By Order dated June 15, 2020 and issued by Chief Judge Stark, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware issued and adopted its re-opening guidelines that includes four phases of re-opening. Phase One of the re-opening will commence on Wednesday, June 17, 2020.
Phase One involves the court’s initial emergence from strict shelter-in-place orders in the community and from cancellation of in-person appearances in court. It is the first step toward an eventual return to normal operations through the four-phased approach. Great care is taken in Phase One to protect vulnerable individuals, to adhere to strict social distancing protocols, and to restrict in-person court activities only to functions that are critical.
During Phase One there will be no jury trials, criminal or civil, except in extraordinary circumstances if at all. Individual judges will continue to address continuance requests on a case-by-case basis. The court will continue to minimize on-site court proceedings using video-conferencing and teleconferencing to the greatest extent possible.
Phase Two will involve a gradual loosening of restrictions, taking care to protect safety and public health a more people return to court facilities and courtrooms. Even after entering Phase Two, the court can consider returning back to Phase One if local conditions worsen. Phase Two involves (a) expanding in-person court proceedings while continuing to encourage use of video-conferencing and teleconferencing where feasible; (b) restarting jury trials (with further details on how jury trials will be conducted to be forthcoming); and (c) other matters. As of this time, no date for the start of Phase Two has been announced.
Phase Three begins a cautious return to normal court operations with an awareness of the need to provide reasonable accommodations for vulnerable or otherwise affected employees and to maintain a constant vigilance and awareness of local health issues. Before entering Phase Three, the court will evaluate its experience in Phase Two and determine whether it is ready to proceed to Phase Three. Phase Three will include the full re-start of on-site and public facing activities, including court proceedings, subject to the discretion of the presiding judge. Naturalization proceedings also will resume during Phase Three. As of this time, no date for the start of Phase Three has been announced.
Phase Four represents court activity after a public health determination that COVID-19 has been suppressed within the United States. Courts will resume normal operations with no restrictions.