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Politics & Government

U.S. Supreme Court takes up Delaware's judicial balance requirement

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Delaware Public Media
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U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case involving Delaware’s judicial balance requirement. 

The Court announced Friday it accepted Gov. John Carney’s petition to review the federal appeals court decision affirming a lower court ruling that the requirement is unconstitutional. 

Delaware’s constitution requires the state Supreme Court, Chancery Court and Superior Court be split almost evenly between the two major political parties. 

In a statement, Carney says he’s pleased the nation’s highest court will consider the case.

 

“Delaware’s judiciary has a longstanding reputation as objective, stable, and nonpartisan," said Carney in his statement. "That is largely thanks to the wisdom of those who wrote the Delaware Constitution. They understood the importance of keeping partisan politics out of Delaware’s courts, which are widely respected nationwide for their excellence and garner tremendous respect from our citizens and members of our bar. I believe it’s more important than ever to protect Delaware’s appointment process from the partisan infighting that has come to characterize the federal appointment process."

The case challenging the requirement was brought by James Adams.  Adams is an independent who argues the political balance requirement effectively limits service on state courts to Democrats and Republicans, and hurts his chances of becoming a judge.

Governor Carney’s office countered that judges are policymakers and therefore can be appointed by political party. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reasoned last February that judges are not policymakers.

The state’s five most recent governors and two former Delaware chief justices backed the effort to appeal the ruling.

Their amicus briefs supported the state’s argument that Delaware has a sovereign right to establish qualification for judgeships. They also agree   the decision threatens the state’s independent judiciary.

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