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District Court Bench Bar Committee

    The District Court Bench Bar Committee held its March meeting on March 10, 2015.  
     The Court passed along information to make the bar aware of 
Civil Claims 
     There has been much discussion of judgments that have been denied, or damages not awarded, due to the submissions of counsel for the items claimed. For example, attorneys must review the documents that are sued upon, to be certain there is an attorney’s fee provision before asking the Court to award attorneys fees. The documents must provide for interest and late charges in order for attorneys to claim interest and late charges. If these items are requested in the claim, but not supported by the agreement or other documents that are sued upon, the attorney should not be asking for these and the court is not granting these amounts and the Court is concerned about these matters. 
     The Court is encouraging transparency in the presentation for ex parte proof of damages, and damages in general for civil claims. If an attorney submits proof of damages, the attorney should make certain that the amounts claimed are not already included in a prior judgment, that payments made since the entry of a prior judgment were properly credited, and that the items claimed in the new lawsuit are justified and based upon solid ground in the documents. Judges believe that some attorneys are intentionally “hiding” charges in their accounting submissions to try to collect improper fees. Although this could be attributable to accounting statements prepared by clients without knowledge of what the court has already ruled, or can rule, the attorney has a responsibility to make an independent review before submitting the claim to the court. The Court wants the attorneys to show a breakdown of fees in their presentation, that is clear, transparent, does not hide fees that should not be included, takes into account what may have already been included or not included in a prior judgment, and that payments on that prior judgment were properly credited. 
Civil Overbooking 
     There has been a recurring problem with overbooking of trials by defense attorneys who have multiple cases on the same docket. The insurance defense firms and other large firms that have multiple cases need to have cases rescheduled if by not doing so, they will be committed to more than two cases. Otherwise, a judge and courtroom may go empty waiting for a lawyer to finish up another case and be available for a case that is ready to go. This can unnecessarily tie up the judge, courtroom staff, interpreters, witnesses, parties, etc. The clerk’s office will work with attorneys in this situation to avoid the overbooking.
Richard London, Co-Chair


Announcements in Criminal Cases
     Civil citations for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana require a court appearance if the recipient was under 21 at the time the citation was issued.  The District Court will send “must appear” notices for actual trial dates, for example, the docket in Courtroom 412 in Rockville.  
     When defendants appear on their trial date they will be instructed to go to the IPSA referral office on the 6th Floor to be interviewed and scheduled for an evaluation.  That will take place separately at the regular IPSA office in Rockville and will cost $100.00 when they appear for the evaluation.  In most cases, IPSA will then refer these individuals to a four hour drug education course which is currently being given on Tuesdays in the Rockville District Court in a courtroom on the 6th Floor. 
     Unlike the original IPSA program, there is no community service requirement for this new program.  
     The above drug education program is a substitute for the $100.00 fine that would otherwise be ordered by the Court.  However, under 21 violators cannot pay a fine in any amount to avoid a court appearance or the drug education course.  
     Drug education is also required for third offenders 21 and older, but the likelihood of these people being identified and notified to appear is similar to the chances of the Washington Redskins winning the next Super Bowl. 
     District Court still encourages all persons 21 and over to pay the $50.00 civil penalty for these under ten gram citations, but will enter a judgment for $100.00 plus costs for anyone who fails to pay the penalty or appear in court.
Reg Bours, Co-Chair



Co-Chairs

Reginald W. Bours
Richard D. London

 

Meeting
Dates

April 2, 2015
May 7, 2015

Meetings will be held on the 1st Thursday of the month at 8AM in the Judges Conference Room in the District Court building, 191 East Jefferson St., Rockville, MD, unless otherwise noted.