Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, state and federal courts in Delaware have issued numerous standing orders modifying their procedures.  The status of each court is listed below, as well as any modifications to normal operating procedures in civil matters, along with links to the relevant standing orders.  This page will be updated continuously as the situation develops.

Delaware District Court

The Delaware District Court has continued all jury trials and jury selection scheduled before September 15, 2020. Other hearings and conferences scheduled during this period have not been continued, but judicial officers are “encouraged to conduct proceedings…by telephone or videoconferencing where practicable and as permitted by law[.]”

Further, to the extent in-person proceedings are held, persons meeting the following criteria are not allowed to attend and should instead inform the relevant judge’s chambers: (1) anyone who has been advised to self-quarantine or lives with someone who has been advised to self-quarantine; (2) anyone who has either been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has had known contact with another person who was diagnosed; and (3) anyone experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as fever, severe cough, or shortness of breath.

Visitors to the District Court – including vendors, contractors, litigants, attorneys, and other members of the public – are required to wear a mask or face covering when interacting with Court staff and in the common or public areas of Court facilities.

All other deadlines set by local rules or court orders remain in force. Filing procedures are unchanged, except that paper copies of filings are no longer required absent a specific request from the Court.

The Court will enter phase 2 of its scheduled reopening on September 15, 2020. At that time Jury trials will resume, although the Court presently anticipates holding no more than one jury trial at a time. The rules regarding face coverings will remain in effect.

Links

Delaware Bankruptcy Court

The Delaware Bankruptcy Court has continued all hearings scheduled to be held in open court until after May 18, 2020. Any hearings before that time that the presiding judge determines are time sensitive—including chapter 13 confirmation hearings and motions—are to be held telephonically or by videoconference. All hearings scheduled between May 18 and July 11, 2020 will be held telephonically or by videoconference as well. The court is currently using Skype for Business and CourtCall to conduct these hearings. The local rules have also been modified for these hearings, and now require the parties to submit an agenda that lists the identity and location of any witnesses.

Additionally, the Delaware Bankruptcy Court no longer accepts hand delivery of any documents except those intended for use in the courtroom during a contested hearing or trial (such as exhibit binders). Instead, documents are only to be provided via email or CM/ECF, depending on the type of document. Specific instructions may be found at the link below. This prohibition may be modified on a case by case basis by the presiding judge.

Visitors to the Bankruptcy Court – including vendors, contractors, litigants, attorneys, and other members of the public – are required to wear a mask or face covering when interacting with Court staff and in the common or public areas of Court facilities.

Similarly, the court has suspended the requirement that attorneys secure a debtor’s original, physical signature. Instead, the debtor’s signature can be affixed electronically so long as the attorney has either “(a) obtained the debtor’s digital signature via any commercially available digital signed software that signature authentication and maintains a copy of the digitally signed document(s) in the debtor’s case file; or (b) obtains express written permission (including electronic mail) from the debtor to affix the debtor’s signature to the document(s), and maintains a hard copy thereof in the file.”

The Court will begin a phased re-opening on June 17, 2020. At that time, in person hearings will resume, although the use of teleconferences and videoconferences continues to be encouraged where possible. Such hearings will be limited to no more than 25 people (not including Court staff) where possible. The rules regarding face coverings remain in effect. No jury trials will take place except in extraordinary circumstances until phase 2 begins at a date to be determined.

Links

Delaware Supreme Court

Following its closure to the public in March, The Delaware Supreme Court is currently in stage 2 of its phased reopening. The Courthouse is now open to the public at 50% capacity. All persons within the courthouse must wear face coverings and maintain 6-feet of social distance from individuals outside of their household. Hearings involving witnesses and clients – including bench trials – may currently take place. The use of telephone and video conferencing remains encouraged wherever possible, however. The court has eliminated the requirement for paper copies and has relaxed any notarization requirements, allowing unsworn declarations to be submitted in place of notarizations (with some limited exceptions).

Phase 3 is scheduled to being on October 5, 2020. At that time the courthouses will be open at 75% capacity with the same face covering and social distance requirements. No more than 50 individuals who are socially distanced and wearing masks willbe permitted in a courtroom or courtroom-related public areas, excluding judicial staff and attorneys. Jury trials will also take place during this stage, and the Court has released a detailed plan for the jury pool which is available here.

Phase 4 will begin at a date to be announced later. At that time the courts will be open at 100% capacity, but will be monitored to ensure that it is possible to maintain social distancing within.

