Bankruptcy Court in Delaware Reopens for In-Person Hearings

Delaware’s bankruptcy court is restarting on-site hearings on a case-by-case basis, while still encouraging participants to attend remotely “whenever possible.”

Judge Christopher S. Sontchi’s June 4 order allows the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware to start holding hearings combining in-person appearances and video conferencing. But such meetings will be held at the presiding judge’s discretion and “minimized and limited to critical cases only,” the order said.

In June 2020, the court issued a similar order allowing such hybrid hearings, but none have yet been held, Sontchi said.

Proceedings at the court were moved to telephone and video hearings in March 2020 in response to Covid-19. Its steps to reopen, though tentative, indicate the beginning of a return to normal for the most active bankruptcy court in the country.

Anyone can still fully participate in any court hearing via Zoom, the order said. The presiding judge will consider any request to change a hybrid hearing to an entirely remote one.

Those in the courtroom will be required to wear a mask, though people sitting at counsel tables can take it off at their preference. Anyone addressing the court from the counsel table or the podium, as well as witnesses while testifying, must remove their masks, Sontchi said.

The court’s second attempt at reopening comes as 60% of all Delaware residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the state government.

A few other bankruptcy courts also are beginning to issue on-site hearing orders. The Western District of Virginia will hold all initial hearings on Chapter 13 matters in person beginning mid-July.

The District of South Carolina also announced  that, starting June 14, hearings “will be held in person unless otherwise indicated.”


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