Del. Courts Extend COVID-19 Emergency Rules To June 13

By Jeff Montgomery
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Law360 (May 14, 2020, 1:37 PM EDT) -- Delaware's chief justice on Thursday extended the state's current COVID-19 judicial emergency to June 13, keeping in place restrictions that barred most in-person court proceedings and paper filings and temporarily revised compliance requirements for some basic practices.

The move by Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. means that the state's courts will remain largely closed to the public, continuing a COVID-19 pandemic-related shuttering that began March 23. The order, issued as the previous restrictions were about to expire, is subject to change before the next deadline, however.

A court committee already has begun work on plans for a gradual increase in court building activities, the chief justice said, with a medical expert on infectious disease participating in the process.

"Our state continues to operate under the governor's emergency declarations. Those restrictions —  vital to protecting the health and safety of Delawareans — do not presently allow us to increase activity in judicial facilities," the chief justice wrote in his declaration.

Delaware Gov. John C. Carney extended the state's current emergency declaration until further notice on May 10, just days after announcing plans to begin an initial, limited relaxation of some stay-at-home measures that will allow some small businesses to begin limited operations.

With the exception of trials, the chief justice said Thursday, all state courts will continue use of video and teleconferences to conduct as much court business as possible.

"The goal is to work down each court's nontrial casework so we are prepared for increasing court operations when health and science experts tell us it is safe and reasonable to do so," Chief Justice Seitz said.

Only a handful of court locations have been kept open for essential and unavoidably in-person activities under the state's emergency order, including bail payment and emergency criminal and civil matters and some family court proceedings, among others.

--Editing by John Campbell.

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