During each of the phases, entrance in the courthouse will be monitored to ensure that visitors are maintain a six-foot distance while in line. Persons entering the Courthouse will also be asked if they have experienced various potential symptoms of COVID-19 within the last 14 days. Persons that have experienced such symptoms will be denied entry. Visitors will also be screened for fever, and any person with a temperature higher than 99.5 degrees will be turned away. Additional steps will be taken to reduce the risk of transmission including placement of hand sanitizer stations and limiting the number of people sharing elevators. The court has eliminated the requirement for paper copies and has relaxed any notarization requirements, allowing unsworn declarations to be submitted in place of notarizations (with some limited exceptions).

Links

Delaware Court of Chancery

Following their closure to the public in March, The Delaware Court of Chancery is currently in stage 2 of its phased reopening. The Courthouses are now open to the public at 50% capacity. All persons within the courthouse must wear face coverings and maintain 6-feet of social distance from individuals outside of their household. Hearings involving witnesses and clients – including bench trials – may currently take place. The use of telephone and video conferencing remains encouraged wherever possible, however.

Phase 3 is scheduled to being on October 5, 2020. At that time the courthouses will be open at 75% capacity with the same face covering and social distance requirements. No more than 50 individuals who are socially distanced and wearing masks willbe permitted in a courtroom or courtroom-related public areas, excluding judicial staff and attorneys. Jury trials will also take place during this stage, and the Court has released a detailed plan for the jury pool which is available here.

Phase 4 will begin at a date to be announced later. At that time the courts will be open at 100% capacity, but will be monitored to ensure that it is possible to maintain social distancing within.

During each of the phases, entrance in the courthouse will be monitored to ensure that visitors are maintain a six-foot distance while in line. Persons entering the Courthouse will also be asked if they have experienced various potential symptoms of COVID-19 within the last 14 days. Persons that have experienced such symptoms will be denied entry. Visitors will also be screened for fever, and any person with a temperature higher than 99.5 degrees will be turned away. Additional steps will be taken to reduce the risk of transmission including placement of hand sanitizer stations and limiting the number of people sharing elevators. The court has eliminated the requirement for paper copies and has relaxed any notarization requirements, allowing unsworn declarations to be submitted in place of notarizations (with some limited exceptions).

Furthermore, Court of Chancery procedures for in-person hearings have been modified to facilitate social distancing. Each courtroom has been rated for reduced maximum capacity, and litigants are now required to submit a joint letter at least 5 days before any in-person hearing identifying the names and affiliations of all attendees. Several courtrooms have also been set up to allow video streaming of the proceedings via YouTube. A Court employee will direct attendees into and out of the courtroom to ensure proper distancing. To reduce the use of common spaces in the courtrooms, the center podium and ELMO will no longer be used. Instead, each counsel table will have its own podium and microphone, and the parties will need to call and make arrangements to display demonstratives using the courtroom screens. Such demonstratives should be delivered to chambers and opposing counsel at least one day before any such hearing, and parties should make every effort to otherwise eliminate the need to approach the bench during their presentation. Phones are now allowed within the courtrooms, but must be turned off except during scheduled breaks.

Links

Delaware Superior Court

Following its closure to the public in March, The Delaware Superior Court is currently in stage 2 of its phased reopening. The Courthouses are now open to the public at 50% capacity. All persons within the courthouse must wear face coverings and maintain 6-feet of social distance from individuals outside of their household. Hearings involving witnesses and clients – including bench trials – may currently take place. The use of telephone and video conferencing remains encouraged wherever possible, however. The court has eliminated the requirement for paper copies and has relaxed any notarization requirements, allowing unsworn declarations to be submitted in place of notarizations (with some limited exceptions).

Phase 3 is scheduled to being on October 5, 2020. At that time the courthouses will be open at 75% capacity with the same face covering and social distance requirements. No more than 50 individuals who are socially distanced and wearing masks willbe permitted in a courtroom or courtroom-related public areas, excluding judicial staff and attorneys. Jury trials will also take place during this stage, and the Court has released a detailed plan for the jury pool which is available here.

Phase 4 will begin at a date to be announced later. At that time the courts will be open at 100% capacity, but will be monitored to ensure that it is possible to maintain social distancing within.

During each of the phases, entrance in the courthouse will be monitored to ensure that visitors are maintain a six-foot distance while in line. Persons entering the Courthouse will also be asked if they have experienced various potential symptoms of COVID-19 within the last 14 days. Persons that have experienced such symptoms will be denied entry. Visitors will also be screened for fever, and any person with a temperature higher than 99.5 degrees will be turned away. Additional steps will be taken to reduce the risk of transmission including placement of hand sanitizer stations and limiting the number of people sharing elevators. The court has eliminated the requirement for paper copies and has relaxed any notarization requirements, allowing unsworn declarations to be submitted in place of notarizations (with some limited exceptions).

Links