A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware


The District of Delaware just announced its phased re-opening plan, which starts tomorrow (June 17).

COVID-19
COVID-19, CDC/Hannah A Bullock; Azaibi Tamin

The new “District of Delaware Re-Opening Guidelines” came on June 15, about three months after shutdowns began. During the shutdown, the Court issued a number of orders suspending certain operations and encouraging Judges to shift to videoconference or teleconference proceedings.

Yesterday’s guidelines represent the Court’s first official statement regarding a broader return to in-person operations.

The attached order sets a June 17 start date for Phase One.

Highlights

In all of the Phases, the Court will require face masks and social distancing in common areas, although use of those measures in individual courtrooms is left to the judges.

Aside from that, the phases are:

  • Phase One (June 17): No jury trials; Court will continue to minimize in-person proceedings, which are limited to no more than 10 people “if possible” (25 for the Bankruptcy Court). No temperature checks or professional screening “[a]t this time,” but the CSOs may question visitors.
  • Phase Two: Jury trials start; Court may relax the 10- and 25-person limits. Phase Two begins when we have “decreased incidences of new COVID-19 cases” and after the state and local orders are relaxed. The Court may revert to Phase One if needed.
  • Phase Three: July trials with no 10- or 25-person limits.
  • Phase Four: Full return to normal operations.

The timing of Phase Three and Phase Four depends on how Phase Two goes. The full details are in the Re-Opening Guidelines below.

Social distancing and face mask requirements will almost certainly be in place through Phase Three, at least to some extent. It is likely that heavy modifications to the normal hearing and jury trial procedures will continue through Phase Three as well, as the Court will be especially concerned about risks to its own staff and jurors.

It is also reasonable to expect significant physical (though probably not structural) modification to the courtrooms to encourage or require social distancing, with some spaces capacity-restricted or closed off entirely until Phase Four begins.

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