District of Delaware Chief Judge Denies Request for Early Motion for Summary Judgment and Will Not Refer to Magistrates Citing Strain on Judicial Resources
On November 23, 2021, Chief Judge Colm Connolly of the District of Delaware denied a joint request for an early summary judgment motion in patent litigation. In Fundamental Innovation Systems International LLC v. Lenovo (United States), Inc., the Court explained that it generally would not permit early summary judgment unless the motion would be dispositive and the filing party agreed to forgo filing any other summary judgment motions. C.A. No. 20-551-CFC, D.I. 68 (D. Del. Nov. 23, 2021).
The Court also declined to refer the motion to a Magistrate Judge under 28 U.S. Code § 636(b)(1), which allows designation of a magistrate judge to submit findings of fact and recommendations for disposition. While such referrals were meant to help ease the burden on the Court, Chief Judge Connolly wrote “the sad reality in patent cases” is that referral of such motions to a magistrate “inevitably results in objections to the magistrate judge’s report, which the district court judge must review de novo.” The Court announced that it would no longer refer summary judgment motions in patent cases to a magistrate judge because it “ends up doubling the amount of judicial resources needed to resolve the summary judgment motion in question.”
Of note, Chief Judge Connolly cited his heavy civil case load of 600 civil cases, half of which are patent cases. The Court’s patent-heavy docket has caused a need for more stream-lined procedures, including Chief Judge Connolly’s Standing Order for Summary Judgment Practice in Patent Cases that was issued last Spring, announcing that if the Court denies a motion for summary judgment filed by a party, the Court will not review any further motions for summary judgment filed by the party. Currently for 2021, the District of Delaware has the second highest number of patent cases filed in the country with approximately 790.