Delaware Court of Common Pleas

The Court of Common Pleas has postponed the move of its E-Filing services.  That Court’s E-Filing services are currently available through the eFlex system but  will soon be provided through the File and Serve Delaware system. The transition, which was scheduled to take place on March 1, 2017, will now take place on April 2, 2017. More information on training and access to the system can be found here.

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Leslie Spoltore is an attorney with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

The Court of Common Pleas has announced a change to the Delaware State Court’s E-Filing system. The Court of Common Pleas will be moving its E-Filing services from its current eFlex system to the File and Serve Delaware system on March 1, 2017. The announcement, which contains information on training and support, may found here.

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Leslie Spoltore is an attorney with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

The Delaware Judiciary recently issued its 2015 Annual Report. The Report includes a message from Chief Justice Strine, as well messages from the Chancellor, President or Chief Judge from each Court.  The Report also contains a fiscal overview and a summary of 2015 legislation that impacts the Judiciary.

In addition, the Judiciary published Statistical Information for 2015. The Statistical Information includes,

  • The Average time from filing to disposition of appeals to the Supreme Court;
  • The Average time from submission to disposition of appeals to the Supreme Court; and
  • Caseload breakdown and disposition of matters filed in each Court with comparisons to previous years.

The 2015 Annual Report and Reports from prior years can be found on the Court’s website.

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Leslie Spoltore is an attorney with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

As seasoned litigators know, it is critical for your witnesses to perform well in court.  Sometimes, it can make the difference between winning and losing a case.  In the case of Fernandito Rivera v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. (Civil Action No. CPU4-14-003168) — a case recently tried in the Delaware Court of Common Pleas — the plaintiff lost the case for a variety of reasons, but the court made it clear that the plaintiff’s trial testimony was “less than compelling.”  This certainly contributed to the plaintiff’s defeat.

In Rivera v. State Farm, the plaintiff, Mr. Rivera, sued his insurance carrier for breach of contract, alleging that State Farm breached the parties’ insurance agreement by failing to pay for his medical expenses after he was involved in a car accident.

After trial, the court (Judge John K. Welch) weighed the evidence and found that Mr. Rivera did not meet his burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the medical services he received were necessary and that the bills or charges for those services were reasonable.  In reviewing the medical records and expert reports, the court found that Mr. Rivera’s injuries were pre-existing and thus not compensable under his insurance agreement with State Farm.

Importantly, the court also noted the following:  “Plaintiff, as the only fact witness to provide live testimony, was less than compelling.  Plaintiff was unable to recall what medications he took or when he received medical treatment, and often times, contradicted himself.  Plaintiff was also unable to explain why he waited five weeks after the March 2013 accident before seeking medical treatment and what caused him to seek such treatment.  Additionally, Plaintiff could not provide details of the April 2009 accident, the injuries he sustained and the treatment he received as a result of the accident to the Court’s satisfaction.”  The full opinion is available here.

The comments from the court underscore the importance of making sure that one’s witnesses are prepared to testify at trial.  Unpreparedness can cost you the case.

The Delaware Courts announced that they will be implementing fee increases.  The increases, which become effective on September 1, 2015, are as follows:

Supreme Court— Filing fee ($50 increase: $450 – $500)

Chancery Court — Docketing fee = $.75 increase ($1 – $1.75)

Superior Court — Additional docket fee ($20 increase: $225 – $245)

Superior Court— Civil filing (complaints) fee ($15 increase: $175 – $190)

Superior Court — Writs/Foreign Judgments ($5 increase: $50 – $55)

Family Court — Divorce filing fee ($10 increase: $150 – $160)

Family Court — Ancillary matters filing fee ($10 increase: $75 to $85)

Family Court — Civil filing — custody, guardianship, visitation & minor to marry ($5 increase: $80 – $85)

Family Court — Civil filing — all others fee ($10 increase: $75 – $85)

Family Court — Review of Commissioner’s Order ($10 increase: $100 – $110)

Family Court — Rule 60(b) motions ($10 increase: $75 – $85)

Court of Common Pleas — Criminal jury trial fee ($5 increase: $125 – $130)

Court of Common Pleas — Criminal non-jury trial fee ($2 increase: $50 – $52)

Justice of the Peace Court— Civil debt action filing fee ($5 increase: $30 – $35)

Justice of the Peace Court — Alias summons fee ($5 increase: $15 – $20)

