Pursuant to the parties’ joint stipulation and request, Judge Albright has agreed to postpone a February in-person jury trial in a Waco patent case. On January 8, the parties in Digital Retail Apps, Inc. V. H-E-B, LP filed a joint stipulation asking the Court to postpone the February 19 jury trial in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The case was originally filed in the Waco Division in February 2019 and set for trial January 11, 2021. In August 2020, trial and jury selection was reset for February 19, 2021. Last week, the parties explained to the Court that the “worsening COVID-19 pandemic has raised significant concerns for both Parties’ attorneys, witnesses, and experts regarding the risks posed to anyone who attends in-person trial.” They requested the Court “postpone the trial date from February 19 to an available date in April in order to allow the COVID-19 situation to ameliorate.” On Wednesday, Judge Albright signed their agreed order postponing the trial.
Yesterday marks the entry of the 11th supplemental order from Chief Judge Garcia regarding Court operations in WDTX during the pandemic. The evolution of the Court’s orders regarding COVID can all be accessed HERE.
The 11th Order is substantially similar to last month’s order and essentially extends the status quo through January 31, 2021. As a general rule, all jury trials scheduled to begin through January 31, 2021 are continued. Bench trials may proceed if they can be conducted with appropriate safety precautions.
The Order also affirms divisional discretion to proceed with jury trials. If the judges in a specific division within the Western District determine that jury trials may be safely conducted, then the most senior district judge within the division may enter an order resuming jury trials based on the unique circumstances within that division.
Judge Albright has previously exercised this discretion and entered two Divisional Standing Orders (August Order and September Order) finding that jury trials could be safely conducted in the Waco Division. Since September he has held three jury trials. His fourth jury trial, and second patent jury trial, is currently scheduled for January 11, 2021.
Judge Albright has again confirmed that his first patent jury trial since taking the bench will proceed on October 5. In his latest Divisional Standing Order he reiterated that the Waco Division has “undertaken great efforts to ensure trials can be conducted safely” and is “confident, as things stand today, it can conduct fair trials in a safe manner.”
The final pretrial conference for MV3 Partners LLC v. Roku, Inc. took place this week, with jury selection set for October 1 and trial October 5.
This Standing Order was entered in accordance with the WDTX Eighth Supplemental Order on Court Operations During COVID, entered earlier this week, which continued all jury trials currently set through October 31. However, this latest district-wide order maintained the spirit of its previous order, giving the individual divisions within the district the discretion to proceed with jury trials if the division determined the trials can be conducted safely. Judge Albright exercised his discretion to proceed with jury trials, ensuring appropriate health and safety precautions will be undertaken.
This parallels the series of events in August when the WDTX Seventh Supplemental Order on Court Operations During COVID was entered, continuing all trials through September 30, yet giving each division discretion to proceed (see previous post HERE). In accordance with that Order, Judge Albright entered his first Divisional Standing Order determining that the Waco Division would take appropriate precautions to allow jury trials to proceed safely starting September 1 (see previous post HERE).