Delaware Public Media

Delaware courts put reopening plan in place

May 29, 2020

Delaware courts will start to reopen in June, but it will be a four phase process to get back to full operations.

That process is expected to begin the week of June 8th.

 

Phase one allows attorneys and a limited number of others to return, with buildings at 25 percent occupancy. 

New safety protocols include heightened screening at entrances and temperature checks. Hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout courthouses and social distancing and facial coverings will be required. Delaware Supreme Court oral arguments will resume.

The second phase is slated to start June 15th. That will reopen court facilities to the public at 50 percent occupancy, with no more than 10 visitors allowed in courtrooms. Grand jury proceedings and proceedings involving non-incarcerated individuals will resume, including non-jury civil and criminal trials. 

Phase Three will feature the resumption of jury trials with defendants brought to court and staffing and building occupancy increased to 75 percent.

New Castle County Superior Court Judge William Carpenter says they will look to guidance elsewhere on how to resume jury trials.

"I've indicated that criminal and civil jury trials can begin here.  The report does not set forth in detail how that is going to happen yet because, since we didn't think this was going to be available until Phase 3, we wanted to take some extra time and see how other jurisdictions are handling it," said Carpenter.

Phase Four is a return to full operations, but could see new safety procedures and technology in use remain. 

The courts will also adopt contact tracing procedures if someone at a courthouse is exposed to COVID-19, add floor markings six feet apart, install plastic shields in offices and certain courtroom areas, and minimize traffic in the courthouses.