Sean O'Sullivan, Judge Brady Sworn In, Opens Up, 8 December 2005, delawareonline.com/newsjournal.
Former Attorney General
M. Jane Brady became Superior Court Judge M. Jane Brady after
an hour-long ceremony Wednesday at the New Castle County Courthouse.
Superior Court President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. praised
Brady's impressive credentials, saying she was fully deserving
of a position on the bench. In her final hours as attorney general, Brady reflected on her
position as the state's top law enforcement official. She was born in Wilmington and said she could still see the
neighborhood where her life began, on the east side, from her
office window. She said she won't have the same view from her
chambers in the courthouse, but added, "I won't forget
where I came from. Brady, 54, became an attorney in 1977, was a prosecutor for
12 years and entered private practice four years before successfully
winning election in 1994 as Delaware's first female attorney
general. Brady spoke of accomplishments during her three terms, including
legislative initiatives, volunteer programs and victim protection
measures, but had difficulty recalling any setbacks. "You
only fail if you haven't tried," she said, adding she does
not dwell on the past. She made no apologies for tending to
be "conservative, politically and philosophically."
The only thing that came close to a regret was what she described
as a misunderstanding. Brady said she never intended to seek the death penalty against
New Jersey teenagers Brian Peterson and Amy Grossberg, who were
convicted of killing their newborn and dumping the body in a
trash bin at a Newark motel. Brady said the misunderstanding stemmed from her pointing out
on Geraldo Rivera's television show that under Delaware law
the pair qualified for the death penalty due to the nature of
About her nomination, Brady said there was no backroom deal
to give her a judgeship. She said she never spoke with Minner
directly about it, but was fully aware that if she put her name
in, it would attract Minner's attention. Brady, a Republican, said she knew the Governor might push
for her nomination so she could name a Democrat to her job. Brady said she had not yet grown tired of the job, but the opening
on the Superior Court came at a time when she was beginning
to think about her next step. Brady said when considering the
court position, she asked herself: "Will it matter in 10
years?" And she realized she would regret not seizing the
opportunity. Brady acknowledges that it will be a major transition to go
from a high profile, sometimes controversial advocate to impartial
Portrait Unveiling and Courtroom Naming Ceremony for Judge Haile
L. Alford Held
Court of Delaware held a special session on Friday, September
16, 2005 at the New Castle County Courthouse in Courtroom 8A
to honor Superior Court Judge
Haile L. Alford who died in office in 2003. At the ceremony, the Superior Court and the Multicultural Judges
and Lawyers Section of the Delaware State Bar Association unveiled
a portrait of Judge Alford, the first African-American female
judge appointed to a Delaware constitutional court.
The Superior Court also named Courtroom 8A in honor of Judge
Alford. The speakers included Superior Court President Judge
James T. Vaughn Jr., Superior Court Resident
Judge Richard R. Cooch, Chipman L. Flowers Jr., Esquire,
Chair Emeritus, Multicultural Judges and Lawyers Section of
the Delaware State Bar Association, Helen L. Winslow, Esquire,
President of the Delaware State Bar Association, and Ms. Kaamilah
Moore, Judge Alford's daughter.
Judge Alford was appointed to the Superior Court by former
Governor Michael N. Castle in 1992. She served until her untimely
death in 2003. Judge Alford was a member of the Delaware Supreme Court's Judicial
Education Committee and its Task Force on Racial and Ethnic
Bias, the National Bar Association, the American Bar Association,
the Multicultural Judges and Lawyers Section of the Delaware
State Bar Association, and the Richard S. Rodney Inn of Court. She was a graduate of the City University of New York and the
Rutgers University School of Law.
Judge Richard S. Gebelein Retirement Ceremony on 10 August 2005.
Court Judge Richard S. Gebelein retired on 31 August 2005 to
assume the role of International Judge in the State Court of
Bosnia and Herzegovina. View the complete
transcript of remarks by Chief Justice Myron T. Steele, President
Judge James T. Vaughn Jr., Judge Vincent J. Bifferato, Joseph
Biden III, Senator Thomas R. Carper, Representative Michael
N. Castle, Joseph Schoell, and Attorney General Jane Brady at the 10 August 2005 New Castle County Courthouse retirement
Sean O'Sullivan, Gebelein Will Leave
Legacy of Service: Superior Court Judge Heading to Europe, 29
August 2005, delawareonline.com/newsjournal.
When people think of
a courthouse, many picture something like the old Daniel L.
Herrmann building on Rodney Square with its heavy columns, wide
marble steps and wood-paneled courtrooms. For a judge, they
probably call to mind someone like Richard
S. Gebeleinexperienced, dispassionate, unflappable
and regarded by all sides as rigorously fair. For years after his 1984 appointment as a Superior Court judge,
Gebelein served in the Herrmann Courthouse, leaving it in 2002
when the courts moved to a new building. Gebelein recalled the
old courthouse fondly and will take a model of it with him to
Eastern Europewhere he has agreed to serve as a judge
after retiring from the Delaware bench this month. Gebelein gave up the past three years of his appointment to
accept a position as a judge in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the
international group set up to oversee and enforce the 1995 peace
agreement. His appointment is for up to two years and he has
to live in Sarajevo.
Gebelein said he could be sworn into his new office as soon
as today, and though his decision to help administer justice
on the world stage is widely respected, his departure from the
court system where he served as a judge for more than two decades
is already lamented. State Prosecutor Steven Wood, with the Delaware Attorney General's
Office, called Gebelein a mentor and an "inspiring figure."
It is impossible to overstate the positive impact he had on
the Delaware criminal justice system," he said. Brendan O'Neill, with the state Public Defender's Office, agreed.
"The experience he brought to the bench as a prosecutor,
as a defense attorney and as a civil litigator gave him a sense
of balance," he said.
Wilmington lawyer Joseph Hurley, a former prosecutor who remembers
Gebelein joining the attorney general's office as an awkward
young man, said Gebelein's experience, demeanor and sense of
humor made him "the perfect judge. It is a big, big loss,"
he said. Even Charles M. Oberly III, a one-time political rival who ousted
Gebelein from his job as attorney general in 1983, had nothing
bad to say. "He was a consummate professional," Oberly
said. "It would be a lot easier to gloat about the win
if Gebelein hadn't done as well as he did in the following years,"
Oberly added. "He brought a sense of majesty and decorum to a courtroom,
which in a chaotic society is necessary," he said.
In politicsand out
Earlier in Gebelein's career, people were not always
so complimentary. When he won the race for attorney general
in 1978, News Journal columnist Ralph Moyed described him as
"a rumpled walrus of a lawyer" expected to lose because
he was too "dull to win." After losing the attorney general's post to Oberly, Gebelein
said he made a move he never regrettedhe dropped out of
the race for New Castle County executive. Winning election to
that office "has not been a real steppingstone to higher
office," he said. Instead, Gebelein ended up being appointed to Superior Court
After less than a year on the bench, he created a stir when
he handed down what he now calls perhaps his most unusual sentencehe
ordered a man who was convicted of impersonating a deputy sheriff
to wear a sign proclaiming: "I am not a deputy sheriff." He had to wear it at a designated location for two hours over
three days or report for a 20-day jail term. The man, Thomas Alexander Jr., complied, but also responded
by posting his own sign outside the Rodney Square courthouse
comparing Gebelein to the southbound end of a northbound horse. Gebelein said he didn't mind the protest because it ended up
attracting more attention to the man, his crime and the fact
that he was not a law enforcement officer. "So it served a purpose," he said with a smile.
Known for personality
Gebelein soon established a distinct judicial personalityon
the bench he would lean back in his chair, close his eyes and
allow a faint smile to cross his face. Wood said that smile was well known in legal circles, and young
attorneys worried that it might be a smirk. Any attorney who thought Gebelein was napping, however, was
quickly set straight. "He knew what was going on," Oberly said. "It was clear he hadn't missed a word," Wood said. Gebelein said he found that he hears better, and sometimes catches
things others miss, when he keeps his eyes closed.
Breaking new ground
His highest-profile case as a judge came in 1989, with
the trial of serial killer Steven B. Pennell. In addition to bringing intense public interest and media scrutiny,
it also set precedent as the first time DNA evidence was admitted
and used in a prosecution in Delaware. Wood said Gebelein's rulings in the case paved the way for all
other uses of DNA in criminal proceedings in the state. His least favorite task as a judge, Gebelein said, has been
sentencing. Deciding on the death penalty is the most difficult
of all, he said. "I think it is a very unnatural act for
a person to sit and determine if someone should be put to death.
It takes an emotional toll," he said. Gebelein sentenced Pennell to death, and he was executed by
lethal injection in 1992. Pennell didn't fight his execution
order, but claimed he was innocent to the end.
