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Politics & Government

Judge rules state's judicial political affilation requirements unconstitutional

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Delaware Public Media
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A federal judge has invalidated Delaware’s political party requirements for state judges. The decision impacts a part of the state’s Constitution that’s been in effect for more than 100 years.

Delaware’s Constitution requires judgeships to be split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans. But a court has ruled limiting applicants to government positions because of their political affiliation violates the First Amendment.

Lawyer James Adams, who is not affiliated with either major political party, sued the state over that provision.

Adams’ attorney David Finger said political beliefs shouldn’t bar a judicial candidate from office.

“Your political party should not be relevant to your qualifications as a judge," he said. "And we hope that this will create a larger pool of people available and eligible whenever a position opens up.”

Attorneys for the state argued maintaining political balance in the state judicial system prevents one party from having too much power. Finger said he doesn’t believes the judge’s ruling will lead to an imbalance of political power.

“Part of Delaware’s success as a state is the attractiveness of our courts to corporations and other people as a fair place to litigate," he said. "So, we already have an institutional pressure to maintain high quality.”

The governor’s office said it’s looking at the decision. The state has the option to appeal to a higher court.

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