Sunday, September 9, 2012

Maryland Rule 1-102. Circuit and local rules

Unless inconsistent with these rules, circuit and local rules regulating 

(1) court libraries, 

(2) memorial proceedings, 

(3) auditors, 

(4) compensation of trustees in judicial sales, and 

(5) appointment of bail bond commissioners and licensing and regulation of bail bondsmen, 

are not repealed. No circuit and local rules, other than ones regulating the matters and subjects listed in this Rule, shall be adopted.

This Rule is, pretty much, a big fat lie, as any young, frustrated litigator will tell you.  The Rule is essentially saying that the various Circuit Courts and/or judges and/or clerks cannot make their own rules, except for the administrative matters listed in the Rule.  However, in reality, practice and procedure varies widely from Circuit Court to Circuit Court, and even among judges.  The worst part of it is that its rarely written down - and even when it is its in a standard order somewhere that may or may not be easily available.  

Plus, every judge is different.  Judge X wants everything one way, but Judge Y hates it that way and will be irritated if you don't get it right.  Secretary Z in Judge X's chambers likes a heads up when you file something, but Secretary A in Judge Y's chambers gets super irritated if you call.  The clerk on the front desk in the mornings wants things one way and the one in the afternoons the opposite.  Some courts had night drop boxes that close in the evening, and at others as long as you beat the clerk in the morning its stamped as of the previous day (I've never actually done this for the record).  Sometimes night drop boxes disappear and you need to get it in before the Clerk's office closes - which might be ten minutes after or ten minutes before the posted time.

I'm a young litigator, but I still burn in humiliation remembering when, as an even younger litigator, I found out that while I had filed something in strict accordance with the actual Maryland Rules, I violated an unwritten Rule in a jurisdiction that everyone who practiced there knew about, but about which everyone at my large law firm was ignorant of.  Learn from my mistakes readers - learn unwritten local procedure as soon as you get a case in that court.  Consider hiring local co-counsel if the case warrants it.  Ask friends who practice before that court to lunch and grill them on local quirks.  Introduce yourself to the various clerks, secretaries, and others you might be in contact with and make sure you're super nice.  Well before any deadline, ask chambers and the clerk about courtesy copies, drop boxes, exhibits, motions to seal, and all the administrative stuff that can trip you up.

And while there are many who disagree with me, I truly believe that this is the job of the attorney on the file, not their support staff.  Instructing staff to make the calls, get the information, and execute is reasonable, but remember that when you forget the courtesy copy the judge wanted, or when the drop box closes at 6 not midnight, its the attorney, not their staff, who made the mistake.

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