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Delaware Docket Newsletter
Spring 2012


The Justice of the Peace Court took a first step towards its goal of establishing a community court on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, when Chief Magistrate Alan G. Davis, Deputy Chief Magistrate Bonita N. Lee, and several representatives from the Justice of the Peace Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) participated in a meeting with Mayor James M. Baker, Wilmington Police Department Chief Michael Szczerba, and several community stakeholders to discuss the future court. Working collaboratively with the AOC, the Justice of the Peace Court is seeking to relocate Wilmington's Justice of the Peace Court 20 and transform it into a community court. Meeting participants were enthusiastic about the potential for a community court and its positive impact on the community.

Community courts are neighborhood-focused courts, with the judicial system involved in addressing local problems. The courts can take many forms, but all focus on creative partnerships and problem solving. The key to the success of these courts is the strength of the relationships developed both within the justice system and with community stakeholders such as residents, merchants, and schools. Rather than responding to crime after it has occurred, these groups work together proactively to identify the specific needs of the locality and develop innovative and meaningful approaches to public safety. This country's first community court was the Midtown Community Court, launched in 1993 in New York City. Several dozen community courts, inspired by the Midtown model, are in operation or planning around the country.

To maximize the potential and efficacy of the community court, the Justice of the Peace Court is working closely with the Center for Court Innovation (CCI). CCI was founded in response to the success of the Midtown Community Court and provides consulting services to jurisdictions looking at launching their own community courts. As part of the initial planning and to obtain a first-hand look at an established community court, Justice of the Peace Court members and AOC representatives traveled to the Red Hook Community Justice Center, a model community court in Brooklyn, New York. This allowed the team to view the possibilities offered by a community court and engage in preliminary discussion with CCI about the feasibility of establishing such a court in Delaware.

On April 5, 2012, CCI staff traveled to Delaware for the first of several planned strategic sessions to assist the Justice of the Peace Court in its efforts to develop and implement a community court in the City of Wilmington. During the initial planning session, the participants outlined goals for the project, set objectives, and began to develop an action plan. Planning is in the beginning stages, starting with the Justice of the Peace Court, by identifying and communicating with community partners, in the development of a survey to identify the areas of greatest concern to the community.