Updated: Jury trials delayed in Delaware Superior Court as emergency order is broadened

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A judicial emergency has been declared by the Delaware court system following the governor’s state of emergency declaration regarding coronavirus.

The order aims to reduce the hundreds of people who come to the state’s courthouses and Justice of the Peace centers each day.

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On Sunday, Superior Court Presiding Judge Jan Jurden ordered that all jury trials be postponed until April 15, effective Monday. Jurors called for petit  (one-day trials or one trial) are excused. 

 Until now, the emergency declaration had stopped short of delaying jury trials.

Petit trials typically involve sometimes large numbers of potential jurors sitting in a room for hours waiting to be called. 

A review of scheduling practices led to the change. Grand jurors should report as directed.

Under the order, proceedings can take place in alternate locations. Judges have the discretion to continue cases for 30 days, the period of time covered by the order. The use of teleconferencing is also encouraged.
 

Delaware’s Court of Chancery earlier issued guidelines related to teleconferencing and other methods of taking care of its caseload.  The court often has attorneys and corporate officials from other areas on hand for proceedings.

In all cases, anyone required to appear who has symptoms related to flu or coronavirus is asked to contact their respective court office.

The  Delaware Justice of the Peace Court and the Court of Common Pleas also took measures related to coronavirus.

In the event a litigant scheduled to appear in the Justice of the Peace Court has been infected, or potentially exposed to, the COVID-19 virus, the litigant should not report for the proceeding, but should promptly notify the court.

The  standing order also implements the following on civil proceedings:

  • All landlord/tenant, debt, replevin (seized goods) and trespass proceedings scheduled for in-court appearance and all evictions currently ordered and scheduled from March 17, 2020 through April 16, 2020 shall be rescheduled for a date not earlier than May 1, 2020, with the following exceptions:
  • Future summons applications in landlord-tenant matters involving essential services and/or harm to person or property will be accepted and ruled upon;
  • Case by case exceptions to these guidelines may be ordered at the discretion of the court and with proper notice to all parties.

The Delaware Court of Common Pleas also issued a standing order.

Jury trials to be rescheduled with those in custody will be offered the option of alternate proceedings

  • It is of the utmost importance that parties communicate with each other and the court as the impact of the COVID-19 virus continues to develop. In the event that any in-court proceeding would require the presence of a person infected or potentially exposed to COVID-19, that person should not attend the proceeding and promptly notify the opposing party and to the Court. In addition, the Court of Common Pleas is implementing the following on civil proceedings:

There will be limited civil matters scheduled, which shall be conducted via telephone or video conferencing where practicable.

The  Court of Common Pleas is the state’s misdemeanor court. The court has jurisdiction over all civil actions that do not exceed $75,000 and all criminal misdemeanors (except certain drug-related offenses) and motor vehicle offenses (except felonies). The court is also responsible for preliminary hearings and takes appeals from the Justice of the Peace Court, Alderman’s Courts and the Division of Motor Vehicles.

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