Leaving a legacy
Gebelein also made a name for himself off the bench
and left a lasting legacy for the court through his work on
reforming the state's sentencing
laws and establishing drug
courts. Before the "Truth in Sentencing" reforms, Wood said,
it was impossible to tell a victim exactly how long a convict
would spend in jail "because of the essentially unregulated
use of good time and because of parole. The prison sentence
imposed by the sentencing judge had little relation to the time
spent in jail." What Gebelein himself is most proud of is his work bringing
"drug courts" to Delaware's justice system. The courts
provided an alternative to incarceration for addictstreatment
and rehabilitation under strict oversight. Gebelein said he was convinced of the need for a different way
to deal with nonviolent drug crimes after one of the first people
he sentenced, a drug offender who served a six-year mandatory
minimum sentence, ended up back in front of him six months after
getting out of prison. Gebelein said he asked the man why he would almost immediately
put himself in such jeopardy again. The man told Gebelein that
during his last six months in prison, all he could think about
was how he would be out soon and could get high again.
Point of pride
Taking people society would write off and seeing "them
become taxpayers with families and jobs, that is something you
can be proud of," Gebelein said. Many people who have gone
through treatment and rehabilitation have dropped him notes
years later that say, "You saved my life," he said. "That makes me feel good," Gebelein said. As he leaves, his only regret is that the growth of the systemboth
in the number of lawyers and in the volume of caseshas
led to a loss of decorum and the collegial nature of the state
bar. He said there is also a greater distance between the bench and
the bar, a situation that has been intensified by the new New
Castle County Courthouse, which has private hallways and elevators
for judges, effectively isolating them from attorneys and others
in the building.
Time to move on
In the Herrmann Courthouse, Gebelein often stopped
to talk with attorneys and other court personnel as he passed
through public halls on his way to a courtroom, Wood said. A small wooden replica of that courthouse is one of only a few
items Gebelein is taking abroad to decorate his office. The
other is the Delaware flag that recently made an extended trip
with him to Afghanistan when he was working for the National
Guard as part of the international effort to rebuild the court
Judge's Assignment to Bosnia Is Important to Resolve War
Crimes, 13 August 2005, delawareonline.com/newsjournal.
All of the foreign aid
in the world won't help a society that has no way of guaranteeing
justice. If the police are corrupt and the courts untrustworthy,
no nation can bring order and civility to its streets. It seems like a small matter, but if people cannot trust a simple
contract, nothing can be trusted. That is why Richard S. Gebelein's new posting is so important
and such an honor. Judge
Gebelein is leaving Delaware's Superior Court to take over
the role of international judge in the State Court of Bosnia
and Herzegovina. It is important because he will work to establish legal, fair
and predictable practices in a land that was first smothered
by communist tyranny and then torn by ethnic violence. He will
preside over war crimes trials. If a legal system is to prevail, these trials must be fair and
open. The future of peace in the area depends on the quality
of such trials. Judge Gebelein's move is an honor to him as well, because it
recognizes his previous work in Delaware's courts and his work
to establish a legal system in Afghanistan after the fall of
the Taliban. We wish Judge Gebelein well.
Charlotte Hale, Now, Order In the Balkans:
Superior Court's Richard S. Gebelein to Be International Judge,
11 August 2005, delawareonline.com/newsjournal
Richard S. Gebelein steps down from the bench in the New Castle County Courthouse on August
19, 2005 he will become an international judge in the State
Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The appointment follows his experiences training Bosnian judges
to preside over a court system reformed after the war. Gebelein
will serve in the Special Chamber for War Crimes and Organized
Crime. He also helped to organize the legal system in Afghanistan. In that role, he will preside over trials involving crimes committed
in the 1990s during the war over partitioning the Balkans along
ethnic lines. After the 1965 Dayton Peace Accords settle that war among
the Serbs, Croatians and Bosnians, organized crime factions
such as the Russian mob moved in with illegal drugs and prostitutes.
Gebelein also will preside over trials involving those kinds
of crimes. He said his first trip to Bosnia resulted in his invitation
to return. The new job is appealing, he said, because he gets
to help strengthen and build public confidence in a fledgling
legal system. Reflecting on his judicial career in Delaware, Gebelein said
the most appealing part of the job was resolving disputes in
ways that might not please everyone involved but was fair. He said that approach is important in his new job because it
will help reassure Bosnians that their reformed judicial system
will provide fair trials and not just assume anyone charged
with a war crime is a bad person and deserves to be convicted. Gebelein will preside over trials with one other international
judge and one Bosnian judge. He said the three-judge panel is
designed to make the court less vulnerable to intimidation by
organized crime factions and pressure relating to local judges'
family connections. His appointment is for two years. "Hopefully in two years, the system will have developed
to the point where they are using almost all Bosnian judges
on these cases," Gebelein said.
Gebelein's colleagues in Delaware praised him for helping make
improvements in the court he's leaving. He helped reform sentencing and started a drug court that couples
treatment with punishment for serious drug addicts in hopes
of keeping them out of court in the future. Before Gebelein was appointed to the bench in 1984, he was Delaware
attorney general and chief deputy public defender. "Richard goes believing he can make a difference. We all
know he will try," retired Superior Court Resident Judge
Vincent J. Bifferato told more than 150 well-wishers. Guard Lt. Col. Kemp Vye said Gebelein treats everyone from the
highest-ranking general to the lowest-ranking private with respect.
"He's just amazing in his ability to relate with others
and to cross language barriers." 'He's literally done everything," said Representative Mike
Castle. "He's done enough that you'd think he's 100 years
Sean O'Sullivan, Judge
Leaves Afghanistan More Orderly: Gebelein Helped Improve corrupt
Patchwork of a Legal System,
13 June 2005, delawareonline.com/newsjournal.
There is a single
stoplight in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. But when Superior
Court Judge Richard S. Gebelein arrived in the country less
than a year ago, no one paid any attention to it. Or to the
police. In Kabul, he said, so many people were armed that restaurants
offered places for customers to check their rifles. They could
keep sidearms with them. Much of the country's infrastructure,
including its legal system, was in ruins from decades of war
that culminated in an attack by the United States and its allies
following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Gebelein, a colonel in the Delaware Army National Guard who
volunteered for the duty, was stationed in Kabul from September
2004 to April 2005 to help put together the nation's legal system.
The judge's days consisted of a series of meetings with Afghan
officials and international experts working on the same mission
he was. He gathered data on the legal system and prisons, helped
draft laws and participated in judicial and legal training.
As he familiarized himself with the patchwork of existing laws,
a mixture from Afghanistan's monarchy, the Soviet era and the
rule of the Taliban, Gebelein learned the system had a well-earned
reputation for corruption. Concepts such as the humane treatment
of prisoners and a fair and impartial court, in which defendants
are considered innocent until proved guilty, were foreign, he
found. Many people went to local tribal leaders, rather than courts,
to resolve conflicts. And in some places, the judges are not
tribal elders but area warlords. Rules for the tribal courts
prevent "disruptive people," which includes children
and women, from participating. Consequently, he said, the verdicts
don't reflect their interests. When a woman is raped, for example,
the tribal resolution is to order the rapist to marry the victim
and pay reparations to the victim's family, Gebelein said. "Not
very victim-friendly," he said.
The official system was sometimes not much better. Gebelein
said in the past the only way to defend a client in the Afghan
legal system was through bribery. Defense attorneys did not
understand that the law could be used to vindicate a client,
he said. A cultural divide exists, too, as the new nation's government
tries to break from the attitudes of the religion-dominated
Taliban regime. For instance, U.S. officials had difficulty
convincing local attorneys to take the case of a translator
for American forces who was charged with attempted adultery,
Gebelein said. The evidence: He was seen dancing with a woman
who was not his wife. The attorneys thought there was no possible defense: Why would
a man be dancing with someone who was not his wife if it was
not a prelude to adultery? Gebelein said they didn't consider
that under the new Afghan law, adultery -- let alone attempted
adultery -- was not a crime. Instead it was a violation of the
Quran, which is still regarded as equal or superior to secular
laws. The chief justice of the Supreme Court is a religious leader
and all nine Supreme Court judges are religious scholars, Gebelein
said. "It is likely that under the new constitution the
state will adopt a new criminal code [that] will likely remove
many religious crimes," Gebelein said. But until then,
people are sentenced for violations of religious laws. As the
new government tries to establish laws and structure a legal
system, it faces more concrete challenges with court buildings.
Gebelein said the nation's Supreme Court, in Kabul, is in danger
of losing all its records in a rainstorm because they are kept
in broken 30 to 40-year-old file cabinets in a room where the
roof leaks. In the provinces, virtually nothing remains of the
legal system. Homes are often rented as both prisons and courtrooms.
"They just rent a house and put padlocks on the doors,"
he said. Gebelein said about 32 courthouses had been built by
the time he left. His worst day in Afghanistan, he said, came when he visited
a holding facility in Kabul. The conditions were harsh, he said,
with 60 men awaiting trial packed into one small cell with wet
floors. Gebelein said he was surprised to find that many doors
were not locked, and he asked why the prisoners didn't walk
away. If they did, he was told, they would be shot. One of his best days in Afghanistan was when he participated
in a "nuts and bolts" workshop with Supreme Court
judges. The judges' openness to changing decades-old procedures
impressed him, he said. They seemed to recognize the importance
of having trials that were open to the public, making the system
understandable to the people involved and explaining decisions
when they are made. "All those are steps in the right direction,"
Another sign of progress, he said, was that by the end of his
stay, people had finally started paying attention to the lone
traffic light in Kabul. Upon his return to the United States, Gebelein was awarded a
Bronze Star for exemplary service. Superior Court President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. said he and
the other judges were proud of Gebelein's work in Afghanistan
and relieved by his return. Covering Gebelein's caseload caused
some strain, Vaughn said. "We could only go on like that
for so long. We needed him back, and we are glad he is back."
