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SUPERIOR COURT
Message
From
President Judge Ridgely
Fiscal Year 2003


  Former President Judge Ridgely  Welcome to the Superior Court of Delaware!

The nation's top corporate counsel and senior litigators for the second time in as many years recognized the Superior Court of Delaware as the premier court of general jurisdiction in the country.

The Harris Poll State Liability Systems Ranking Study conducted for the United States Chamber Institute for Legal Reform measured corporate America's perception of which state is doing the best job of creating a fair and reasonable

Among the areas surveyed were overall treatment of tort and contract litigation, treatment of class action suits, punitive damages, timeliness of summary judgment/dismissal, discovery, scientific and technical evidence, judges' impartiality, judges' competence, juries' predictability and fairness.

The study's respondents, corporate general counsels and senior attorneys at companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million, graded all 50 states in each of the categories.

Delaware was ranked number one overall.

During Fiscal Year 2003, the court concentrated on the expansion of its electronic service delivery, browser-based report distribution and conversion of paper-based communications to electronic communications.

The court continued to build upon the foundation of its content-rich Web site. A new Web site was unveiled with new graphic design and dynamic navigation. Other improvements to the Courts' Web site included the addition of over 150 new pages of ADR-related material, an advanced search capability, expansion of our legal research links, and the addition of a Reentry Court section. The Jury Services and County pages were enhanced, supplemented and streamlined for user ease. To enhance the Courts' expansion of eFiling, information was added, with direct login capability for users. A Listserv information service was begun that already serves over 700 members. It provides instant notification of orders, court opinions, rule changes and other information.

In other efforts to maximize the use of available technology, the Court implemented a criminal imaging system in Kent County, with expansion to Sussex and New Castle Counties slated for the winter of 2004-05. The Court will shortly install state-of-the-art presentation technology systems in three more of its trial courtrooms. The Superior Court also obtained a grant from the State Justice Institute to fund the development and implementation of criminal eFiling in Kent and Sussex Counties in partnership with LexisNexis. The court implemented Real-Time court reporting in all three counties for all civil and criminal trials, as well as other designated court proceedings.

The renovation and expansion of the Sussex County Courthouse was completed which resulted in the long-needed expansion of the Prothonotary's Office. In New Castle County, the Court faced the challenges presented by the move into the recently occupied New Castle County Courthouse, with the expansion of the number of courtrooms from 10 to 16, at a time when hiring freezes and personnel shortages became commonplace.

In New Castle County, improvements in the scheduling of suppression hearings and trials in criminal cases, in tandem with the ongoing grant-funded Criminal Case Management project and the diligent work of the Bench, have produced measurable results.

Despite the chronic shortage of Prothonotary and other court staff, because of budget constraints and hiring freezes, services to the public did not falter. Further, the rate of disposition of non-first degree murder criminal cases within 120 days of indictment increased from 49.8% at the beginning of the fiscal year to 63.6% at the end of the fiscal year, with the rate of disposition within one year increasing from 91.8% to 96%. The number of non-first-degree murder cases pending over 120 days saw a dramatic decrease, as well, by over 56%. There were 183 criminal trials conducted, compared to 169 the previous year.

Further, trials resumed in first-degree murder cases as part of the concerted effort to bring them to disposition expeditiously. In the civil division, eFiling efforts were expanded enabling the uploading and scanning of documents in asbestos and coverage cases.

Superior Court and the Delaware Bar Associations jointly presented statewide training sessions on the court's amended Alternative Dispute Resolution Civil Rule 16.1. A Superior Court Judge, Commissioners and staff served on the panels. In addition, the ADR Manual was updated and published online. The online edition is available on the Courts' Web site and includes ADR practitioner listings, complete with interactive e-mail links. Finally, uniform, statewide ADR forms were designed and implemented, replacing different forms used in each county.

Superior Court saw other changes as well, with the February retirement of Judge Carl Goldstein and the investiture that same month of Judge Calvin Scott.

Finally, Superior Court continued its dedication to its vision, mission and core values through the collaborative efforts of its judges and staff from across Delaware. The vision of Superior Court is to be the best Superior Court in the nation by providing superior service to the public in pursuit of justice. The court has agreed that the core values as an organization are UNITED, which stands for unity, neutrality, integrity, timeliness, equality and dedication. The court is committed to building on the quality of justice and public service for which the Superior Court of Delaware is well known both in Delaware and throughout the nation.


President Judge Ridgely