I have had many clients ask me, when a case is set for trial in the Baltimore City Circuit Court, why does it not go to trial? Clients will also ask how many times can a case get postponed in Baltimore City? What about speedy trial rights in Baltimore City? Circuit court trials are scheduled at the arraignment date. The arraignment serves to make sure the client knows what they are charged with. It also gives the court the ability to make sure a client is aware of their rights to counsel. Sometimes, it serves as a clearing house to work out cases short of trial if the parties and court can agree on a disposition. Lastly, if the case can not be worked out, the client pleads not guilty, requests a jury trial, and a trial date is set.
The trial date in Baltimore City Circuit Court puts the case before one of two reception courts where an administrative judge sits, either in Courthouse east or the Mitchell courthouse. These courts have three dockets of cases: 9:30, 11:00, and 2:00. Each docket has about 10-20 cases on it. The court tries to work out those cases that can be worked out, hears postponement/continuance requests, and orders the cases ready for trial from oldest to newest. The Baltimore City Circuit Courts also carry an ‘Hit List’ of all the oldest cases and attempt to give those cases priority when looking for a trial court. Each of the two Baltimore City courthouses have five dedicated trial courts to send cases to. Those courts become unavailable for trial if they are in continuing trials or the judges have other obligations. Many times the administrative/reception judge will have cases ready for trial, but no court to send the cases to. The judge will make a good cause finding and request a new trial date from the criminal assignment clerk in the courtroom. There is no limit to the number of postponements a case can go through, but an administrative judge or judge designee must determine if there is good cause to postpone a case.
A criminal defendant has speedy trial rights both state and federal. Maryland speedy trial rights are governed by the Hicks decision and are sometimes called Hicks rights. A person is supposed to be brought to trial in Maryland in 180 days from either their or their attorney’s first appearance in circuit court or from the arraignment date. A good cause finding is supposed to be made by an administrative judge to go beyond the 180 days. Federal Speedy trial rights are litigated when the length of the wait for trial has unfairly prejudiced the defendant. Motions to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial are usually heard by the trial court in Baltimore City.