Jury trials in Delaware to resume with an emphasis on criminal cases

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Delaware Courts will move to Phase 3 of the reopening plan and restart jury trials on June 1.

The return to Phase 3 reopening will allow the resumption of jury trials and increase staffing and the number of people allowed in courtrooms and court facilities.

Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz, Jr., in consultation with the other Justices of the Delaware Supreme Court and the Presiding Judges of all courts, signed an order extending the judicial emergency to July 2 as the Delaware Judiciary restarts in-person proceedings and scales back some Covid-19 restrictions at the courthouses beginning June 1, 2021.

While the move to Phase 3 of the Courts Reopening Plan on June 1 will allow many in-person proceedings, including jury trials, to resume and increase the number of visitors and staff allowed in the courthouses, many Covid safety measures will remain in place for now.

Consistent with Governor John Carney’s most recent modification of his State of Emergency Order keeping the mask mandate in place for state-owned buildings, Delaware court facilities will keep the mask mandate for all visitors.

Delaware courts will also maintain temperature screenings and screening questions at the entrances to all court facilities and continue to follow social distancing practices. (For a complete list of Phase 3 safety measures, please consult the courts’ Reopening plan here: Judges are also encouraged to continue to use audio and video conferencing technology.

“Thanks to Delawareans pulling together and getting vaccinated, we have seen a dramatic decline in COVID-19 infections. The Delaware courts will now resume in-person hearings and jury trials. While the use of video technology allowed the courts to keep on top of their dockets during the pandemic, we still have a significant backlog of cases in some of our courts. We will prioritize criminal matters as we work hard to return the courts to their pre-pandemic operations,” said Seitz. “As of July 6, we will authorize the courts to return to full staffing in our judicial facilities. We will continue to ease restrictions as conditions permit but the health and safety of all those who work in or visit Delaware court facilities remain our first priority,” Seitz stated.

Over the past several months, clear plastic shields have been installed in all courtrooms that will be used for jury trials, along with “jury pods” in jury boxes that will surround jurors on three sides, allowing them a clear view of the courtroom while providing protection.

This is the second time since the start of the pandemic that the Delaware Courts have moved to restart jury trials. The first move to Phase 3 was on October 5, 2020. A jury trial was held in Kent County before the courts returned to Phase 2 restrictions on Nov. 16, 2020, due to a surge in Covid cases.

The latest order extending the emergency can be found below.

Click to access COVIDOrder21.pdf

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