Patricia Lake, "Power Attorneys.
Rising to the Top: Judge Charles Toliver Helped Lead the Way
for Minority Lawyers in Delaware," Delaware
Today, November, 2004.
1956, Louis Redding, the impetus behind the landmark Brown v.
Board of Education, was the only black lawyer in Delaware. Establishing
racial balance in the legal profession has been a snail-paced
climb in Delaware. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Howard High and Delaware
State College were the only secondary schools for black students
in the state. Delaware State also offered college-level courses.
In the 1920s, Pierre S. du Pont built 89 schools for blacks
in all three counties, giving blacks better access to public
education. But, inside Delaware courtrooms, blacks were segregated
from whites, and they never served on juries. "The bar has changed and evolved, " Toliver says.
"The judicial process is better here than in other states
where they elect judges. It's as fair as it can be."
Charles Toliver, the son of a teacher,
was born into a family that stressed the importance of education. Toliver believes he has the same qualities all successful lawyers
have, "part of it is intelligence, but much of it is work
ethic. I was committed to hard work." Judge Toliver received his bachelor's degree from Hampton Institute,
and his law degree from the University of Virginia School of
Law. He was admitted to the bar in 1975. From 1975 to 1978 he
served as assistant city solicitor for the City of Wilmington,
and then practiced law in Wilmington law firms until his appointment
as a Superior Court judge in 1990. Today Judge Toliver is one of several black judges in the Delaware
"Vaughn Becomes President Judge," 12 October 2004 delawareonline.com/newsjournal
Tuesday, October 12, Resident Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. took
the oath of office as Superior Court president judge. The 12-year term is the highest position in Superior
Court, which handles civil, corporate and criminal trials,
including capital murder cases. In addition to hearing trials,
Vaughn is in charge of assigning cases to judges and other administrative
duties. President Judge Vaughn, of Smyrna, had been the top Superior
Court judge in Kent County since 1998. He filled the position
left vacant by Henry duPont Ridgely, who was elevated to Supreme
Court justice earlier this year. At the installation ceremony, Justice Ridgely administered the
oath, as Judge Vaughn's wife, Missy, held the Bible.
Patrick Jackson, "Senate OKs Minner's
Judicial Picks," 22 September 2004 delawareonline.com/newsjournal
senators Tuesday easily approved Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's judicial
Resident Judge James
T. Vaughn Jr. was confirmed as Superior Court president
judge. Judge Vaughn said he planned no sweeping changes for the court
but would continue to build on the work of his predecessor,
state Supreme Court Justice Henry duPont Ridgely. As president judge, Vaughn is in charge of assigning judges
to hear cases, as well as other administrative duties. Vaughn's elevation to the Superior Court's top judgeship potentially
creates two more openings: a resident judge for Kent County
as well as someone to fill the resident judge's seat, depending
on whether Minner promotes from within the court or picks a
new resident judge. Chief Justice Myron Steele watched over the special session
and praised the appointees for their backgrounds. Steele said
Minner and the Senate were wise in naming Vaughn to the top
job at Superior Court. "He's an extraordinary judge," Steele said. "He's
got the support of 100 percent of the Superior Court judges."
J.L. Miller, "Convicted Murderer's Appeal
Fails: Man Represented Self at Trial, Then Said Counsel Ineffective,"
17 September 2004 delawareonline.com/newsjournal
Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a convicted murderer
who represented himself at his Superior Court trial, and then
claimed he had ineffective counsel. The high court rejected the appeal of James W. Riley, closing
a chapter in a saga that began with the 1982 slaying of a Dover
liquor store owner. He spent two decades under a sentence of death, longer than
any other Delaware inmate, before a federal appeals court reversed
his conviction and ordered a retrial. The federal court ruled that Riley was denied a fair trial because
black jurors were improperly excluded from the jury. Feeley
was white; Riley is black. Riley rejected a plea offer that would have sentenced him to
life in prison without parole. He chose to go to trial and risk
another possible death sentence. He fired his attorneys despite warnings from Superior
Court Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. that he was making "a
big, big, serious mistake." Riley was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to
life imprisonment. That freed the Department of Correction to
dismantle and destroy the state's gallows because Riley was
the last person eligible for that means of execution. The state
now carries out executions by injection.
In its opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that Vaughn repeatedly
warned Riley of the risk he was taking by representing himself. The high court also rejected Riley's claim that the judge failed
to look into Riley's allegation of a conflict of interest on
the part of his lawyers, thus denying him his constitutional
right to conflict-free counsel.
His appeal, the court wrote, is "wholly without merit."
Martha Neil, "Court Reopens Door
for Case: Lawyer Was Locked Out on Last Filing Day,"
17 September 2004, ABA
We've all been there,
stretching to break the mythical tape at the end of a task when,
suddenly, some foot out of nowhere trips us up. Many litigators catch that feeling when they have to make a
filing on the very last day-sometimes, at the very last minute-of
a court deadline. A computer crash or traffic tie-up could mean
the end of the case. For Delaware attorney George E. Evans, it seemed his nemesis
appeared in the form of a courthouse door. Arriving at the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington one
Saturday to make a weekend filing of the complaint in a personal
injury case, he found the doors to the building locked. No one
seemed to be inside the building, Evans later testified in a
Saturday was the final day for filing his case before the statute
of limitations expired, Evans left and made the filing on Monday. The courthouse is routinely locked on weekends, but there are
dropboxes inside for court filings. There is no door buzzer,
but security guards will let lawyers in to make filings if they
"bang hard" on the doors "or have eye contact,"
according to deposition testimony in the case from court personnel. Evans' opposing counsel moved to dismiss the case since it had
been filed after the deadline. A court hearing and depositions
followed. But finally, on June 30, 2004, more than a year after Evans
attempted the Saturday filing on March 15, 2003, Delaware
Superior Court Judge John E. Babiarz Jr. reopened that door.
"The court finds that Mr. Evans reasonably expected to
be able to make a Saturday filing and acted with due diligence
in attempting to do so," Babiarz says in a written opinion.
"Plaintiffs will not be denied their day in court because
their attorney was locked out of the courthouse on the final
day of the limitations period. "Nor will the court impose on counsel a duty to return
to a locked courthouse on Sunday, which in Delaware is still
a dies non juridicus. The court concludes as a matter
of law that the circumstances in this case warrant an exception
to the general prohibition against extending the statute of
limitations." Bivens v. Mattero, CA No. 03C-03-159-JEB. "Every lawyer has had a harrowing experience with the technicalities
of the rules," says William Prickett, a longtime Wilmington
"For instance, a very prominent lawyer in Delaware filed
a brief in the Circuit Court of Appeals on the last day. His
brief covers were the wrong color," Prickett recounts.
"The brief was rejected just as if it had never been filed.
It was, as I recall, a very important corporate case. And here
it was thrown out because the covers were blue rather than red."
In that decades-old case, the court allowed the brief to be
filed late with covers of the correct color, Prickett says. When missed deadlines happen, courts tend to enforce the statute
of limitations, says Myrna Raeder, a professor at Southwestern
University School of Law in Los Angeles. Thus, a late filing
could bring a case to an abrupt end, and result in a malpractice
suit. "On occasion, you see things about lack of feasibility,"
where a court does allow a filing to be made after the statute
runs, she says. "But it's usually in circumstances where
there's a snowstorm, there's really a disability about being
able to file." Such cases show, she says, why it's so important for lawyers
to have some kind of system set up to avoid last-minute filings.
A deadline problem is "not a rarity, unfortunately, and
"Ridgely Rises to Top Delaware Court," 22 July 2004, delawareonline.com/newsjournal.
He's been a Rehoboth Beach police officer, a truck driver
and a U.S. Merchant Marine engine room crewman. But all the
time, he knew he wanted to be a lawyer, and the other jobs were
steps Henry duPont Ridgely took to make himself a well-rounded
person and attorney. "One of the things my father advised me to do was to try
and get different perspectives," Ridgely said, adding that
those other jobs taught him the meaning of hard work. The lessons
have aided him along his career and helped elevate him to the
position of Delaware Supreme Court justice.
At a Dover ceremony this afternoon, Ridgely will be sworn onto
the Supreme Court, the state's highest court responsible for
handling appeals from Superior Court and Chancery Court. The
Supreme Court also has the final say on constitutional law in
Delaware. "It's very exciting and I'm anxious to start a new chapter
in my career," said Ridgely. The 12-year appointment increases
his annual salary from $145,300 to $152,000.
Ridgely, 55, of Camden, served as president judge of Superior
Court since 1990. He was a Superior Court resident judge from
1988 to 1990 and an associate judge from 1984 to 1988. Ridgely
became a member of the Delaware Bar in 1974, about 15 years
after he realized he wanted to become a lawyer, he said. "I'd
probably made up my mind at the age of 10," he said. From 1974 to 1984, he was an attorney in his native Dover, where
he and his father, Henry J. Ridgely, had their own private practice.
