President Judge Ridgely
Fiscal Year 2003
Welcome to the Superior Court of Delaware!
The nation's top corporate counsel and senior litigators for the second
time in as many years recognized the Superior Court of Delaware as
the premier court of general jurisdiction in the country.
The Harris Poll State
Liability Systems Ranking Study
conducted for the United States
Chamber Institute for Legal Reform measured corporate America's perception
of which state is doing the best job of creating a fair and reasonable
Among the areas surveyed were overall treatment of tort and contract
litigation, treatment of class action suits, punitive damages, timeliness
of summary judgment/dismissal, discovery, scientific and technical
evidence, judges' impartiality, judges' competence, juries' predictability
The study's respondents, corporate general counsels and senior attorneys
at companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million, graded
all 50 states in each of the categories.
Delaware was ranked number one overall.
During Fiscal Year 2003, the court concentrated on the expansion of
its electronic service delivery, browser-based report distribution
and conversion of paper-based communications to electronic communications.
The court continued to build upon the foundation of its content-rich
Web site. A new Web site was unveiled with new graphic design and
dynamic navigation. Other improvements to the Courts' Web site included
the addition of over 150 new pages of ADR-related material, an advanced
search capability, expansion of our legal
research links, and the addition of a Reentry
section. The Jury Services and County pages were enhanced, supplemented and streamlined for user
ease. To enhance the Courts' expansion of eFiling
information was added, with direct login capability for users. A Listserv
information service was begun that already serves over 700 members.
It provides instant notification of orders, court opinions, rule changes
and other information.
In other efforts to maximize the use of available technology, the
Court implemented a criminal imaging
system in Kent County, with expansion to Sussex and New Castle
Counties slated for the winter of 2004-05. The Court will shortly
install state-of-the-art presentation technology systems in three
more of its trial courtrooms. The Superior Court also obtained a grant
from the State Justice Institute to fund the development and implementation of criminal eFiling in
Kent and Sussex Counties in partnership with LexisNexis. The court
implemented Real-Time court reporting in all three counties for all
civil and criminal trials, as well as other designated court proceedings.
The renovation and expansion of the Sussex County Courthouse was completed
which resulted in the long-needed expansion of the Prothonotary's
Office. In New Castle County, the Court faced the challenges presented
by the move into the recently occupied New Castle County Courthouse,
with the expansion of the number of courtrooms from 10 to 16, at a
time when hiring freezes and personnel shortages became commonplace.
In New Castle County, improvements in the scheduling of suppression
hearings and trials in criminal cases, in tandem with the ongoing
grant-funded Criminal Case Management project and the diligent work
of the Bench, have produced measurable results.
Despite the chronic shortage of Prothonotary and other court staff,
because of budget constraints and hiring freezes, services to the
public did not falter. Further, the rate of disposition of non-first
degree murder criminal cases within 120 days of indictment increased
from 49.8% at the beginning of the fiscal year to 63.6% at the end
of the fiscal year, with the rate of disposition within one year increasing
from 91.8% to 96%. The number of non-first-degree murder cases pending
over 120 days saw a dramatic decrease, as well, by over 56%. There
were 183 criminal trials conducted, compared to 169 the previous year.
Further, trials resumed in first-degree murder cases as part of the
concerted effort to bring them to disposition expeditiously. In the
civil division, eFiling efforts were expanded enabling the uploading
and scanning of documents in asbestos and coverage cases.
Superior Court and the Delaware Bar Associations jointly presented
statewide training sessions on the court's amended Alternative Dispute
Resolution Civil Rule 16.1. A Superior Court Judge, Commissioners
and staff served on the panels. In addition, the ADR
Manual was updated and published online. The online edition is
available on the Courts' Web site and includes ADR practitioner listings,
complete with interactive e-mail links. Finally, uniform, statewide ADR forms were
designed and implemented, replacing different forms used in each county.
Superior Court saw other changes as well, with the February retirement
of Judge Carl Goldstein and the investiture that same month of Judge
Finally, Superior Court continued its dedication to its vision,
mission and core values through the collaborative efforts of its
judges and staff from across Delaware. The vision of Superior Court
is to be the best Superior Court in the nation by providing superior
service to the public in pursuit of justice. The court has agreed
that the core values as an organization are UNITED, which stands for
unity, neutrality, integrity, timeliness, equality and dedication.
The court is committed to building on the quality of justice and public
service for which the Superior Court of Delaware is well known both
in Delaware and throughout the nation.