Articles Posted in Delaware Supreme Court

by
RB Entertainment is one of a complicated web of at least seventeen different companies that Appellant Jeffrey Cohen allegedly owns and controls. Central to this appeal was one issue: whether the delinquency proceedings for Indemnity Insurance Corporation, RRG violated the constitutional due process rights of Cohen or Co-Appellant RB Entertainment Ventures. Co-Appellant IDG Companies, LLC (Indemnity's managing general agent), was also one of the Cohen-affiliated entities. After uncovering evidence that Cohen had committed fraud in his capacity as Indemnity's CEO and that Indemnity might be insolvent, the Delaware Insurance Commissioner petitioned the Court of Chancery for a seizure order. The Delaware Uniform Insurers Liquidation Act. Based on the detailed allegations and supporting evidence presented by the Commissioner, the Court of Chancery granted that seizure order, which, among other things, prohibited anyone with notice of the proceedings from transacting the business of Indemnity, selling or destroying Indemnity’s assets, or asserting claims against Indemnity in other venues without permission from the Commissioner. The seizure order also prohibited anyone with notice of the proceedings from interfering with the Commissioner in the discharge of her duties. Cohen, who founded Indemnity and had served as its President, Chairman, and CEO, resigned from Indemnity's board during the ensuing investigation and the board removed him from his managerial positions. After his resignation, Cohen interfered with the Commissioner's efforts to operate Indemnity in various ways. The Commissioner returned to the Court of Chancery several times, first seeking an amendment to the seizure order to address Cohen's behavior and then seeking sanctions against him. The Court of Chancery entered a series of orders that increased the restrictions on Cohen's behavior and imposed stiffer sanctions upon him. Cohen argued that he was denied due process at several junctures during the Court of Chancery proceedings. Because Cohen's claims alleged violations of his right to due process, the focus of the Supreme Court's opinion was on whether Cohen was given notice of the allegations against him and a fair opportunity to present his side of the dispute. Having carefully examined the record in this case, the Court concluded that he was given that opportunity: no violation of Cohen's or the affiliated entities' due process rights occurred. View "Cohen, et al. v. State of Delaware, et al." on Justia Law

by
Barley Mill, LLC appealed a Court of Chancery judgment invalidating a vote of the New Castle County Council on a rezoning ordinance. Barley Mill planned to develop a piece of property to house office space and a regional shopping mall. The increase in traffic associated with the development was of considerable concern to both the public and members of the Council itself. But the Council was advised that: (1) it could not obtain the traffic information and analysis that Barley Mill was required to provide to the Delaware Department of Transportation as part of the overall rezoning process before the Council exercised its discretionary authority to vote on the rezoning ordinance; and (2) that the traffic information was not legally relevant to the Council's analysis. That advice was incorrect and there were no legal barriers that prevented the Council from obtaining the information or considering it before casting its discretionary vote on the rezoning ordinance. After the rezoning ordinance was approved, nearby resident homeowners and Save Our County, Inc. challenged the zoning ordinance, arguing that not only was the Council allowed to consider the traffic information, but the New Castle County Unified Development Code required it to consider that information before its vote. They also argued that, even if the Council was not required to consider the information before the vote, the vote on the rezoning ordinance was arbitrary and capricious because the Council had received erroneous legal advice that the information was both unavailable and irrelevant at the time the Council cast its vote. The Court of Chancery held that the mistake of law caused the Council to vote without first obtaining the information, rendering the vote arbitrary and capricious. On appeal, Barley Mill argued that the Court of Chancery erred when it invalidated the Council's vote. Save Our County and New Castle County cross-appealed, arguing that the Court of Chancery erred in holding that neither 9 Del C. Sec. 2662 nor the UDC required the Council to consider a traffic analysis before casting its discretionary vote on the rezoning ordinance. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery's decision. View "Barley Mill, LLC v. Save Our County, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Two certified questions came before the Delaware Supreme Court in this case. The questions centered on whether lease provisions for apartments of a public housing authority that restrict when residents, their household members, and guests may carry and possess firearms in the common areas violate the right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by Article I, Section 20 of the Delaware Constitution. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found no violation of the Second Amendment or the Delaware Constitution. The certified questions were: (1) whether, under the Delaware Constitution, a public housing agency such as the WHA could adopt a firearms policy; and (2) whether under the Delaware Constitution, a public housing agency could require its residents, household members, and guests to have available for inspection a copy of any permit, license, or other documentation required by state, local, or federal law for the ownership, possession, or transportation of any firearm or other weapon, including a license to carry a concealed weapon. The Delaware court answered both questions in the negative. View "Doe, et al. v. Wilmington Housing Authority, et al." on Justia Law