That's when he began using his full middle name to distinguish
himself from his father. There is no relation to the du Pont
family. Ridgely said he and his father would start their days
over a cup of coffee, discussing the news. "I enjoyed working
every day with him," Ridgely said of his father, who is
now deceased. "My father made it very clear that in terms
of experience he was going to provide me the full experience
of being a Delaware lawyer as fast as he could." Within
a year after starting his practice, Ridgely said, he tried cases
in all of the Delaware trial courts. Delaware State Bar Association President Robert B. Young, whose
Dover office is across the street from the Ridgelys' former
office, said the entire Delaware bar will benefit from Ridgely's
joining the Supreme Court. "They can expect the highest
level of civility," he said. "They can expect thoughtful,
Supreme Court Chief Justice Myron T. Steele credited Ridgely
with helping the state earn a No. 1 ranking for the third consecutive
year in a United States Chamber of Commerce survey of the most
business-friendly courts. "That's a result of his leadership," said Steele,
who first met Ridgely in the early 1970s when both were in the
Delaware Attorney General's Office. Steele was a prosecutor;
Ridgely was a law clerk. The men would again work under the
same roof when Steele became a Superior Court associate judge
in 1988. Ridgely was Kent County's resident judge at the time.
Now the two will again be on the same bench. "I returned
the favor of showing him around," Ridgely joked. "I'm
sure he will return the favor of showing me around when I join
the Supreme Court." "I'm of course delighted that he is coming to Supreme Court,"
Esteban Parra, "Superior Court Judge
Off to Afghanistan," 21 July 2004, delawareonline.com/newsjournal.
A New Castle County
Superior Court Judge Richard S. Gebelein is being deployed next
month to Afghanistan, where he expects to help the embattled
nation develop a court system. "That was the initial impression I was given," said
the Judge Gebelein, a colonel in the Delaware Army National
Guard. Gebelein, who has been a Superior Court Judge nearly
20 years, said he will learn his exact assignment after he reports
August 14 to Fort Benning, Georgia. After about a week of training, Gebelein will be sent to Afghanistan
for about a year. Gebelein said he learned of his assignment
last week while in Bosnia, where he was helping judges adopt
a more American-style judicial system. The 10-day Bosnia trip
was part of a U.S. Department of Justice program. "We're all very proud of him for going," Delaware
Supreme Court Chief Justice Myron T. Steele said. Gebelein's departure leaves a vacancy in a court that continues
to see its caseload growing. Steele said the judicial branch
will deal with the vacancy just like many American companies
that have lost employees. Judges will be shifted around to help
with the load, Steele said.
Gebelein, who is set to fill in as Superior Court President
Judge Henry duPont Ridgely's replacement until a new president
judge is named, said he will be writing up that court's budget
submission. "There's a tremendous number of things I've got to do before
I leave," he said. Ridgely will be sworn in Thursday as a Supreme Court justice.
If no president judge is named by the time Gebelein leaves,
the next senior judge would take on that responsibility. That
would be Superior Court Judge John E. Babiarz Jr.
Esteban Parra, "Ridgely
Nominated for Supreme Court," 17 June 2004, delawareonline.com/newsjournal.
Superior Court President
Judge Henry duPont Ridgely will be nominated to fill a vacancy
on the Delaware Supreme Court, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner announced
Wednesday. "Judge Ridgely is a respected jurist with a distinguished
record on the bench going back two decades," Minner said
in a news release. "I am honored to be able to have the
opportunity to add Judge Ridgely's intelligence and judgment
to our state's highest court." "I am grateful to Gov. Minner for this honor and will serve
the people of Delaware to the best of my ability should I be
confirmed by the Senate," he said. The position of Supreme Court justice carries a 12-year term.
Minner picked Ridgely's name from a list of candidates presented
to her by the state Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission
did not present Minner with a minority candidate, said Kate
Bailey, the governor's spokeswoman. Bailey said Minner has nominated
minorities to judgeships in other courts. As a member of the Superior Court, Ridgely presides over civil,
corporate and criminal trials, including capital murder cases.
On the Supreme Court, he would have an opportunity to sit in
on those types of cases, as well as those dealing with family
issues, land disputes and local government contracts. The high
court handles appeals from Superior Court and Chancery Court
and has the final say on constitutional law in Delaware.
"I hope that my experience on the Superior Court for more
than 20 years will be of value," Ridgely said, adding that
more than 70 percent of the cases the Supreme Court reviews
come from Superior Court. Ridgely would be the only justice
besides Steele with Superior Court experience. Ridgely, of Camden, has served as president judge of Superior
Court since 1990. Previously, he was a Superior Court resident
judge from 1988 to 1990 and an associate judge from 1984 to
From 1974 to 1984, he was an attorney in his native Dover, where
he and his father, Henry J. Ridgely, had their own private practice.
He began using his full middle name to distinguish himself from
his father, and is not related to former Gov. Pete du Pont,
who first named him to the bench, or du Pont's family - the
heirs to the chemical company fortune. Ridgely is chair-elect of the National Conference of State Trial
Judges, a director of the American Judicature Society and a
trustee of St. Andrew's and St. Anne's Episcopal schools in
Delawares Legal System Once
Again Ranked Best, U.S. Chamber. March 8, 2004.
The annual poll of corporate counselors
and senior litigators has once again found that Delawares
legal system is the best in the nation. Delaware officials said
the poll, conducted by Harris Interactive and unveiled at a
press conference in Washington D.C. earlier today, provides
further encouragement for businesses to locate and incorporate
in Delaware. This is the third consecutive year that Delaware has ranked
first in the survey which asks respondents to grade all 50 states
based on: treatment of class action suits, punitive damages,
timeliness of summary judgment/dismissal, discovery, scientific
and technical evidence, judges impartiality and competence,
and juries fairness and predictability. Companies prefer to operate and expand in locations that
have a fair, efficient and predictable legal environment,
Governor Ruth Ann Minner said. As Governor, I have worked
with the General Assembly and our courts to ensure Delawares
continued pre-eminence in business law by reauthorizing the
Judicial Nominating Commission, expanding the jurisdiction of
the Court of Chancery, and funding new courtrooms in all three
The Judicial Branch of Delaware government is extremely
pleased and gratified that our Courts rank number one in the
nation in the quality of our litigation system, said Delaware
Chief Justice E. Norman Veasey. The Superior Court deserves
the principal credit for this ranking, but all of our courts
have consistently been recognized by people inside and outside
of Delaware. The Court of Chancery and the Supreme Court are
internationally pre-eminent in the corporate area, while the
Family Court, the Court of Common Pleas and the Justice of the
Peace Court continue on a daily basis to demonstrate excellence. More than half a million business entities have their legal
home in Delaware, including more than 50% of all U.S. publicly-traded
companies and 58% of the Fortune 500.
U.S. Chamber Announces State Legal Fairness
Rankings National Poll, Ad Campaign Highlight Urgent Need for
Reform. March 8, 2004.
The Institute for Legal Reforms
annual State Liability Systems Ranking Study found a wide gap
between the best and worst states in legal fairness a
difference that underscores the need for both federal and state-based
The Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber,
also is launching a national advertising campaign highlighting
the results of the study and the need for comprehensive legal
reform. For the third year in a row, Mississippi is ranked 50th
and West Virginia is 49th. Delaware is ranked number one. States with the best-rated legal systems enjoy an advantage
over the lower-ranked states in attracting investment. The Institute for Legal Reform/Harris Interactive survey of
more than 1,400 senior attorneys, now in its third year, is
the preeminent standard by which companies, policymakers and
the media judge the legal fairness of states. The mission of the Institute for Legal Reform is to make America's
legal system simpler, fairer and faster for everyone. It seeks
to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political,
judicial and educational activities at the national, state and
Bill Potter, "Visitors
Get High-Tech Lowdown in Kent County, Delaware Court."
4 November 2003 newszap.com.
Twelve men filed into
the jury box of a courtroom Tuesday at the Kent County Courthouse
waiting for instructions. But instead of jury instructions,
Superior Court President Judge Henry duPont Ridgely gave 12
visiting South Korean public prosecutors a presentation outlining
the courtroom's high-tech equipment. "Our goal is to blend technologies and long-held tried
and true courtroom methods," Judge Ridgely said. As he spoke, one or two of the visitors took notes while the
others surrounded Seoul prosecutor Yung-Sang Lee, who doubled
as the group's interpreter. "We are very interested to
see the newest developments in courtroom technology," Mr.
Lee said. "Public prosecutors should be prepared for new
Courtroom No. 7, which unveiled its high-tech accessories last
summer, is equipped with eight flat-screen computer monitors
for the jury box, a 60-inch flat-screen display with touch screen
features, digital sound recordings and an integrated projector
called the Elmo. Using the smart board, attorneys can draw directly
on the screen and present visual evidence to all the jurors
at the same time, Judge Ridgely said.
Presenting pictures or documents could be very time consuming
because each juror would have to handle, view and pass on the
item, he said. "It could take several minutes for (evidence)
to work its way down," the judge said. "Now we can
display it to everyone at once on the smart board." To demonstrate the sensitivity and integration of the system,
Judge Ridgley put a penny on the Elmo projector connected to
the smart board. The penny, which has the Lincoln Memorial on
its tail's side, was enlarged several hundred times. The image
was so large and so clear the image of Abraham Lincoln sitting
in his chair was visible. Judge Ridgely said the ability to present evidence would improve
the courtroom process. "The objective is to shorten the
time of a trial," he said. "We want to get police
back on patrol where they can do the most good and not sitting
in courtrooms." Although the technological equipment is designed to speed up
trials and improve retention of information by juries, there
is still one big challenge, Judge Ridgely said. Lawyers are
hesitant to use the new equipment, he said. "The key to
this is training, training, training," the judge said.
