Today, April 5, 2021, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware issued a Notice stating that it will not extend the Criminal and Civil Jury Trial Suspension. The Notice further states that “whether and when any particular case will proceed to trial is left to the discretion of each individual judge of the Court.” The Criminal and Civil Jury Trial Suspension has been in effect for over a year, first issued on March 18, 2020.
On October 18, 2020, the Court issued Jury Trial Re-start Guidelines. These Guidelines relate to identifying and assembling the venire. The Guidelines appear to take into account the reality that, although parties will be back in the courtroom, it will be different than pre-Pandemic. The Guidelines require each jury summons will include a COVID-19 specific questionnaire, 50-100 potential jurors in a jury pool, COVID-19 screening at the Courthouse, a separation of jury pool groups, and social distancing during jury deliberations, among other precautions. Regarding PPE, the Guidelines require all in the Courtroom to wear masks and for witnesses to remove masks while testifying. There are social distancing requirements as well.
Over the course of the year, several judges have held fully remote and hybrid trials (remote and in-person trials). The resounding feedback from the Delaware federal bench and bar has been that the District of Delaware has had great success in making lawyers and witnesses feel safe during hybrid trials. It is highly likely the Court will continue the safety measures it has implemented over the last year, including allowing witnesses to testify remotely and allowing counsel to stand at counsel table. After such an unprecedented and challenging year, it is exciting to see a return to the courtroom and slowly back to life as we knew it.