A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware


COVID-19
CDC / Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS

Right now, the District of Delaware has continued all jury trials and jury selection scheduled before June 30, 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while the Court's standing order does not require judges to hold pending oral arguments telephonically or by video, that has been the practice thus far. Shaw Keller has a great summary page.

Delaware State Courts Reopening

The Delaware state courthouses and their administrative offices have been closed to the public since March 23. Their COVID-19 page is here.

On Friday, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware announced its plan for a staged reopening of the courts in a Zoom-based town hall. The recorded town hall is below. If you're a Delaware attorney or litigant (or even just a resident), it's worth watching.

The Court announced a 4-stage reopening plan, with the following phases (as to the New Castle County courthouse):

Phase One, June 8: Courthouses remain closed to the public, but judges may allow hearings with up to 10 people involved

  • Phase Two, June 15: Bench trials resumed; courthouses open to the public; no more than 10 people in courtrooms or public areas (attorneys and court staff do not count towards the 10-person limit)
  • Phase Three: Jury trials resumed; group size limit increased to 50 people
  • Phase Four: Resume "new normal" operations, but with increased safety measures

The timing of Phases Three and Four will depend on how the situation develops.

The full video and report PDF (see below) have many more details. Going forward, for example, attorneys will remain at counsel table rather than moving to the podium when addressing the Court. The Court also advised that, given the new screening procedures, arriving at 8:45 for a 9:00 hearing will not be advisable (not that it ever really was, for IP cases).

The town hall includes a great presentation by local infectious disease specialist Dr. Alfred E. Bacon, III about the practical risks of COVID-19. Even after enduring months of the non-stop COVID-19 information firehose, I thought he had some interesting advice that I hadn't heard before.

What does this mean for the District of Delaware?

Nothing, directly. The District Court has not announced a specific plan for resuming normal operations. It may not need to. The current order expires June 30. But I expect that the Court is aware of the Delaware state courts' plans and will probably consider them in determining whether to extend its current order, and when to resume normal operations (including jury trials).

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