"People are resistant to change." The Korean Delegation peppered the Delaware judge with questions.
Their questions covered such diverse topics as informational
security, computer hacking and chains of custody for compact
discs. Mr. Lee said the opportunity to visit the courtroom gave
him a chance to think about using technology throughout South
Korea's legal system.
Esteban Parra, "Court Steps up e-Filing System Saves Time
and Money," 5 October 2003, delawareonline.com.
Starting Monday, October
6, 2003, Superior Court will accept only electronic filings
of civil cases in which damages exceed $100,000. Online filing
is expected to save attorneys and courts time and space by reducing
paper files, and it allows litigants easier access to their
files. "This is the way of the future," Superior Court
President Judge Henry duPont Ridgely said.
The electronic filing began in 1991 in Superior Court. Delaware
was the first state in the nation to implement an electronic
docketing and filing system for civil cases, Ridgely said. The
first cases filed electronically were insurance-coverage suits
related to environmental cleanup. Cases having to do with asbestos
were next to be electronically filed. Because of the amount
of paperwork involved with these cases, electronic filing became
a matter of necessity, Ridgely said. For example, Ridgely recalled,
one particular case required 7,000 documents. "We simply
couldn't have done it without e-filing," he said.
Superior Court also will consider mandatory e-filing in criminal
cases in Kent and Sussex counties. However, those plans are
still down the road. Filing electronically will be faster for
attorneys and will be less expensive for people interested in
retrieving the documents. The public has free access to files, as long as they are using
court computers. Documents can be filed around the clock, any
day of the week. But not all paper documents will be eliminated.
For instance, documents in which signatures are required will
be filed at the clerk's office so that they can be scanned into
the system. Also, couriers still will be seen delivering paperwork
from law office to law office. "Paper is not completely
eliminated," Ridgely said
Sean O'Sullivan, "Three Strikes Ruling Reversed State
Supreme Court Calls Life Sentence Too Severe in Forgery Case,"
3 June 2003, delawareonline.com/newsjournal.
The Delaware Supreme
Court throw out the life sentence given to a Chris A. Crosby
under the state's habitual offender law, saying it violates
the U.S. Constitution's protection from cruel and unusual punishment.
In the decision the state Supreme Court said the punishment
was "grossly disproportionate to the severity of his offense." The Delaware justices who ordered Crosby's case back to Superior
Court for resentencing by a different judge described the case
as "rare." Crosby had no record of repeated violent
felonies, and the judge ordered a life sentence although prosecutors
asked for only 10 years, the ruling said.
The Delaware decision is significant because it shows there
is a ceiling on how much time defendants can be sentenced to
under habitual offender or "three strikes" laws, said
Judith L. Ritter, a professor at Widener University School of
Law. It could have a "chilling" effect on judges who
might otherwise impose the harshest possible sentence, she said. Crosby's "prior history,
although hardly commendable, does not include the kind of repeated
violent crimes common to many habitual offenders," the
decision said. "We conclude that the United States Supreme
Court would find Crosby's sentence to be cruel and unusual punishment
under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution."
Crosby was given a life sentence by Superior Court Judge Jerome
O. Herlihy in December 2001 because of his extensive criminal
record, which qualified him as a "habitual offender"
under Delaware law. It was the second time that Herlihy had
sentenced Crosby as a habitual offender.
After reviewing Crosby's criminal record, including five felony
convictions between 1986 and 1999, including two for burglary
and one each for forgery, possession of a deadly weapon and
drug possession, Herlihy called Crosby a "one-man crime
wave." The state Supreme Court said Herlihy's interpretation
of Delaware law was correct, but it violated the Constitution. Sentences must have some measure of proportion, the decision
said. "Even repeat offenders are entitled to sentences
that are not grossly disproportionate to their crimes."
The opinion also noted that Herlihy appeared to be sentencing
Crosby "out of frustration," which the justices found
troubling. "Defendants should not face excessive sentences merely
because they are too much trouble for the criminal justice system
... our judicial system should not allow frustration or failed
efforts at rehabilitation to result in a lock-him-up-and-throw-away-the-key
approach to sentencing," the decision said. In sending
the case back to the Superior Court for a new sentence, the
justices ordered that it be given to a different judge to "enhance
public confidence in our judicial system."
Cole, Darrel W. Cole,
"Delaware Earns Top Spot Among Nation's Courts," Delaware
Law Weekly, 16 April 2003. ©Copyright 2003 American Lawyer Media.
second straight year, Delaware's trial court system has been
ranked the best in the nation in a U.S.
Chamber of Commerce survey of more then 900 corporate attorneys. The survey, conducted by phone between January and February,
was released April 9, 2003. Senior litigators and corporate
counsel gave the top ranking only to Delaware, ranking it "best"
fair and reasonable litigation system. Among 50 states reviewed,
Iowa and Nebraska were "very good" while Indiana,
North Dakota and South Dakota were "good." The majority of states, 65 percent, were ranked "fair"
or :poor," according to the survey.
In Delaware the court most involved in tort and liability cases
is Superior Court although the respondents were asked to "evaluate
the state as a whole," according to the survey, and no
court was pointed out. State judiciaries were ranked in the following categories: overall
treatment of tort and contract litigation; treatment of class
action suits; punitive damages; timeliness of dismissal or summary
judgment; discovery; scientific and technical evidence' judges
impartiality; judges competence; jury predictability; and, jury
fairness. Delaware ranked first in all categories except two, jury predictability,
in which it was ranked sixth, and in jury fairness, which ranked
fourth. Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were labeled fair,
and were ranked 23rd, 30th and 31st, respectively. Survey respondents were companies with annual revenues of at
least $100 million. The survey was conducted through the U.S.
Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform and Harris Interactive
Market Research. E. Norman Veasey, chief justice of the Supreme Court, said the
ranking is an "outstanding credit" to the Superior
Court system, its judges and employees. It is "very gratifying
for us to see." "I also think all of our courts deserve
high marks... . [W]hen I talk to people across the nation they
point to Delaware as an exemplary system," he said.
More than half of the nation's Fortune 500 companies are incorporated
in Delaware. The state earns about 25 percent of its revenues
through corporate taxes. Even Gov. Ruth Ann Minner got into the act April 9, appearing
in Washington, D.C., to announce the results. She
proclaimed in a press release that Delaware is "the corporate
capital of the United States." And, "some would say
the world." The judiciary's stable, predictable and efficient
legal system provides a legal climate that attracts business,
she said. In the survey 82 percent of corporations
reported that the litigation environment in a state could affect
whether they located there or did business with other corporations
in that state.
Top For Legal Climate For Business,
9 April 2003.
conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranked Delaware
first in providing a legal climate that attracts businesses. Delaware ranked first out of the 50 states in the survey for
the second year in a row, followed this year by Nebraska, Iowa,
South Dakota and Indiana. As a result of our highly-regarded legal system, Delaware
has become the corporate capital of the United States
and, some would say, the world, Gov. Minner said. The
strong foundation of a stable, predictable and efficient legal
system gives Delaware a considerable advantage. Delawares
performance in this survey is both broad and deep pointing
to the fact that our state has taken a comprehensive approach
to developing its legal system.
Survey respondents companies with annual revenues of
at least $100 million were asked to grade all 50 states
based on: treatment of class action suits, punitive damages,
timeliness of summary judgment/dismissal, discovery, scientific
and technical evidence, judges impartiality and competence,
and juries fairness and predictability. Through interviews with more than 900 corporate attorneys, the
Chambers Institute for Legal Reform and Harris Interactive
found an overwhelming majority of those polled (82 percent)
said a states litigation environment affects important
decisions, such as where to locate or do business.
Delaware Judge Represents
United States at International Drug Courts Conference: Judge
Richard S. Gebelein Presents Paper on "Delaware's
Reentry Drug Court" in Strasbourg,
March 31, 2003.
On March 28, 2003, Superior Court Judge Richard S. Gebelein
presented a paper on Delaware's Reentry Drug Court at an international
drug courts conference in Strasbourg, France. The conference,
entitled "European Perspective on Drug Courts," was
presented to an assembly of European justice leaders. Judge
Gebelein was the invited representative from the United States. Delaware's Reentry Drug Court, started in 1993,
represents a significant change in the role of judges in the
United States. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, courts
began to experiment to develop effective ways of sentencing
overwhelming numbers of drug cases. In drug court, judges are
more actively engaged in the management of offenders, holding
regular hearings to monitor offenders' progress in treatment,
and imposing sanctions and incentives to encourage compliance.