by
Sheriff of Sussex County plaintiff-appellant Jeffrey Christopher sought a declaratory judgment regarding the powers of the sheriff in Delaware, particularly the Sheriff in Sussex County. He also sought a determination that recently enacted House Bill 325 ("HB 325") was unconstitutional. The nature of the Sheriff's complaint centered on whether he had arrest powers in criminal cases as a core or fundamental tool to perform his constitutional designation as a "conservator of the peace." The Superior Court issued a Memorandum Opinion granting Summary Judgment to Sussex County and the State, holding "that the common law authority and responsibilities of the Sheriff are subject to modification and restriction" by statutory enactments of the General Assembly, therefore HB 325 was constitutional. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Sheriff argued that the phrase "sheriff shall be the conservator of the peace" contains a constitutional right under the Delaware Constitution, and that arrest power is a core tool of the "conservator of the peace" as it applies to the sheriff because a peace officer cannot "[conserve] the peace" without the ability to arrest. By stripping him of arrest powers, the General Assembly violated the Delaware Constitution because it took away a tool indispensable to his constitutional obligation to act as a "conservator of the peace." The Supreme Court held that the General Assembly may not abrogate a constitutional office or take away the core duties of a constitutional officer without enacting an amendment pursuant to the Delaware Constitution. However, the Court also held that because the common law arrest power of a sheriff was not fundamental, but was merely incidental, to his role as a "conservator of the peace" when the 1776, 1792, 1831, and 1897 Delaware Constitutions were adopted, the arrest power can be modified or even eliminated by statute. Therefore, the Superior Court's judgment was affirmed on that basis. View "Christopher v. Sussex County, et al." on Justia Law

by
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case was whether the State of Delaware could be held liable for tortious conduct by an on-duty Delaware State Police Officer. The officer was supposed to take a woman accused of shop-lifting to court. Instead, the officer allegedly coerced her to engage in oral sex in the front seat of the police car. The trial court granted summary judgment to the State based on its conclusion that no reasonable jury could find that the officer was acting within the scope of his employment. The trial court focused only on the officer's tortious conduct, which was not within his job description. But the nature of the tortious conduct was not dispositive. There were other factors used to determine whether one is acting within the scope of employment, and the jury must make that decision. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Doe v. Delaware" on Justia Law

by
Appellant John Nichols appealed a final Superior Court judgment affirming the order of the State Coastal Zone Industrial Board granting motions to dismiss filed by appellees Diamond State Generation Partners LLC and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control in response to Nichols' appeal of the grant of a Coastal Zone industrial permit application. Nichols raised two claims on appeal: (1) the Board's vote on whether Nichols had standing to pursue the appeal failed due to the lack of a five-vote majority; and (2) that he possessed standing under the "any person aggrieved" standard of title 7, section 7007(b) of the Delaware Code, or, in the alternative, as a matter of common law. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded both of Nichols' arguments lacked merit and therefore affirmed the Superior Court. View "Nichols v. State Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board, et al." on Justia Law

by
Employee-appellant, Gary Andreason appealed a Superior Court judgment affirming two Industrial Accident Board decisions. The first decision awarded compensation to Andreason for his work-related knee and right shoulder injuries, but denied compensation for a separate and unrelated lower back injury. The second decision denied Andreason's reargument motion challenging the Board's denial of compensation for his lower back injury. Andreason argued on appeal to the Supreme Court: (1) the Board erred as a matter of law when it determined that there was no implied agreement to compensate him for his lower back injury; (2) that title 19, section 2322(h) does not apply when compensation is paid as the result of a unilateral mistake. The Court concluded all of Andreason's arguments were without merit. View "Andreason v. Royal Pest Control" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that a trial court judge erred in finding that a state agency complied with the state's Real Property Acquisition Act before it moved to condemn petitioners' property. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was reversed, the orders vacated and the case remanded with instructions to dismiss the condemnation action without prejudice. View "Lawson v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

by
After meeting with a high-school guidance counselor, a teenaged student said he was feeling alone and unloved, and had attempted suicide. The Counselor talked with the student for four hours; at the end of the discussion, the counselor felt the student no longer posed a threat to himself and sent him back to class. The school did not notify the student's parents of his statements or acts. After the student went home that day, he killed himself. The student's family sued the school district for wrongful death. The district court granted the district summary judgment, finding no duty to the student, and no wrongful act under the wrongful death statute. Plaintiffs appealed, asserting a common law duty based on the special relationship between a school and its students. The Supreme Court found no merit to plaintiffs' appeal except for a negligence per se claim. The alleged violations of the State Department of Education’s and the School District’s mandatory requirements to notify a parent or guardian of the student’s crisis situation state, in the Court's view, a claim of negligence per se. Accordingly, the judgment of the Superior Court was reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Rogers, et al. v. The Christina School District, et al." on Justia Law

by
In 2011, the Board of Cosmetology and Barbering suspended Petitioner Randall Richardson's license due to his leasing work space to his wife who Petitioner knew did not have a valid license. A Hearing Officer recommended a fine and a 90-day suspension of Petitioner's license. The Board voted to adopt the Hearing Officer’s recommendations. The Superior Court affirmed the Board’s decision. On appeal, Petitioner argued: (1) the Board failed to create a complete record for the Supreme Court to review on appeal; (2) the Board failed to properly appoint the Hearing Officer to his case; (3) the Board failed to consider exceptions to the Hearing Officer’s recommendation; (4) the Board erred in suspending Petitioner's license because he only violated the requirements of his Shop License; and (5) the Hearing Officer lacked statutory authority to conduct hearings involving potential license suspensions. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Hearing Officer had the authority to act and that the Board had the authority to suspend Petitioner's License. However, the Court agreed that the Board created an insufficient record for appellate review. Accordingly, the Superior Court's judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Richardson v. Board of Cosmetology & Barbering" on Justia Law