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In the News, 2005—1999
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 their crime.

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 judge.

Portrait Unveiling and Courtroom Naming Ceremony for Judge Haile L. Alford Held.

The Superior 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.

Delaware Superior 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 ceremony.

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. Gebelein—experienced, 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 Europe—where 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 politics—and 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 regretted—he 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 in 1984.

After less than a year on the bench, he created a stir when he handed down what he now calls perhaps his most unusual sentence—he 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 personality—on 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 addicts—treatment 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 system—both in the number of lawyers and in the volume of cases—has 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 system there.

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

After Superior Court Judge 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 old."

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," he said.

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.

In 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 judicial system.

"Vaughn Becomes President Judge," 12 October 2004
delawareonline.com/newsjournal

On 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

State senators Tuesday easily approved Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's judicial nominations.
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

The state 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 Journal eReport.

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 deposition.

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 practitioner.

"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 "

Esteban Parra, "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, well-resolved decisions."

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," Steele said.

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 1988.

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 Middletown.

Delaware’s 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 Delaware’s 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 Delaware’s 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 counties.”

“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 Reform’s 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 legal reform.

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 local levels.

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 technology."
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.

For the 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.

Delaware Ranked Top For Legal Climate For Business, 9 April 2003.

A survey 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. Delaware’s 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 Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform and Harris Interactive found an overwhelming majority of those polled (82 percent) said a state’s 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, France. 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 2003, newszap.com.

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 2002, newszap.com.

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, they argued.
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 still ongoing."
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 budgets.

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 2002, newszap.com.

"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.

The perception 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

"Annual 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 services.

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 Group

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs,"Delaware Reentry Court, New Castle and Sussex Counties."

Delaware's reentry 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 reoffend.

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.

Delaware Superior 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 2000, newszap.com.

Delaware's Superior 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 improve efficiency.

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.

 

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