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Delaware courts to reopen with significant backlog of criminal, misdemeanor cases

Delaware courts resume jury trials June 1. They have a massive backlog of cases to work through. 

Delaware courts stopped jury trials last spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. Since then the court system has held over 30,000 proceedings by video and Zoom—and has kept cases moving through Chancery Court without a significant backlog, officials say. But more than 1,500 criminal cases are backed up in Superior Court, and more than 15,000 misdemeanor cases in the Court of Common Pleas.  

Sean O’Sullivan, a spokesperson for the courts, says they’ll prioritize catching up on criminal cases. 

“We suspended, due to the judicial emergency, our normal speedy trial guidelines,” he said during a media tour of the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center Wednesday. “But now that we’re starting to come out of this pandemic, it’s our focus to get those folks their day in court, and to get those moved through the system as quickly as possible.”

O’Sullivan says the backlog could take a year to work through. The courts are even bringing back a few retired judges to speed up the process.

The courts still require masks and social distancing, and have special procedures in place for jury selection to keep civilians and officials safe. Courtrooms are also outfitted with plexiglass barriers and video conference screens. 


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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