Justice of the Peace Court — Wage attachment fee (execution)($5 increase: $25 – $30)

Justice of the Peace Court — Levy fee (execution)($5 increase: $25 – $30)

Justice of the Peace Court — Subpoena ($5 increase: $5 – $10)

Justice of the Peace Court — Motions ($5 increase: $10 – $15)

Justice of the Peace Court — Garagekeepers liens ($15 increase: $20 – $35)

 

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leslie_SpoltoreLeslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

The Court of Common Pleas adopted and publishes Standards for Attorneys’ Professionalism and Civility in a Courtroom Setting. Though published by one tribunal, in my experience the Standards expressed by the Court of Common Pleas are expected and appreciated in all of Delaware’s courts.

The Standards state:

Preamble

As officers of the Court with responsibilities to the administration of justice, attorneys have an obligation to be professional with clients, opposing parties and their counsel, the courts, and the public. This obligation includes civility, professional integrity, personal dignity, candor, diligence, respect, courtesy, and cooperation, all of which are essential to the fair administration of justice and conflict resolution.

The Judges of the Court of Common Pleas have promulgated the following standards to foster a level of civility and professionalism.  The standards are offered because civility in the practice of law promotes both the effectiveness and the enjoyment of the practice of client representation. The legal profession must strive to uphold the honor and dignity of the profession to elevate and enhance our service to justice. Uncivil or unprofessional conduct not only disserves the individual involved, it demeans the profession as a whole and our system of justice.

Standards

These standards are applicable to all attorneys regardless of practice area, and are intended to complement the Delaware Principles of Professionalism for Delaware Attorneys adopted jointly by the Delaware State Bar Association and the Delaware Supreme Court on November 1, 2003.  All members of the bar are encouraged to comply with both the spirit and letter of the standards.

The Court endorses the concept of Civility set forth in the Delaware Principles of Professionalism for Delaware Attorneys.  That section provides:

Civility. Professional civility is conduct that shows respect not only for the courts and colleagues, but also for all people encountered in practice. Respect requires promptness in meeting appointments, consideration of the schedules and commitments of others, adherence to commitments whether made orally or in writing, promptness in returning telephone calls and responding to communications, and avoidance of verbal intemperance and personal attacks.

A lawyer should not communicate with a Court [ ] concerning pending or prospective litigation without reasonable notice whenever possible to all affected parties.

Respect for the Court requires:

  • careful preparation of matters to be presented;
  • clear, succinct, and candid oral and written communications;
  • acceptance of rulings of the Court, subject to appropriate review;
  • emotional self-control;
  • the absence of scorn and superiority in words or demeanor;
  • observance of local practice and custom as to the manner of addressing the Court;
  • [ ] appropriate dress in all Court proceedings; and
  • a lawyer should represent a client with vigor, dedication and commitment.  Such representation, however, does not justify conduct that unnecessarily delays matters, or is abusive, rude or disrespectful.  A lawyer should recognize that such conduct may be detrimental to a client’s interests and contrary to the administration of justice.

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Special Rules of Courtroom Decorum

  • An attorney should rise before addressing the Court.
  • An attorney should wait until the Judge or Commissioner has finished speaking before speaking.
  • An attorney shall address all remarks to the Court and not to opposing counsel or the opposing party.
  • An attorney should always introduce himself/herself at the time of first interaction with the Court.
  • An attorney should not leave the courtroom or turn his/her back to the Court when a recess is declared until the Judge or Commissioner has left the courtroom.
  • If an attorney expects to be late because of another court commitment, he/she should so inform the affected Judge, Commissioner or court staff as soon as practical.
  • An attorney shall seek the Court’s permission before approaching the bench.
  • As Court staff are an integral part of the justice system, attorneys should treat staff with courtesy and respect at all times.
  • An attorney will be considerate of the time constraints and pressures on the Court and Court staff in their efforts to administer justice.
  • An attorney should always face the bench while addressing the Court.
  • An attorney should begin with “May it please the Court” when making oral arguments, opening statements and closing arguments.
  • An attorney should not eat, chew gum or bring beverages (other than water provided by the Court) in a courtroom and should similarly advise witnesses.
  • An attorney should avoid inappropriate humor and gestures.

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Leslie Spoltore is a Partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP.  Leslie practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office.  You can reach Leslie at (302) 622-4203, or lspoltore@foxrothschild.com.

 

The 2015 Bench and Bar Conference will be held in Wilmington on Friday, May 15 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront (a registration form can be found here).  This Conference is an excellent opportunity for practitioners to interact with colleagues and the Bench in an informal environment.  The view from the Bench portion of the program will include a discussion with members of the Bench from all Delaware Courts addressing best practices, preferences, practical instruction, and pet peeves.  The view from the Bar will report preliminary results of the survey of members of the Bar about how the Courts operate and how the system could be improved (see previous posts on this Survey of the Bar here and here).  The results of this survey will be incorporated into a final report and recommendations to be presented to the Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court later this year.  The Conference will end with a BBQ reception and an opportunity to socialize with members of the Bench and Bar.

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Seth Niederman is a partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP. Seth practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office. You can reach Seth at 302-622-4238, or sniederman@foxrothschild.com.

 

 

The Delaware Judiciary recently issued its 2014 Annual Report. The Report begins with Chief Justice Strine’s first Annual Report message, which makes reference to the Judiciary’s survey of the Bar (see previous post here) as well as  the Delaware Courts’ consideration of work-life balance (see previous post here).  In addition, the Chancellor, President or Chief Judge from each Court provide a more detailed update on the state of their Court along with a summary of Court initiatives and developments from the previous year. The Report also includes a message from the State Court Administrator, fiscal overview and a summary of 2014 legislation that impacts the Judiciary.

Along with the Annual Report, the Judiciary also published Statistical Information for 2014. This is a valuable resource for Delaware practitioners and offers statistics such as,

  • Disposition of appeals to the Supreme Court
  • Average time from filing to disposition of appeals to the Supreme Court
  • Average time from submission to disposition of appeals to the Supreme Court
  • Caseload of each Court
  • Caseload breakdown and disposition of matters filed in each Court with comparisons to previous years

Previous Annual Reports and Statistical Information can be found on the Court’s website.

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Seth Niederman is a partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP. Seth practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office. You can reach Seth at 302-622-4238, or sniederman@foxrothschild.com.

We previously posted on the Delaware Courts’ consideration of work-life balance—see post here. Last week, Supreme Court Chief Justice Strine advised that the Court will be surveying the Bar in an effort to help  set the agenda of the Delaware Courts for the future:

Since becoming Chief Justice last February, I have spoken with a wide variety of persons, including judges and persons outside of the judicial system, to better understand the challenges that are ahead for the Delaware Judiciary. I plan to continue those conversations throughout my tenure on the bench. Through those discussions, I am aware that the direct involvement of the Delaware Bar will be key in helping set the agenda of the Delaware Courts for the future.

As a part of that process, I am reaching out to you to ask for your assistance as we embark on a very exciting project. The Delaware Chapter of the American College of Trial Lawyers has been working in concert with the leadership of the Delaware State Bar Association to create a survey that will give practitioners the chance to provide confidential input about how the Delaware Courts are doing in all of the key practice areas. In the coming weeks, surveys will be conducted by a team of interviewers made up of lawyers from across our state. If you are contacted by one of the interviewers in the next few weeks, you will be asked to set aside some time to meet and answer the survey questions in an interview format. Given limitations on the ability to conduct individual interviews, an electronic version of the survey will also be available in early 2015 to seek additional input….

Although work-life balance adjustments are not specifically mentioned in the message from Chief Justice Strine, it will likely be an area of inquiry in the survey of the Bar.

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Seth Niederman is a partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP. Seth practices in Fox Rothschild’s Wilmington, Delaware office. You can reach Seth at 302-622-4238, or sniederman@foxrothschild.com.

A prior post examined who is entitled to retain an engagement ring when an engagement is mutually broken.  In that instance, the person who gave the engagement ring as a gift is entitled to retain it if the marriage does not take place.  But what happens if the engagement isn’t mutually broken?  An interesting decision issued by the Court of Common Pleas answers that very question.

In Walton v. Snow, C.A. No. CPU4-13-000791, Rennie, J. (March 3, 2014), the Court adopted the “fault approach.”  “Under the fault-based analysis, return of the ring depends on an assessment of who broke the engagement, which necessarily entails a determination of why that person broke the engagement.”  Id. at 10 (citations omitted).  Under the fault approach, the recipient of the ring may retain it if the marriage does not take place, so long as he or she is not at fault. Id. at 11.  This interesting, and precedential decision may be read in its entirety here.