of the court, and will apply to all actions commenced on or after the date specified in the further order. Accordingly, these new rules are on hold as of November 6, 2013.
Civil Rules: The Court of Appeals has adopted a new rule concerning the award of attorney’s fees in District Court civil cases. Elsewhere in this Newsletter are the comments from the Rules Committee regarding the intent of the new rule. This rule will be effective January 1, 2014.
Continued Trial Dates: It is a suggested practice for attorneys who request cases to be continued due to conflicts, to clear dates with both sides so that further conflicts can be minimized. The court will honor those requests subject to availability and scheduling on the appropriate docket. However, due to case and docket management issues, the new proposed court date should be within 60 days of the initial court date being continued. This is due to limitations on cases being resolved within time constraints that are imposed on the court.
Time Limits for Court Hearings and Trials: The court has a policy that trials should not be started if the trial can not be concluded by 4:30 pm. The court does not want to unnecessarily inconvenience court staff by requiring the court to remain open after normal business hours.
DISTRICT COURT PRACTICE POINTERS
New Attorney’s Fees Rules
The court of appeals has adopted a new rule for awarding attorney’s fees in civil cases. The new rule, which is Rule 3-741, is effective January 1, 2014.
Below is the Rules Committee note which explains what is intended by the new rule.
Committee note: Subsection (e) (2) (B) of this Rule follows the approach set forth in Monmouth Meadows v. Hamilton, 416 Md. 325 (2010), for contractual fee-shifting cases generally. Subsection (e) (3) of this Rule is intended to permit the court to excuse the need to consider all of the Rule 2-703 (f) (3) factors where the claim for attorney’s fees does not exceed the lesser of 15% of the amount due or $4,500.00. Fees in those limited amounts are common in consumer transactions and have been found reasonable by the General Assembly in some of those settings. See Code, Commercial Law Article, §§12-307.1 Consumer Loans) and 12-623 (Retail Installment Sales).