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HB 135 – Residency Requirements for the Delaware Supreme Court

I don’t like this bill at all. House Bill 135 would require that of the five Justices appointed to the Supreme Court, at least one is a resident of Kent County, at least one is a resident of Sussex County and at least two are residents of New Castle County. Does the U.S. Supreme Court require that one justice be from California, and one from Alabama? No. And don’t give the Republican House any ideas.

Regardless of what I think, the House passed the bill unanimously.

The court’s justices are nominated by the governor and then confirmed by the state Senate, appointed to 12-year terms. Currently, the law requires that three of the justices represent one of the majority parties, with the other two justices representing the other majority political party, which is also a really stupid idea. If Republicans want Republicans on the Supreme Court, they can modify their policy positions so that they can actually win state wide elections in this state.

Thankfully, that unelectable minority party protection racket has come under legal fire in recent years, as the state faced legal challenges from lawyer James Adams who argued that limiting applications to government positions based on political (or lack thereof) affiliation violates the First Amendment. The litigation lasted nearly six years involving two cases and an appeal to the US Supreme Court. This January, Governor Carney made the announcement that there was no longer interest in defending a system that only allowed Democrats or Republicans to serve as judges because of a rule guaranteeing party balance. So now I guess we have to protect the sensitive interests of Sussex County in some other way.

Prior to the establishment of state’s modern-day Supreme Court in 1951, Delaware’s highest court consisted of 25 men. Of the 25 serving, 15 came from New Castle County, five from Kent County and five from Sussex County.

It now moves to the senate for consideration.

House Bill 135  – County Residency Requirements for Supreme Court Justices Currrent Status – Passed House 37-0-4. Now in Senate Executive 4/27/23
House SponsorsLynn, Bush, Carson, Harris, Cooke, Moore, Neal, // Morris, Shupe, Spieglman, Briggs King, Dukes, Gray, Postles, Ramone, Short, VanderwendeSenate SponsorsParadee, Hoffner, Hansen // Buckson, Lawson, Wilson, Pettyjohn, Hocker
House Yes VotesBaumbach Bolden Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Harris Johnson Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Moore Morrison Neal Osienski Parker-Selby Phillips Schwartzkopf Williams Wilson-Anton // Briggs King Collins Dukes Gray Hilovsky Morris Postles Ramone Short Shupe Smith Spiegelman Vanderwende YearickSenate Yes Votes
House No VotesHeffernan Hensley Minor-Brown RomerSenate No Votes
House Absents or Not VotingSenate Absent or Not Voting

“Historically and traditionally, Supreme Court appointees have been brought forth in a manner that has represented geographical balance. And while there is something to be said about upholding and honoring traditions, sometimes it isn’t always practical or possible. This bill turns that tradition into a mandate, and solidifies fair representation for our highest court,” said Rep. Sean Lynn, the bill’s main sponsor.

“HB 135 provides a pathway for continued fairness within our highest court. It ensures we won’t face a future with a Supreme Court comprised of five justices who are all residents of a singular county.”

“As the highest court in our state, the Delaware Supreme Court should be representative of the people from whom it draws its authority. At a minimum that should include representatives from all three counties, not unlike other courts, our Legislature, and many of our boards and commissions, including the State Board of Education and the Delaware Board of Elections,” said Sen. Trey Paradee, the Senate prime sponsor of HB 135.

“Delaware is a small but diverse state, and the way of life in Claymont is different from the way of life in Camden. Just as it is impossible to imagine a world in which my colleagues from New Castle County would tolerate a Supreme Court made up entirely of justices from Kent and Sussex counties, the people I represent here in Dover should not be asked to accept a Supreme Court made up entirely of residents from outside the borders of Kent County.”

“While historically political affiliation determined representation, which we now know is not enforceable, this bill will provide our highest court a residency requirement to better balance the judicial system here in Delaware,” Rep. Lynn added.

“This bill will continue to provide equal representation for those in the two lower counties,” said Rep. Bill Carson.

“Judicial equality is vital to all Delawareans,” said Rep. Bill Bush. “HB 135 provides the path to preserving proper representation from those who serve as jurists.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

2 comments on “HB 135 – Residency Requirements for the Delaware Supreme Court

  1. cassandram

    This seems tone deaf. As we are living through the Supreme Court completely squandering it’s public authority, it seems to me that “fair” is about highly qualified judges who won’t damage the authority or reputation of the court. Geography should be a very minor consideration.

  2. Hear, hear! At a time when media is trying to push stuff as 50-50, in an effort to maintain what they view as “neutrality”, which in reality is just a way to try to avoid Republican outrage and criticism, it’s absurd that the Delaware Democratic party would turn around and try to implement some sort of electoral college BS on the Supreme Court as a way placating Republicans and giving them seats on the court as Rep. Lynn seems to be implying when he said “While historically political affiliation determined representation, which we now know is not enforceable, this bill will provide our highest court a residency requirement to better balance the judicial system here in Delaware,”, which might set up lawsuit since this looks to be a way to try to skirt around what was struck down. If the sponsors of this bill feel like a “conservative perspective would be missing” the question they should be asking is not how we force it upon the voters and propose anti-democratic measures, but ask how the conservative ideology has become so extreme and unappealing that the people of this state haven’t elected a Republican governor since 1988 and haven’t had a Republican controlled state senate since 1974?!?

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