Although we have never been in this situation before, I would say that the answer is probably yes.
In Maryland (as in other jurisdictions), the statute of limitations is “procedural.” Doughty v. Prettyman, 219 Md. 83, 88 (1959). Further, Article IV, § 18(a) of the Maryland Constitution provides:
The Court of Appeals from time to time shall adopt rules and regulations concerning the practice and procedure in and the administration of the appellate courts and in the other courts of this State, which shall have the force of law until rescinded, changed or modified by the Court of Appeals or otherwise by law.
Therefore, the argument is that the Court can extend limitations deadlines through its rule-making power, as it already did in Rule 1-203(a) which states:
- Computation of Time After an Act, Event, or Default. In computing any period of time prescribed by these rules, by rule or order of court, or by any applicable statute, the day of the act, event, or default after which the designated period of time begins to run is not included. If the period of time allowed is more than seven days, intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays are counted; but if the period of time allowed is seven days or less, intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays are not counted. The last day of the period so computed is included unless:
- it is a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, in which event the period runs until the end of the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday; or
- the act to be done is the filing of a paper in court and the office of the clerk of that court on the last day of the period is not open, or is closed for a part of the day, in which event the period runs until the end of the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, holiday, or a day on which the office is not open during its regular hours.
Last month, the Court of Appeals adopted Rule 16-1003 on an emergency basis last month which provides as follows:
Upon a determination by the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals that an emergency declared by the Governor or an event within the scope of Rule 16-1001(b) significantly affects access to or the operations of one or more courts or other judicial facilities of the State or the ability of the Maryland Judiciary to operate effectively, the Chief Judge, by Administrative Order, may, to the extent necessary:
- suspend, toll, extend, or otherwise grant relief from time deadlines, requirements, or expirations otherwise imposed by applicable statutes, Rules, or court orders, including deadlines for appeals or other filings, deadlines for filing or conducting judicial proceedings, and the expiration of injunctive, restraining, protective, or other orders that otherwise would expire, where there is no practical ability of a party subject to such deadline, requirement, or expiration to comply with the deadline or requirement or seek other relief.
There is another side to this argument, however. You could argue that what I’ve written above means that since the Court of Appeals has made a rule permitting it to extend a deadline, then the Court of Appeals can make a rule to extend a deadline. Admittedly, this is a bit of a circular argument. And next, the Court of Appeals adopts an emergency rule saying it can adopt rules in an emergency, and adopts a rule because it’s an emergency. When asked how can the judges do this, have you ever heard a person say, “Because I said so”?
If you have questions about how the current court rulings can affect your case, I am here to answer those questions. Contact Carey Law Office today to schedule a remote consultation: please call 301-464-2500 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment.