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HB 213 and HB 214 – Reforming the Family Court Composition

Representative Sean Lynn has introduced two bills, House Bill 213 and House Bill 214 that seek to set into law and the Constitution a geographic balance between the Family Court. These type of laws displease me. It is like enforcing parity between the counties when there shouldn’t be parity if you look at respective populations.

House Bill 214 increases the number of statewide Family Court Commissioners from 5 to 7 with at least 2 of the Commissioners being assigned to Kent County and 2 of the Commissioners being assigned to Sussex County.

This bill also requires all newly appointed Commissioners and reappointed Commissioners, upon application for nomination by the Governor, to reside in the county where they seek to be appointed.

Apparently, the House Administration Committee agrees with me, which is highly unusual. They did not work House Bill 214 in committee yesterday, which is tantamount to tabling the bill for the time being. With the end of the session rapidly approaching, that likely ends the bill’s progress for this year.

But to go back to the math of this bill, briefly. So this bill will have seven (7) commissioners and require 3 be assigned to New Castle County and then 2 each to Kent and Sussex. The population disparity between the counties is far larger than a 3-2-2 split. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2022, there were 1,018,396 residents of the state of Delaware, with over half of that, 575,494, residing in New Castle County. 255,956 reside in Sussex and 186,946 reside in Kent.

So New Castle County has 56.5% of the state population, Sussex has 25.1%, and Kent has 18.4%. Translate those percentages into the number of commissioners that should be assigned to the counties, and New Castle County should have four (4) commissioners, Sussex gets two (2) and Kent gets one (1).

House Bill 214INCREASING THE NUMBER OF FAMILY COURT COMMISSIONERS AND THEIR ASSIGNMENTS TO KENT & SUSSEX COUNTIESCurrrent Status – House Administration 6/8/23
House SponsorsLynnSenate SponsorsParadee
House Yes VotesSenate Yes Votes
House No VotesSenate No Votes
House Absents or Not VotingSenate Absent or Not Voting

House Bill 213 is a constitutional amendment that provides for the Family Court to consist of 19 Judges including the Chief Judge, 10 who must be residents of New Castle County, 4 who must be residents of Kent County and 4 who must be residents of Sussex County at the time they apply for nomination by the Governor. This bill would increase the current Family Court bench by 2 Judges, 1 additional Judge from Kent County and 1 additional Judge from Sussex County.

That judge breakdown is more reflective of the population breakdown of the state, though it is still not quite right. According to the population numbers I included above, New Castle County should get 10.7 judges, so usually I would round up to 11, but 10 is close enough. But Kent and Sussex are not equal. According to the population numbers, Sussex should have 4.8 and Kent 3.5. If we round up, that would be 5 for Sussex and 4 for Kent.

As a constitutional amendment, this bill requires a two thirds majority vote in each chamber and then needs to be passed again in 2025 in the next session of the General Assembly.

House Bill 213CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT RE FAMILY COURT COMPOSITIONCurrrent Status – House Judiciary 6/8/23
House SponsorsLynnSenate SponsorsParadee
House Yes VotesSenate Yes Votes
House No VotesSenate No Votes
House Absents or Not VotingSenate Absent or Not Voting

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

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