Drug courts bring a variety of agencies and resources
together to coordinate services and maintain ongoing connection
with drug court participants - offenders who have substance
abuse problems and need treatment for those problems. Reentry
drug courts focus on substance-involved offenders who may begin
treatment in a prison or jail setting, and manage the transition
to community-based treatment and services with the goal of effective
reintegration into the community. A preliminary analysis in
1998 revealed that successful completers of the drug court program
are far less likely to be arrested for a new felony offense
than either non-completers or general prison releasees. "It was encouraging to see that Ireland and
Scotland have operational drug courts, and that other European
nations are looking into this model," Judge Gebelein reported
in a telephone interview. He also noted "while there is
no silver bullet that will solve the problems of crime and substance
abuse, it is clear that treatment, even if it is coerced, is
one essential element to the global solution of this problem. " Judge Gebelein is one of the founders of the national
drug court movement, and is the Vice President of the National
Association of Drug Court Professionals, based in Alexandria,
Virginia. He is a drug court judge in Delaware and Chairman
of the Delaware Sentencing Accountability Commission.
Mary Allen, "Ruling
Doesn't End Bail Law Debate," 21 February 2003, delawareonline.com/newsjournal.
Judge Richard S. Gebelein
rejected an attempt by prosecutors to use a controversial new
law to forfeit bail posted in a pending criminal case. But he
ruled in a way that could allow prosecutors a second try and
ultimately lead to the bail being forfeited. Prosecutors, citing a law the General Assembly passed last year,
tried to have Miller's bail from his first case revoked and
forfeited to the state. The law was written to allow for both
revocation and forfeiture in cases in which a person accused
of a violent felony is arrested on another violent felony charge
while free on bail.
Judge Gebelein recently struck down the section of the law that
allowed for bail to be revoked finding that the Delaware General
Assembly cannot eliminate the public's constitutional right
to bail. He ruled Wednesday on the section of the law that would
allow bail to be forfeited. Judge Gebelein decided that the
law, as written, violates an accused person's due process rights. The law allows for bail forfeiture based solely on a person's
arrest, indictment or finding of probable cause at a preliminary
hearing. This precludes the court from considering other evidence
that could be relevant to whether the accused committed the
second felony. The prosecution's request to forfeit Miller's bail was denied.
But he said he would allow prosecutors to repeat their request
after a court hearing, in which they could try to establish
that Miller committed the second offense.
Mary Allen, "State
Bail-Revocation Law Loosened," 4 February 2003, delawareonline.com/newsjournal.
Superior Court Judge
Richard S. Gebelein struck down part of the state's new bail
revocation-and-forfeiture law, ruling that the Delaware General
Assembly may not eliminate the public's constitutional right
to bail. The four-page opinion pertained to the case of Donald
L. Miller, whose charges are pending in Superior Court. Delaware's constitution allows the right to bail, except when
people are charged with capital murder, according to Gebelein's
ruling. State legislators are permitted, under separation of
powers, to set reasonable conditions on bail, Gebelein wrote,
but legislators may not eliminate the right to bail. The Legislature
also may not abolish a person's due-process rights. "I think it's an absolutely correct reading
of the law," O'Neill said.
The decision made public Monday, means Delaware cannot revoke
bail posted after a violent felony arrest, in cases where the
accused is rearrested on a second violent felony charge while
free on bail, attorney Kevin O'Neill said. O'Neill represents
the bail-bond industry and has been an outspoken critic of the
law, passed by the Legislature last year. The law also allowed for bail posted after a person's first
arrest to be forfeited to the state if that person is rearrested
on violent-felony charges while the first case is pending. Violent-felony
charges can include some drug cases. Critics of the law have
said that provision would allow the state to seize money or
assets put up as bail collateral by a third party, such as a
friend or relative. That would punish a person not involved
in a crime, they said. Gebelein did not address the legality of forfeiting an accused
offender's bail. He said he would rule separately on that issue.
Tom Eldred, "Ruling
Opens Case on Capital Murder Trials in Delaware," 28 January
Capital murder trials are back on the docket
after a temporary moratorium issued in September by the state's
top Superior Court judge. Superior Court President Judge Henry
duPont Ridgely had ordered all state capital murder cases put
on hold until the Delaware Supreme Court answered questions
on the constitutionality of the state's death penalty law. The
state's high court upheld the law in a decision issued Jan.
16. President Judge Ridgely lifted the moratorium Friday. President Judge Ridgely ordered the delay after a New Castle
County judge halted a capital murder trial in late June because
of defense questions about Delaware's revised statute. The revisions,
passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner,
were enacted to conform to U.S. Supreme Court rulings involving
the death penalty.
The high court's ruling in Ring v. Arizona said that
juries, not judges, must make final determination if defendants
should be eligible for the death penalty. The court also banned
executing mentally retarded people. Delaware lawmakers followed
suit with similar changes in state law. Superior Court juries
would henceforth have to make unanimous, binding decisions as
to whether murder convictions meet one of 23 aggravating factors
to qualify a defendant for a death sentence. Delaware also would
be prohibited from executing any defendant with a proven IQ
of 70 or less. Superior Court judges previously had final authority to impose
a death sentence after receiving a recommendation from the jury.
The state also had no limitation on the execution of the retarded.
With 20 or more capital cases set to resume in New Castle County,
President Judge Ridgely designated Superior Court Judge Jerome
O. Herlihy as coordinator to get the cases back on track. President
Judge Ridgely said that in the event of scheduling conflicts,
capital first-degree murder cases are to be given scheduling
priority over civil cases. With permission of newszap.com.
Esteban Parrs, "Wilmington
Killer's Death Sentence Rejected," 28 January 2003, delawareonline.com/newsjournal.
The Delaware Supreme
Court overturned the death sentence of a Wilmington man convicted
of killing a Newark woman outside a Wilmington bar and restaurant
in 1999, ruling the trial judge did not adequately weigh the
jury's recommendation of life in prison. In a decision released Monday, the five justices said Superior
Court Judge John E. Babiarz Jr. "failed to give appropriate
consideration" to jury votes of 10-2 and 9-3 in favor of
sentencing Sadiki Garden to life in prison on the charges of
murder and murder during the commission of a felony. Jury sentencing
votes in capital cases are recommendations in Delaware; judges
make the final decision. The Supreme Court returned the case
to Superior Court for Judge Babiarz to reconsider the sentence.
He still may sentence Garden to death but must give "great
weight" to the jury's decision, the court said in its unanimous
opinion. When Babiarz sentenced Garden to death, he cited Garden's
criminal history, lack of remorse for Rhudy's death and his
inability to conform to prison rules as aggravating factors.
Deputy Attorney General Mark W. Buntisky said he was disappointed
by the reversal, but pleased that the court affirmed the other
convictions Garden was appealing, including intentional murder,
robbery and weapon charges. He said he expects Garden will receive
the death penalty again when the case returns to Babiarz. "I'm
confident with the facts of this particular case that he will
apply the death penalty," Buntisky said.
Randall Chase, "Briefs
Filed by Deadline in Delaware Redistricting," 28 February
Lawyers for the General
Assembly and the chairman of the state Independent Party filed
opening briefs to a court panel Thursday in the legislative
redistricting battle. Independent Party chairman Frank Sims
is suing lawmakers, saying their failure to agree on a redistricting
plan has jeopardized the fairness of the election process. Thursday
was the deadline for lawyers to submit opening briefs in the
lawsuit to a three-judge Superior Court panel, with final briefs
are due March 14. Under state law, a redistricting plan was supposed to be in
place by June 30. However, no plan is in place because the lawmakers
are still discussing the House Republicans' plan to increase
the size of their chamber from 41 to 45 seats. Senate Democratic
leaders oppose any expansion of the General Assembly.
Attorneys for the Republican-led House believe the court has
no jurisdiction and are asking it to dismiss the lawsuit. "Any
remedy a court might fashion for the plaintiff would be one
of equitable relief, not law, and thus would have to come from
chancery court or federal court," said Ronald Smith, a
lawyer for the Republican House majority. House attorneys also
argue that the doctrine of separation of powers requires judges
to allow legislators time to do their work. Attorneys for the Senate Democrats want the judges to decide
whether a court can increase the size of the legislature, or
whether that can be done only by the General Assembly. Jeff
Clark, an attorney for the Senate majority, said a ruling that
any court-drawn plan would have to maintain current statutory
limit of 41 House seats would go a long way toward resolving
the legislative impasse. House attorneys contend that the size
of the legislature is a political matter in which the court
should not get involved. If the court weighs in one way or the
other, it could simply encourage members of the chamber favored
by the ruling to dig their heels in deeper and not seek a compromise,
With permission of newszap.com.
Joe Rogalsky, "Delaware
Redistricting Deadline Set," 21 February 2002, newszap.com.
If the legislature fails
to agree on a redistricting plan in six weeks, it will make
setting up new polling places more difficult, warned Frank B.
Calio, Delaware's election commissioner. The legislative boundaries
must be redrawn once every decade to reflect population changes. The House and Senate were to have completed the process last
year, but instead have been deadlocked over House demands to
increase its size from 41 to 45 members. Senate Democrats refuse
to allow the House to add members because they argue the sour
economy does not justify increased spending on state government.
Senate Republicans and many House members contend Delaware's
increased population merits an increase in the legislature's
size. The matter may be resolved in court. Odessa resident Frank Sims'
lawsuit, calling for a three-judge panel to step in and draw
the boundaries, is being heard in Superior Court. Ron Smith,
attorney for House Republicans in the redistricting lawsuit,
said the court has already set the lawsuit on a quick schedule.
