Effective immediately, four district court judges have been assigned to serve as visiting judges to assist with District of Delaware cases.

On Friday, May 26, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware issued a notice regarding "Assignment of Cases to Visiting Judges," seeking to address the recent vacancies in the court. 

Two of the district's four existing judicial seats were recently vacated.  It is also widely expected that Delaware patent case filings will increase due to the Supreme Court's TC Heartland venue decision on May 22, 2017.  The assignment of the visiting judges is meant to assist in managing the increased judicial and venue-based caseload.

The following four Eastern District of Pennsylvania judges are now part of the roster of visiting judges who will be assigned to District of Delaware cases: 

  • Judge Mitchell Goldberg
  • Judge Gerald McHugh
  • Judge Mark Kearney
  • Senior Judge Eduardo Robreno

As further stated in the notice: 

Beginning immediately, the Court will be reassigning a portion of Senior Judge Robinson's cases to a visiting judge. When Judge Robinson retires from the bench in July, it is anticipated that the overwhelming majority of her cases will be reassigned to a visiting judge. 

Also beginning immediately, the Court will be reassigning certain cases from the Vacant Judgeship docket ("VAC") to a visiting judge. The cases in the VAC docket are currently being assigned to one of the three Magistrate Judges – and this practice will continue. However, upon the filing of a "case-dispositive" matter (e.g., a motion to dismiss, motion for judgment on the pleadings, motion for summary judgment, or initiation of the claim construction process), VAC cases will be considered ready for reassignment to a visiting judge.

All four judges have presided over patent cases since taking the federal bench.  In addition, Judges Goldberg and Robreno have previously served as visiting judges in Delaware.  Judge Kearney also has a Delaware connection; he is a member of the Delaware Bar and began his legal career as a judicial clerk in Delaware's Court of Chancery. 

Delaware last called upon visiting judges for similar assistance in 2006-2011, when it experienced a shortage of district judges to handle its consistently busy and sophisticated case docket. There is already speculation that this latest wave of judicial help may be only the starting lineup, with reinforcements to be added depending on the ultimate impact of the TC Heartland venue decision and the extent to which patent litigation filings increase in Delaware.

Learn more about the implications of these assignments by contacting the author.