Welcome to the Superior Court of Delaware!
For a third straight year, Superior Court of Delaware has been recognized as the premier court of general jurisdiction in the country. The Harris Poll State Liability Systems Ranking Study conducted for the United States Chamber Institute for Legal Reform measured corporate America's perception of which state is doing the best job of creating a fair and reasonable environment.
Fiscal Year 2004 was one of passages for Superior Court. First, we mourned the loss of Judge Haile Alford, who passed away on August 11, 2003. Judge Alford was appointed by Governor Michael N. Castle and began her service with the Court on July 17, 1992. Judge Alford was the first African-American female in the history of Delaware to hold this office. She was a fine judge and a warm, compassionate person. Her memory will always remain in our hearts. Later in the year, we welcomed a new judge to the bench. Judge Mary M. Johnston was sworn in on September 25, 2003. In April, our court administrator resigned his position; and in June, Maureen Frederick was appointed to the position.
In this year, there were 9,469 civil and criminal filings, an 9 percent increase (772+ filings) from the end of the FY'03. There was also an increase in non-first degree murder cases moving through the system within allotted time frames. At the beginning of the year, 64 percent of non-first degree murder criminal cases were disposed within 120 days of indictment; by the end of the year, the disposition rate for these cases was 70 percent. The rates for those cases disposed within 180 days and within one year have risen as well. More capital murder cases went to trial this year; there were a total of nine statewide.
Superior Court's newest eFiling endeavor took place on October 6, 2003. As of this date, all new civil actions in which the damages exceed $100,000 were subject to eFiling. Statewide, approximately 625 cases (not including asbestos filings) were subject to eFiling from October 6, 2003 to October, 2004. In another technology initiative, the Court obtained a grant that will provide a technical courtroom for digital evidence presentation in New Castle County. The technical courtrooms in Kent County and Sussex County provide the jurors and attorneys with state-of-the-art technology that helps to reduce to time needed to try cases and to improve jurors' comprehension of the evidence.
An initiative to revise Superior Court Civil Rule 16.1 Alternative Dispute Resolution was begun. The revision committee comprises statewide representatives from the Court, Delaware State Bar's ADR Section, as well as active arbitrators and mediators. There were 3,469 arbitration and mediations filings, an 8 percent increase for this fiscal year; and 3,325 arbitration and mediation dispositions, a 4.7 percent increase.
An entire new version of the Superior Court website, with new graphic design and dynamic navigation, was released this year. Eighteen separate Listservs are now maintained, with over 1,000 members to provide instant notification of orders, court opinions, rule changes and other information. Later in the year, Superior Court's site was subsumed into a comprehensive website for the Judiciary.
The Court continues in its commitment to COTS. The Court's staff has been actively engaged in the COTS initiative during this fiscal year, and will remain so for the duration of the project. Meanwhile, the staff still maintains high standards for their job responsibilities in the offices where they work. All those involved in this effort deserve special recognition for their level of dedication to their Courts and to the COTS effort.
Superior Court's vision holds in being the best Superior Court in the nation by providing superior service to the public in pursuit of justice. We are UNITED in our cores values of unity, neutrality, integrity, timeliness, equality and dedication. Finally, Superior Court remains steadfast in building on the quality of justice and public service for which it is known on the home front and throughout the nation.
— President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. —