"The court has cut to the bone in terms of time,"
Mr. Smith said. "It would be hard to do this any quicker.
It's fairly late in the game, but the legislative process is
With permission of newszap.com.
Joe Rogalsky, "Rule
Sought on Districts in Delaware," 25 January 2002, newszap.com.
Senate Democrats sought
a court ruling Friday on whether the judiciary can increase
the General Assembly's membership. The motion came as part of
a response to a lawsuit asking the courts to resolve the state's
redistricting. The Senate Democrats' motion, filed in Superior
Court, seeks to determine whether courts have the power to draw
a redistricting plan that adds seats. If the court agrees with the motion and rules that it cannot
expand the General Assembly, it would mean only the legislature
could approve adding lawmakers. If that happens, House leaders
would likely not force court action because no legislative seats
could be added. The House passed a redistricting plan last year
that would increase the GOP-controlled chamber from 41 to 45
seats. Senate Democrats have refused to go along, saying state
dollars should not be spent on more lawmakers at a time of tight
The redistricting battle could be decided in court under several
scenarios. Independent Party chairman Frank Sims filed a lawsuit
asking for the districts to be drawn by the court because the
legislature's failure. The courts could also step in if the
legislature hasn't resolved the issue by midsummer, when the
November elections are just a few months off. Candidates running
in November can't officially file or know exactly where they
should campaign until the process is settled.
With permission of newszap.com.
Joe Rogalsky, "Redistricting
Vote Nears for Delaware Legislature," 21 January 2002, newszap.com.
The state Senate is scheduled
to vote on a reapportionment plan, but it won't do much to resolve
redistricting. While the lawmakers are in disagreement, an outside
group is trying to force a solution. Frank Sims, chairman of
Delaware's Independent Party, filed a lawsuit in Superior Court
last week asking the court to step in and redraw the boundaries.
The General Assembly's failure to agree on a plan has unfairly
hampered candidates' chances to challenge incumbents, he said.
A hearing date hasn't been set. Sen. Sharp said he would accept changes to his plan's House
districts but would not go along with proposals to boost the
House's membership. House leaders want to expand the chamber
from 41 to 45 members, but the Senate has adamantly opposed
the idea, citing the state's tight budget situation. The legislature must redraw its district boundaries every decade
to reflect population changes found by the U.S. census. If lawmakers
can't agree, the matter could end up in court.
With permission of newszap.com.
Eldred, Tom, "Delaware Courts Score High in Poll," 30 January
"Delaware's Superior Court scored a knockout
recently in a nationwide Harris Poll gauging the 'perceived
fairness or reasonableness' of state courts in civil jury trials."
The poll, commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ranked
Delaware first overall and first in each of 10 focus categories
ranging from tort and contract litigation to judges' competence
and fairness of juries. Respondents, the 800 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 scored
first every time. Superior Court President Judge Henry duPont Ridgely called the
survey results gratifying. The Superior Court is Delaware's
court of general jurisdiction in civil and criminal proceedings.
"A few years ago, we adopted our vision to be the Superior
Court with the most superior services in the nation,'' President
Judge Ridgely said. "When 800 lawyers from around the country
say we are No. 1 based upon a Harris Poll, it's worth noting.
I'm very proud of the excellent work of our judges and staff.''
President Judge Ridgely praised the top ranking as a team effort.
"Many people share the credit for this honor, including
our jurors, the governors who appointed the judges to this court
and the General Assembly for its ongoing support,'' he said.
"We will continue to work hard to stay the best in the
nation.'' The poll results, released Jan. 22, ranked Delaware first overall
followed by Virginia, Washington, Kansas and Iowa. Delaware
was also ranked at the top in specific categories: overall treatment
of tort and contract litigation, treatment of class actions,
punitive damages, timeliness of summary judgment/dismissal,
discovery, scientific and technical evidence, judges' impartiality,
judges' competence, juries' predictability, and juries' fairness.
of fairness or reasonableness of state court systems plays a
significant role in creating the kind of working environment
most businesses prefer. According to the poll results, 78 percent
of the lawyers surveyed said a state's litigation environment
affects important decisions such as location. State Supreme Court Chief Justice E. Norman Veasey agreed. "This
is an extraordinarily impressive finding,'' he said. "We
have always known in Delaware that our court system is preeminent
in the country. It is very gratifying to find an independent
group can reach the same conclusion.'' Chief Justice Veasey
stressed that fairness and skills are the foundations of that
assessment. "The appellate prominence of the Delaware Supreme
Court and the expertise of the Court of Chancery are often cited
as factors that lead well over half the Fortune 500 companies
to incorporate in Delaware.''
With permission of newszap.com.
Dibya Sarkar, "Delaware Court
OKs CD Filings," 8 January 2001, FCW.COM.*
In a state known for
firsts, Delaware's Superior Court claims to be the first to
allow parties to submit filings on CD-ROM. The new order, adopted
and implemented this summer, amends Superior Court Civil Rule
107, permitting any party to "serve and file identical copies
of any brief and exhibits on CD-ROM." The state was also the first to create an electronic docketing
and filing system for civil cases, in 1991.
Delaware's order outlines the steps parties must take to file
a CD-ROM, such as correct labeling and number of copies and
making it virus-free. It also lists what should be included
on the disk - such as images of the signed brief and exhibits
- and describes how the disk should be formatted. Henry duPont
Ridgely, the Superior Court's president judge, said CD-ROMs
are space-savers because they can store the equivalent of 100,000
word-processed pages. "Given the complex nature of some of the
commercial litigation we have, we have space issues of where
to store and file materials," he said. "This is helping to address
that. This is also helping us to go through the briefs and the
citations, which are given on a more expedited basis."
The legal filings appear on the screen in Portable Document
Format, which can include hyperlinks to cited cases, statutes,
case law or exhibits on the CD-ROM. "If a case is cited, it
would be the equivalent of somebody photocopying every reference
and providing them every reference," Ridgely said. Ridgely said
certain federal courts have allowed attorneys to file CD-ROMs
on a case-by-case basis dating back to 1997, but Delaware is
the first state to promulgate a rule.
In August 1999, Delaware's Court of Chancery was the first to
accept briefs submitted on CD-ROM, which was a sort of pilot
project for the state, Ridgely said. But no CD-ROM briefs have
been filed in the state since then, he said, because lawyers
are still adapting to the technology. But Ridgely said he expects
lawyers in an upcoming tobacco litigation case to file briefs
on CD-ROM beginning in December. *Copyright
2000 FCW Government Technology Group
Award for Outstanding Judicial Service," 21 September 2000.
Chief Justice E.
Norman Veasey of the Delaware Supreme Court presented the Chief
Justice's Annual Award for Outstanding Judicial Service to Judge Norman A. Barron of the Superior Court. The Honorable
Norman A. Barron has served with distinction and perseverance
as a Judge of Superior Court since February 1989, including
service as Chief of Criminal Division II in New Castle County. Previously, he served as Chief Magistrate of the State from
1980-1988. He has also served as Deputy Attorney General, Chief
Deputy Attorney General, State Solicitor and Assistant Public
Defender. He has been on numerous committees including: Chair
of the Sentencing Accountability Commission, Gander Hill Oversight
Committee, Bad Check Task Force, and the Mandatory Sentencing
Review Committee. He has also served as a member of the Criminal
Justice Council, Supreme Court Appellate Handbook Committee,
and the Domestic Violence Task Force. Judge Barron has demonstrated
the highest professional standards throughout his service.
In addition to his many regular duties, he has performed exemplary
service in other roles and varied duties where he combines compassion
with a staunch respect for the law and the judicial system.
Judge Barron is well known for his scholarly and analytical
opinions and articles. His is an intellectually gifted jurist
and an exceptional human being whose substance and style are
characterized by remarkable compassion, common sense and humor.
According to Chief Justice E. Norman Veasey, "Judge Barron's
courage, tenacity and character are so admirable that he is
truly a worthy recipient of this Award." The criteria for the Chief Justice's Annual Award for Outstanding
Judicial Service require that the recipient demonstrate
outstanding judicial service in the following areas: professionalism,
civility, sensitivity to litigants as well as witnesses, jurors
and colleagues, strong work ethic, skillful organization of
judicial business, scholarship in writing, teamwork, and other
qualities of exemplary character. Judge Barron was nominated
by Vice Chancellor Jack B. Jacobs , Resident Judge Richard R.
Cooch, Judge Charles H. Toliver IV, and Chief Magistrate Patricia
W. Griffin. The Screening Committee included President Judge
Henry duPont Ridgely, Judge Jerome O. Herlihy and Chief Judge
Alex J. Smalls.
