District of MD Standing Order Re: Direct Assignment to USMJ’s

District of Maryland’s Proposed Amendment to “Good Faith” Conference Rule
April 7, 2023
Spoliation Motion Mooted
April 8, 2023

The U.S. District Court for Maryland “has entered Standing Order 2023-01 regarding the pilot project to directly assign certain civil cases to the Magistrate Judges of this Court for all proceedings and the entry of a final judgment, subject to the consent of all parties.”

One purpose of the Order is to “increase the availability of civil trials….”  It follows a three-year pilot project.  The Order states that: “After careful consideration, the Court has determined that the pilot project has been successful and should become a permanent program of the Court.”

The Court ordered “that the direct assignment of certain civil cases to the Magistrate Judges is authorized as a permanent program and will continue as detailed in Standing Order 2019-07 absent further Order of the Court.”

Standing Order 2019-07 amended the pilot project.  Assignment to United States Magistrate Judges is automatic, “subject to the consent of all parties….”  It states that “in all such cases directly assigned to a Magistrate Judge, the Clerk shall issue a notice upon the filing of a new civil action requiring the existing parties to file a response either consenting or declining consent to the assignment to a Magistrate Judge within fourteen (14) days.”

Additionally: “The Clerk shall withhold the identity of any non-consenting party from the assigned Magistrate Judge and any District Judge to whom the case may be reassigned if consent from all the parties is not obtained….” [emphasis added].

The most recent Annual Report of the Court posted is F.Y. 2020.

“In the fiscal year, 3,626 civil cases were filed as compared to 3,884 civil cases in fiscal year 2019.  Criminal cases included 383 filings (involving 554 defendants) at the end of September 2020, compared to 497 criminal cases (involving 766 defendants) filed in the prior fiscal year. The Court also closed 3,255 civil and 320 criminal cases during this fiscal year. As of September 30, 2020, our district weighted case filing per judgeship was 385, down from 446 as of September 30, 2019.” [emphasis added].

The Annual Report states that during F.Y. 2020, there were 21 jury trials in criminal cases and 10 in civil cases.  While 2020 was a pandemic year, and jury trials were postponed from March 12, 2020, to June 30, 2020, the Court provided the following metrics:

Jury Trials FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020
Criminal 46 30 21
Civil 28 16 10

The pilot program is an excellent way to make civil jury trials more accessible.