Delaware Supreme Court

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Delaware Supreme Court
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Court information
Justices:   5
Founded:   1951
Salary
Chief:  $201,000
Associates:  $191,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Term:   12 years
Active justices

Randy Holland  •  Carolyn Berger  •  Henry Ridgely  •  Leo E. Strine, Jr.  •  Karen L. Valihura  •  

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Founded in 1951, the Delaware Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort.

Justices

The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Justice Randy Holland1986-2023Gov. Michael Castle
Justice Carolyn Berger1994-2014Gov. Thomas Carper
Justice Henry Ridgely2004-2016Gov. Ruth Ann Minner
Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr.2014-2026Gov. Jack Markell
Justice Karen L. Valihura2014-2026Gov. Jack Markell


Jurisdiction

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.[1]

Judicial selection

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.[2]

Political outlook

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

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.[3]

Qualifications

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:

Caseloads

Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2012 757 747
2011 714 760
2010 770 724
2009 685 705
2008 670 661
2007 666 668

[5][6][7][8][9]

Notable decisions

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."[10]
Taken from Delaware Supreme Court issues important e-discovery ruling

Ethics

Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

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.[11]

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.[12]

Notable firsts

  • Justice Carolyn Berger is the first female to serve on the court.[13]
  • Justice Randy Holland is the youngest person to serve on the court, and is also the only justice to be retained three times.

See also

External links

References

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DelawareDelaware Supreme CourtSuperior Court of DelawareDelaware Court of ChanceryDelaware Family CourtDelaware Court of Common PleasDelaware Justice of the Peace CourtsDelaware Alderman's CourtsUnited States District Court for the District of DelawareUnited States Court of Appeals for the Third CircuitDelaware countiesDelaware judicial newsDelaware judicial electionsJudicial selection in DelawareDelawareTemplatewithoutBankruptcy.jpg