Keegan, Daniel, "Delaware
Court Internet Site More Than eForms," 01 May 2000, FCW.COM. *
The Delaware Superior
Court has launched a World Wide Web site that features comprehensive
information about the court and how it operates. The public can access information on the court's history, its
members, the jury system, its groundbreaking e-litigation system,
in which documents can be electronically filed, and more. The court decided that a Web site would best serve the public,
and each judge had input into what would be posted, said Superior
Court President Judge Henry Ridgely. By using the Internet,
the court is better able to communicate with the public, he
said. "I think a lot of people would not realize that the information
is available without the Web site being there," he said. "I
think this is representing a sea of change on how courts will
do business and interact with the public." In the future, Ridgely said, he hopes the site will be "the
daily source for what is being scheduled and what matters are
proceeding." The jury segment will be updated so that prospective
jurors can communicate with the judges and court system. He also said he hopes to set up a feedback system in which citizens
who use the site can comment on how the court can improve its
Webmaster Margaret Derrickson, who created the site and is in
charge of updating it, said the goal is to keep the public constantly
informed. "Our site is really to serve the community," she said. *Copyright 2000 FCW Government Technology
U.S. Department of
Justice, Office of Justice Programs,"Delaware Reentry
Court, New Castle and Sussex Counties."
court is a collaborative effort between Superior Court, the
Department of Correction, the Treatment Access Center, and the
University of Delaware. The reentry court program is designed
to work with offenders who are returning to the community and
who have diminished social skills resulting from their long-period
of incarceration. The reentry court builds on the model of drug
courts. The program entails intense supervision and close case
management, and addresses housing, substance abuse, vocational
and other needs. Additionally, the program is designed to assist
the offender with the transition back into the community and,
in doing so, reduce the likelihood that the individual will
Superior Court Judge Richard Gebelein, who has spearheaded the
project in New Castle County explained, "Ninety-nine percent
of all offenders sentenced to prison will return to the community.
These individuals who have successfully completed the six-month
reentry program have proven that offenders need not return to
their criminal activities. With help and tight supervision,
this transition can result in law-abiding, taxpaying citizens,
instead of recidivists."
In March, 2000, the Superior Court of Delaware was one of nine
sites throughout the country selected by the U. S. Department
of Justice to pilot the reentry concept. In Delaware, two counties
are participating. In Sussex County, the program targets domestic
violence offenders and is directed by Resident Judge T. Henley
Graves. In addition to working with the Department of Correction,
the Superior Court in Sussex County works closely with the Attorney
General's Office. The Superior Court seeks to use the drug court
model to encourage domestic violence offenders to get treatment
and counseling, and, through close supervision, prevent recurrence
of such conduct.
Court Selected to Pilot Reentry,
February 10, 2000.
On February 10,
2000, Attorney General Janet Reno announced that the Superior
Court of Delaware was one of nine sites selected throughout
the country by the United States Department of Justice to implement
a new innovative concept called "reentry court." In general, this concept uses the power of judicial authority
to monitor more aggressively released offenders and provide
essential assistance to support the offender's reintegration
into the community.
In Delaware, this pilot project will be lead by Resident Judge
T. Henley Graves in Sussex County, and Judge Richard Gebelein
in New Castle County. The Sussex County project will target
offenders who have been incarcerated for domestic violence,
and who have community supervision to follow. The focus will
be on offenders who have prior histories of domestic violence
and who are deemed to be at greatest risk of recidivism. The
New Castle County Program is designed for offenders who have
been incarcerated for a least one year, which is followed by
a sentence to community supervision.
According to Attorney General Janet Reno, "Too often offenders
leave prison and return to the community without necessary supervision,
jobs, and housing. The reentry court would promote positive
behavior by linking released offenders to agencies and community
organizations that provide these services, while also using
its powers of punishment to be sure the individual stays on
the right track." The nine jurisdictions selected to pilot this project are: 1.
State of Delaware Superior Court 2. Broward County, Florida
Drug Court 3. El Paso County, Colorado, Pikes Peak Mental Health
Association 4. State of Iowa, Department of Corrections 5. State
of Kentucky, Administrative Office of the Courts 6. State of
New York, Division of Parole 7. Richland County, Ohio, Adult
Probation Department 8. San Francisco County, California, Sheriff's
Office 9. State of West Virginia, Department of Military Affairs
and Public Safety.
Tom Eldred, "Delaware
Court Unveils Automated Sentencing Order System," 12 January
Court is using technology to streamline criminal
justice. "We are, in a sense, inventing the wheel,'' Superior
Court Judge Jerome O. Herlihy said of the court's
new Automated Sentencing Order Program. "No other state is doing
what we're doing. The closest thing we found was Manhattan Municipal
Court and Brooklyn Drug Court in New York City.'' The system enables the court to issue sentencing orders almost
simultaneously with a judge's pronouncement. Where previously
it would take days and even weeks to disseminate all information,
sentencing data is now electronically filed and transferred
within minutes to prisons and other agencies. Defendants receive
a complete copy of their sentencing order right in the courtroom.
Criminal histories also are updated for future court proceedings. The program was started in Kent County Superior Court.
Sussex County went online at the beginning of the year. New
Castle County courts started Monday, January 15. "There is no
doubt the computer age is here,'' said Superior Court President Judge Henry duPont Ridgely. "Our Superior Court was a leader in electronic filings for civil cases, and we are
following that with electronic filing of criminals cases.''
The results are impressive. Prison authorities will receive
the order electronically before the defendant even arrives for
incarceration. Likewise, the Probation and Parole Department
will now have an order on file in advance of a defendant showing
up to begin probation. President Judge Ridgely also praised having updated criminal
records available at the time of sentencing. "I have personally
used it and found it very helpful,'' he said. "With the click
of a button I can see the criminal history for that defendant.
I can then sentence on an informed basis. I think we're off
to a very good start. Getting updated information into the hands
of police officers on patrol is another benefit. "These officers
will have full access to sentencing orders out on the road,''
Judge Herlihy said. "That should be a big help in enforcing
no contact provisions and other orders of the court.'' With permission of newszap.com.
Tom Eldred, "Kent
County, Delaware, Superior Court Taking Plastic for Legal Charges,"
4 January 2000, newszap.com.
Since December 17, credit
and debit cards have been accepted for an array of charges in
Kent County Superior Court. Pay a fine, make restitution
or cover any number of filing fees associated with civil proceedings.
You can even use it to buy a gun permit. "It started out with our contempt of court hearings,'' says
Lisa Spence-Russ, 35, Administrative Deputy for the Court's
Prothonotary Office. "When people come in for contempt hearings,
they may not have the cash on them to pay what they owe. This
may be a help in that regard.'' Although already in use statewide in the Court of Common Pleas,
the use of credit cards in Superior Court is new.
Currently, only Kent County offers the service.
"Commissioner Andrea Maybee was the one that came up with the
idea,'' Ms. Spence-Russ says. Most contempt hearings focus on
individuals who have completed criminal probation, but still
have outstanding fines, fees or restitution due as part of their
original sentences. Costs and fines usually run in the hundreds
of dollars. Add restitution and the bill can climb into the
thousands. Failure to pay court-ordered fines and other charges
can result in jail time. But the new court credit service doesn't
end there. "Current probationers can also use a card to make scheduled
payments,'' Ms. Spence-Russ says. "Any defendant who is sentenced
for a criminal matter can use a card to pay costs, fines or
restitution associated with their case. It can also be used
for any civil case filings, such as new cases, additional docket
fees, trial fees and other costs.'' Exceptions, she says, are
bail bonds and arbitration fees, which have separate accounts. The office accepts MasterCard, Visa, American Express and the
Discover card. Ms. Spence-Russ says all transaction fees for the use of credit
cards in Superior Court are paid by the state. There
are no additional charges. There is a $10 charge minimum, and
all transactions must be conducted in person.
With permission of newszap.com.
Pat Koly, "A Trial" Delaware Today, November 1999.
Gone are the wood-paneled
walls and antiquated slide projectors and tape players of today's
courtroom. The courtroom of the future will feature the most
advanced technology to increase understanding of evidence and
Future trends in the form of virtual-reality
cases and in-your-face holographic evidence will require advanced
technology so that everyone in the trial can see and hear evidence
clearly. The e-Courtroom--e for electronic--is already
in use at Superior Court's 1 Rodney Square, around the
corner from the Daniel L. Herrmann Courthouse in Wilmington. It
now serves as the model for courtrooms in the Delaware's new New
Castle County Courthouse, scheduled to open in 2002 at Fourth
and King Streets.
The e-Courtroom shifts the focus of
attention from the judge and witness to the evidence. All participants
in the trial will be able to hear or view evidence simultaneously. Witness and evidence stands take center
stage, facing the jury. A large screen behind the witness stand
displays graphic evidence, and witnesses or lawyers can draw or
write on the image electronically. A central computer controls all computer
and audiovisual systems. The bench is designed to give judges
access to controls as needed. Computers give instant access to
court calendars and dockets and allow counsel to review jurors'
biographical information and photographs. Evidence and testimony
can be stored electronically, and databases keep track of exhibits--which
party offered them, which witness testified about them and whether
there were objections raised. Sidebars will occur behind a screen
with pink noise (similar to white noise, but louder and more intent
on obstruction of noises within close range) broadcast toward
the jury. There are provisions for the visual and hearing impaired.
The room is modular so it can be rearranged easily, and it's built
on a 2-inch platform so cables and wires can run under the floor
and be out of the way. The hope is that the e-Courtroom will
serve as a model of efficiency for courts across the country.
Until then, it will serve as a testing ground for technologies
and designs before final plans are made for the new 55-courtroom New
Castle County Courthouse.