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Message From President Judge Ridgely Fiscal Year 2002

Former President Judge Ridgely

Welcome to the Superior Court of Delaware!

During FY2002 the Superior Court was honored to be recognized as the premier court of general jurisdiction in the country in a Harris Poll of the nation's top corporate counsel and senior litigators. The poll was commissioned by the United States Chamber of Commerce. The Superior Court was recognized for "having a litigation environment perceived to be fair and reasonable in its handling of civil cases." The survey focused on eight categories of practice: tort and contract litigation, treatment of class actions, punitive damages, timeliness of summary judgment/dismissal, discovery, scientific and technical evidence, judges' impartiality and competence, and juries' predictability and fairness. In all eight categories the Superior Court rated first in the nation.

The Superior Court's website has been updated and continues to provide a comprehensive guide for the legal community as well as the public. The information provided includes daily calendars, the history of the court, information on e-litigation, Drug Court, juror orientation, case management and jury management plans, job postings, rules, forms, a self-help center and victim information. A concerted effort is made to keep the website current and accessible.

The Criminal Case Management Plans for Kent and Sussex Counties were updated this year. In New Castle County, the Criminal Case Management Committee drafted a new Criminal Case Management Plan and looks to implementation in early 2003. In all counties, the Superior Court has experienced an increase in the number of filings and yet has reduced its pending caseload statewide by 7.3%. In New Castle County, the number of cases pending over 120 days from indictment has been reduced by over 40% in the past year. The use of performance measures has kept the Judges and managers of the court abreast of the Court's progress.

The last fiscal year has seen changes in facilities for all three counties. While in New Castle County the Court prepared for the move into the new courthouse, the Kent County Courthouse renovation was completed and in Sussex County a major renovation has begun. In New Castle County, with the move into the new courthouse, it will for the first time be possible for all Judges to be in court at the same time as we will have a sufficient number of courtrooms for each Judge and Commissioner.

The Superior Court has continued its involvement in the improvement of the administration of justice on a national level as well. Judge Richard Gebelein and I have worked on the American Bar Association's Drug Court Standard. This standard was approved by the ABA House of Delegates in August of 2001 and has been endorsed by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Criminal Justice Section of the ABA.

The Superior Court was selected by the United States Department of Justice as one of nine pilot sites in the country to test the concept of reentry courts, which focus on creating accountability systems and support networks for offenders returning to their communities after incarceration. Two approaches to re-entry are being tested by the Superior Court, one targets domestic violence offenders in Sussex County, the other, in New Castle County, targets the general population of returning offenders.

The Superior Court faced personnel and resource challenges during FY2002, with both budget cuts and a hiring freeze. Added to this was the needs presented by the move into the New Castle County Courthouse. With additional courtrooms, offices spread out over a larger area, the need for additional staff has become acute. Despite the constraints experienced, the employees of the Superior Court continue to be UNITED, reflecting our core values of Unity, Neutrality, Integrity, Timeliness, Equality and Dedication. Service to the public in pursuit of justice continues at the high level expected of the Superior Court of Delaware.

President Judge Ridgely