GGM Update on Resumption of In-Person Civil Jury Trials in Philadelphia
On July 7, 2021, the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County provided an update on its plan to resume in-person proceedings in Philadelphia. The most significant changes are:
- All arbitrations will be in person starting August 2; new notices will be issued.
- All case management and pre-trial conferences will be in person starting September 1.
- Discovery hearings, settlement conferences, and rule hearings will continue via Zoom.
Below is an overview of the Court’s plan for hearings and conferences, an update on jury trials held since March 2021, and the plan for jury trials going forward. Of the 210 in-person jury trials that were scheduled from March 2021 through June 2021, 51 juries were selected and 42 cases went to verdict.
Case Management Conferences: Starting September 1, 2021, conferences will be conducted in person in City Hall.
Discovery Court: Hearings will continue via Zoom until further notice. The Protocol for Discovery Motions filed after March 15, 2021, can be found here.
Hearings on Motions, Petitions, and Rules to Show Cause: Hearings will continue via Zoom unless otherwise ordered by the presiding judge.
Arbitrations: Arbitrations will continue via Zoom until July 30, 2021. After August 2, 2021, all hearings will be in person at the Arbitration Center. New notices will be issued for those cases on or after August 2, 2021. The Protocol for the Compulsory Arbitration Program can be found here.
Settlement Conferences: Conferences will continue via Zoom unless otherwise ordered by the presiding judge. Mandatory conferences will trial judges have been successful at resolving complex track cases. Those conferences will continue for cases scheduled for trial in 2021 but phased out thereafter so that judges can focus on jury trials.
Pre-trial Conferences: Starting September 1, 2021, conferences will be conducted in person in City Hall.
Non-Jury Trials: Non-jury trials will continue to be conducted via Zoom until there are enough courtrooms available for an in-person trial, which may happen in September 2021.
Update on July Trials in 2021: Since March 2021, 210 in-person jury trials were scheduled (61 were major jury cases) and 51 juries were selected. Of those cases, there were 27 verdicts for the plaintiff, 15 defense verdicts, and 9 cases that settled. Currently, 44 jury trials (15 major jury) are scheduled for July 2021 and 62 jury trials (21 major jury) are scheduled for August 2021. The Court will remain at its current rate of six (6) jury trials per week through August 2021. The Court continues to monitor the COVID-19 data and will consider increasing to eight (8) jury trials per week starting in September 2021.
Plan for Future Jury Trials: Cases will be placed in two separate tracks. The first track will contain cases filed on or after January 1, 2021. Those cases will proceed as they did pre-pandemic, i.e., expedited cases will have a pre-trial conference within 12 months and be listed for trial the following month. The Court is focused on keeping cases in this track on schedule. Case Management Orders will be timely issued and motions to extend deadlines will be routinely denied absent extraordinary circumstances.
The second track will contain all pre-2021 cases disrupted by the pandemic. Cases with projected pre-trial conferences in 2020 will have a pre-trial conference by the end of August 2021 and either placed in a trial pool or scheduled for a trial date at the conference. The trial pool cases will be scheduled to start trial in the fourth quarter of 2021. Cases with a trial date certain will be scheduled to occur sometime between October 2021 and March 2022.
Cases with projected pre-trial conferences in January 2021 through July 2021 will be scheduled for pre-trial conferences starting in September 2021. The trial pool cases will be scheduled to start trial sometime between October 2021 and March 2022. Cases with a trial date certain will have trial scheduled to start sometime between January 2022 and June 2022. Note that the projected pre-trial conference date on the docket is a placeholder for determining the priority of scheduling the actual conference. It is too early for the Court to determine when a case with a projected pretrial conference on or after July 2021 will be scheduled for trial. The Court urges parties to have all discovery completed and expert reports exchanged before the conference.
The Court’s Protocols and Guidelines for Conducting In-Person Civil Jury Trials can be found here