Delaware Supreme Court
|Delaware Supreme Court|
|Method:||Comm. select., Gov. appt.|
|Justice Randy Holland||1986-2023||Gov. Michael Castle|
|Justice Carolyn Berger||1994-2014||Gov. Thomas Carper|
|Justice Henry Ridgely||2004-2016||Gov. Ruth Ann Minner|
|Chief justice Leo E. Strine, Jr.||2014-2026||Gov. Jack Markell|
|Justice Karen L. Valihura||2014-2026||Gov. Jack Markell|
The Delaware Constitution gives the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction in most criminal cases for final judgments that have already been decided by lower courts. It also gives the Court discretionary jurisdiction to issue writs of prohibition, quo warranto, certiorari, mandamus and certified questions.
- See also: Judicial selection in Delaware
Judges are selected using the commission selection, political appointment method, where the Judicial Selection Commission forwards a list of candidates to the Governor. The Governor of Delaware then appoints a candidate who must then be confirmed by the Delaware General Assembly. Justices serve renewable twelve-year terms. Three of the justices must represent one of the major political parties while the other two justices must be members of the other major political party.
In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Delaware was given a Campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Delaware received a score of -0.35. Based on the justices selected, Delaware was the 12th most liberal court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.
Minimum qualifications for appointment to the court are:
- Be licensed to practice law in the state.
- Be learned in the citizens of Delaware.
- Be a Member of the Delaware Bar Association.
Removal of Justices
Judges may be removed in one of two ways:
- Impeached by a majority vote from the Delaware House of Representatives and convicted by two thirds of the Delaware State Senate.
- Removed, retired, or disciplined by a two-thirds vote of the Court on the Judiciary.
- Genger v. TR Investors, July 2011
- In Genger v. TR Investors the Delaware Supreme Court issued an important ruling on the matter of electronic records and discovery. The case stemmed from a case heard by the Court of Chancery in 2009 where now-Chief Chancellor Leo E. Strine, Jr. ordered the defendant, Arie Genger, to preserve information on his hard drive. Genger had his tech expert run a program that wiped all files from the unallocated free space on his hard drive and the TRI servers. This "unallocated free space" is the space on a computer not dedicated to running programs or applications and what the computer will use for temporary storage. Genger claimed that he was just attempting to preserve the privacy of his personal files. TRI claimed that he had violated the order to preserve information on the hard drives, Strine agreed, and sanctioned Genger, ordering him to pay TRI $3.2 million.
- On appeal, the Supreme Court upheld Strine's sanction, finding that Genger had taken steps to destroy information he had been ordered to preserve. The court also addressed more largely the matter of unallocated free space. Justice Jacobs wrote, "To avoid future repetitions of the 'unallocated free space' issue presented here we suggest that the parties and the trial court address any unallocated free space question that might arise before a document retention and preservation order is put in place.In addressing that issue, the parties must be mindful that court-ordered discovery of electronically-stored information should be limited to what is 'reasonably accessible.' That determination, by its very nature, must be made on a case-by-case basis."
In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Delaware earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.
History of the court
Prior to the 1951 constitutional amendment establishment of the Delaware Supreme Court there was not an established court of last resort. The "left over judge system" was used from 1897 until 1951. In this system any judge who did not originally hear the case would gather together and exercise final jurisdiction. When founded in 1951 the court had three justices which was later expanded to five justices in 1978.
- Justice Carolyn Berger is the first female to serve on the court.
- Justice Randy Holland is the youngest person to serve on the court, and is also the only justice to be retained three times.
- Supreme Court of Delaware
- Delaware Supreme Court website
- Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
- Methods of Judicial selection: Removal of Judges
- Delaware Court System, Fiscal Year 2012, Supreme Caseload Trend Chart
- Delaware Court System, Fiscal Year 2011, Supreme Caseload Trend Chart
- Delaware Court System, Fiscal Year 2010, Supreme Caseload Trends
- Delaware Court System, Fiscal Year 2008, Supreme Caseload Trends
- Delaware Court System, Fiscal Year 2007, Supreme Caseload Trends
- Genger v. TR Investors
- Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
- Delaware Supreme Court
- Boston University School of Law, Alumni Page
Myron Steele • Jack Jacobs • Collins Seitz •