On May 25, 2021, the Superior Court announced that it would resume civil jury trials on September 1, 2021 in New Castle and Kent Counties. This applies to civil jury trials already scheduled for trial on or after September 1, 2021. Civil Jury trials scheduled before September 1, 2021 will be rescheduled by the trial judge.
Since March 16, 2020, Delaware Courts have been operating under a declared judicial emergency. The Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, Collins J. Seitz, Jr., in consultation with other members of the Delaware Supreme Court, have extended the judicial emergency on 13 occasions since the initial order went into effect on March 16, 2020, most recently on March 31, 2021.
The Chief Justice established a Reopening Committee which recommended a four-phase approach to reopening the Courts to additional employees and the public. Initially, Phase 3 of the reopening plan was commenced on October 5, 2020, however, due to the deterioration of COVID-19 conditions in Delaware, the Chief Justice ordered a return to Phase 2 of the reopening plan on November 16, 2020.
In light of the current downward trend in COVID-19 cases and vaccine availability, the Delaware Courts will return to Phase 3 of the reopening plan on June 1, 2021.Phase 3 of the reopening plan contains the following provisions:
All state courthouses will be open to the public and all individuals that enter and remain in the courthouses must wear face coverings and maintain 6-feet of social distance from individuals outside of their household. No more than 50 individuals who are socially distanced and wearing masks will be permitted in a courtroom or courtroom-related public areas, excluding judicial staff and attorneys. Courthouse admissions will be monitored and corrective action will be taken when 75% of building capacity is reached.
Criminal and civil jury trials may proceed as set forth in the Jury Management Plan. In person, non-jury trials may also resume.
iii. Minor tort settlement hearings and Inquisition hearings may now proceed.
iv. Non-emergency and non-essential telephonic arguments, telephonic hearings or video conferences not identified above shall continue to proceed at the discretion of each of the state courts. The courts are encouraged to continue the use of video and audio conferences.
v.Court staffing shall increase to no more than 75%. Judicial branch personnel identified by the Presiding Judges of each court and the State Court Administrator, or their designee, shall report to work as required. If an identified employee is unable to serve due to illness or has been excused consistent with applicable leave policies, a substitute shall be determined. Other judicial branch personnel shall continue not to report to the courthouses until further notice. Instead, other judicial branch personnel shall work remotely as directed by the Presiding Judge of each court, the State Court Administrator, or their designee.
vi.Each State court shall have sufficient judicial officers and staff to hear the proceedings identified above as well as emergency and essential matters in person or remotely through video or teleconferencing during the pendency of this Order.
vii.For all court proceedings during the modified Phase 3, the courts, when practical, shall post on their websites the date and time of the hearing or proceeding, and when requested and permitted provide reasonable access to media organizations.
For more information on the Delaware courts and their re-opening, please contact Kiadii Harmon in the firm’s Wilmington, Delaware office.