Delaware: legislators introduce resolution to ask state supreme court whether the public school system is constitutional

I’ve mentioned the highly contentious issue of school funding and its impact on efforts to limit state court systems such as stripping the courts of jurisdiction to hear K-12 funding lawsuits. Now members of the Delaware legislature want that state’s supreme court to weigh in via an advisory opinion.

Delaware state law (10 Del. C. 141) allows for the Governor or a majority of the legislature to request an advisory opinion from the supreme court. In this instance, the request to the state’s supreme court comes after a recent Chancery Court decision in Young v. Red Clay Consol. Sch. Dist. determined that a local school district broke election rules when it passed a voter referendum to raise taxes to pay for schools. In that opinion, the court noted that the case “stems from the dysfunction in Delaware’s system for funding public schools” (media coverage here).

SCR 38 asks the supreme court two questions:

  1. What does “efficient system of free public schools” mean for purposes of the General Assembly’s obligations under ยง 1, Article X of the Delaware Constitution?
  2. Does Delaware’s public school system, given the features set forth in the above Whereas clauses, meet the definition of an “efficient system”?

Delaware: final approval on constitutional amendment to give governor & senate more time to consider judicial nominees, allow for prospective appointment

A constitutional amendment discussed here and here to give Delaware’s governor and senate more time to consider judicial nominations cleared its final hurdle. With 39-0 House approval, the constitutional amendment will now go into effect (Delaware doesn’t require voter approval of constitutional amendments).

Currently, the constitution provides the governor makes nominations and the Senate confirms for the state’s top courts (all but Alderman’s). Since 1977 every governor has used an advisory Judicial Nominating Commission. The governor and senate, however, are on a timetable:

  • The governor must submit a name to the Senate within 60 days after the occurrence of a vacancy.
  • The Senate, if in session, takes up the name. If not in session, the Governor must within 60 days convene the Senate to take up the nomination.
  • If an incumbent judge remains in office, they can holdover up to 60 days after the expiration of their term.

SB 25 of 2017 would effectively extend these deadlines and allow for prospective appointments if a vacancy is set to occur; the current constitution is silent on the matter.

  • The governor could submit a name to the Senate “from 30 days before to 90 days after” the vacancy happens.
  • The Senate could also be called back into session “from 30 days before to 90 days after” the vacancy happens.
  • Incumbent judges could holdover in office up to 90 days.

The constitutional amendment (then called SB 275 of 2016) was approved unanimously by both chambers last year.

Delaware: Senate approves 17-0 constitutional amendment to give governor & senate more time to consider judicial nominees, allow for prospective appointment

A constitutional amendment discussed here to give Delaware’s governor and senate more time to consider judicial nominations cleared the Senate last week. With House approval, the constitutional amendment would go into effect (Delaware doesn’t require voter approval of constitutional amendments).

Currently, the constitution provides the governor makes nominations and the Senate confirms for the state’s top courts (all but Alderman’s). Since 1977 every governor has used an advisory Judicial Nominating Commission. The governor and senate, however, are on a timetable:

  • The governor must submit a name to the Senate within 60 days after the occurrence of a vacancy.
  • The Senate, if in session, takes up the name. If not in session, the Governor must within 60 days convene the Senate to take up the nomination.
  • If an incumbent judge remains in office, they can holdover up to 60 days after the expiration of their term.

SB 25 of 2017 would effectively extend these deadlines and allow for prospective appointments if a vacancy is set to occur; the current constitution is silent on the matter.

  • The governor could submit a name to the Senate “from 30 days before to 90 days after” the vacancy happens.
  • The Senate could also be called back into session “from 30 days before to 90 days after” the vacancy happens.
  • Incumbent judges could holdover in office up to 90 days.

The constitutional amendment (then called SB 275 of 2016) was approved unanimously by both chambers last year.

Delaware: Constitutional amendment would give governor & senate more time to consider judicial nominees, allow for prospective appointment

A constitutional amendment to give Delaware’s governor and senate more time to consider judicial nominations has been filed for the second leg in its adoption process.

Currently, the constitution provides the governor makes nominations and the Senate confirms for the state’s top courts (all but Alderman’s). Since 1977 every governor has used an advisory Judicial Nominating Commission. The governor and senate, however, are on a timetable:

  • The governor must submit a name to the Senate within 60 days after the occurrence of a vacancy.
  • The Senate, if in session, takes up the name. If not in session, the Governor must within 60 days convene the Senate to take up the nomination.
  • If an incumbent judge remains in office, they can holdover up to 60 days after the expiration of their term.

SB 25 of 2017 would effectively extend these deadlines and allow for prospective appointments if a vacancy is set to occur; the current constitution is silent on the matter.

  • The governor could submit a name to the Senate “from 30 days before to 90 days after” the vacancy happens.
  • The Senate could also be called back into session “from 30 days before to 90 days after” the vacancy happens.
  • Incumbent judges could holdover in office up to 90 days.

The constitutional amendment (then called SB 275 of 2016) was approved unanimously by both chambers last year. Under the state’s constitution, the legislature must approve it a second time after an election (2017/2018 session) and it does NOT have to go to voters for approval.

 

Delaware: citing economic conditions, House unanimously rejects Compensation Commission’s report to increase judicial salaries

The Delaware House has unanimously rejected a recommended salary increase for judges in the state. Delaware is one of 8 states that have a compensation commission whose recommendations for judicial salaries are binding unless specifically overridden by the legislature, something that occurred in 1993 and 2013.

The 2017 Compensation Commission report had recommended phasing in salary increases over the next several fiscal years for judges. Under state law the legislature has 30 days from the start of its session to reject the report otherwise the increases would “take effect and have the force and effect of law as of July 1 following submission.”

SJR 2, which rejects the report, expressed support for the “the national and international reputation for excellence that our judiciary has earned” but noted the legislature “must also recognize the current state and national economic conditions” in rejecting the increases.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Delaware Legislative Year in Review: constitutional amendments address supreme court jurisdiction, state judicial disciplinary body

Constitutional Amendments Approved

HB 48 (Constitutional Amendment) Adds “the highest appellate court of any foreign country, or any foreign governmental agency regulating the public issuance or trading of securities” to the list of entities that may certify questions of law to the Delaware Supreme Court. (Second adoption, first adoption was in 2013/2014 session).

HB 112 (Constitutional Amendment) Adds Chief Magistrate of the Justice of the Peace Court to state’s judicial disciplinary body. (First adoption, must receive second adoption in 2017/2018 session).

Delaware: Legislature gives first-round approval to constitutional amendment adding member to judicial disciplinary body

Delaware’s legislature last month gave its approval to a plan to expand the state’s judicial disciplinary board (Court of the Judiciary). Since its creation in 1969 the Court on the Judiciary has been made up of all five members of the Supreme Court plus the heads of four the state’s main trial courts (Chancellor for the Chancery Court, President Judge of the Superior Court, Chief Judge of the Family Court, and Chief Judge of the Court of Common Pleas). Under HB 112 as unanimously approved by the House and Senate the Chief Magistrate of the Justice of the Peace Court would be added to the Court of the Judiciary.

HB 112 must be re-introduced and re-approved by the 2016/2017 legislature before becoming part of the Delaware Constitution (there is no voter approval required).