Delaware Courts Extend Judicial Emergency, Jury Trials Remain On Hold

Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz, Jr. has extended the Judicial Emergency to May 3, 2021. The order maintains the status quo and the Delaware Courts remain at Phase 2 of the court’s reopening plan (with jury trials on hold). This is the 13th 30-day extension of the emergency order since the pandemic began.

While this order maintains the status quo, the Courts are working toward a return to Phase 3, and the resumption of jury trials in June, according to the court’s spokesman.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE IN RE COVID-19§PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES§ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NO. 18EXTENSION OF JUDICIAL EMERGENCYOn this 31st day of March 2021:WHEREAS, under the Delaware Constitution, Article IV, § 13, the ChiefJustice of the Delaware Supreme Court is the administrative head of all the courts inthe State and has general administrative and supervisory powers over all the courts;WHEREAS, under 10 Del. C. § 2004(a), the Chief Justice, in consultationwith other members of the Supreme Court, has the authority to “declare a judicialemergency when the Chief Justice determines that there are emergencycircumstances affecting 1 or more court facilities;”WHEREAS, under 10 Del. C. § 2004(a), “emergency circumstances” includes“disease … or other natural or manmade causes [affecting] the ability to access thecourthouses, or the ability to staff courts;”WHEREAS, under 10 Del. C. § 2004(c), an order declaring a judicialemergency is limited to an initial duration of not more than 30 days, but may bemodified or extended for additional periods of 30 days each;WHEREAS, under his authority set forth in 20 Del. C. ch. 31, Governor JohnC. Carney, on March 12, 2020, declared a State of Emergency for the State ofDelaware due to the public health threat caused by COVID-19, and extended theState of Emergency on April 10, 2020, May 8, 2020, June 6, 2020, July 6, 2020, August 5, 2020, September 3, 2020, October 2, 2020, October 30, 2020, November 25, 2020, December 24, 2020, January 25, 2021, February 19, 2021, and March 19, 2021; WHEREAS, under 10 Del. C. § 2004, the Chief Justice, in consultation withother members of the Supreme Court, declared a judicial emergency that went intoeffect on March 16, 2020, at 8:00 a.m., and extended the judicial emergency in ordersdated April 14, 2020, May 14, 2020, June 5, 2020, July 6, 2020, August 5, 2020, September 4, 2020, October 2, 2020, November 2, 2020, December 2, 2020, December 30, 2020, January 28, 2021, and March 3, 2021;
WHEREAS, on May 26, 2020, the Courts Reopening Committee establishedby the Chief Justice submitted an interim report recommending a four-phaseapproach to reopening the courthouses to additional employees and the public;WHEREAS, in an order dated June 5, 2020 (“Administrative Order No. 7”),the Chief Justice accepted the recommendations of the Courts Reopening Committeeand the Justice of the Peace Court for reopening;WHEREAS, Phase 1 of the Reopening Plan commenced on June 8, 2020, andPhase 2 of the Reopening Plan commenced on June 15, 2020;WHEREAS, the Courts Reopening Committee submitted to the Chief Justice,in August 2020, a plan for resuming jury trials (“Jury Management Plan”) attachedas Exhibit 1 to an order dated September 4, 2020 (“Administrative Order No. 10”);WHEREAS, on September 4, 2020, the Chief Justice accepted the JuryManagement Plan, and, subject to further review if COVID-19 conditionsdeteriorated, determined that Phase 3 of the Reopening Plan, as set forth inAdministrative Order No. 10, would commence on October 5, 2020;WHEREAS, on October 5, 2020, Phase 3 of the Reopening Plan, as modifiedin Administrative Order No. 10 commenced;WHEREAS, on November 16, 2020, in light of the deterioration of COVID-19 conditions in the State, the Chief Justice ordered the courts to postpone jury trialsand transition back to Phase 2 of the Reopening Plan (“Administrative Order No.13”);WHEREAS, on March 12, 2021, the Chief Justice announced that if thedownward trend in COVID-19 cases continued and vaccines became more widelyavailable, the Delaware Courts anticipated returning to Phase 3 in June;WHEREAS, COVID-19 continues to pose a serious risk to public health andsafety of Delawareans, requiring the courts to continue taking steps to reduce therisk that COVID-19 poses to jurors, parties, witnesses, lawyers, judges, and courtstaff and the public who enter judicial facilities; andWHEREAS, the Chief Justice, in consultation with the other members of theSupreme Court, the presiding judges, and health experts, has determined thatextension of the judicial emergency is necessary;

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that:(1) Under the authority of 10 Del. C. § 2004, the judicial emergency for all State courts and their facilities in Delaware is extended for another 30days effective April 4, 2021, subject to further review.(2) The courts shall continue to operate under Phase 2 of the ReopeningPlan as set forth in Administrative Order No. 7 and AdministrativeOrder No. 13;(3) In light of the continuing threat COVID-19 poses to public health, all courts in the State are authorized, to the greatest extent possible under10 Del. C. § 2008, to continue to utilize audiovisual devices at their facilities and remotely to conduct proceedings (except for jury trials)for the duration of this order.(4) During the period of judicial emergency, all time requirements under the Speedy Trial Guidelines are tolled.(5) Administrative Order No. 3 regarding the suspension of any requirements for sworn declarations, verifications, certificates, statements, oaths, or affidavits in filings with the Supreme Court, the Court of Chancery, the Superior Court, the Family Court, the Court of Common Pleas, or the Justice of the Peace Court will remain in effect.(6) Each courthouse shall continue to provide a method, such as a dropbox or mailing address, for attorneys and the public to fill out and file paper documents if electronic filing is not available to them. For such cases,the courts shall continue to provide, when practical, an email address for attorneys and the public to email paper documents which will be considered filed with the court when received.(7) The Clerk of the Court is directed to transmit forthwith a certified copy of this Order to the clerk of each trial court in each county. BY THE CHIEF JUSTICE:/s/ Collins J. Seitz, Jr.Chief Justice

Source: Delaware Courts

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