How Does The Delaware Superior Court Work?
The Delaware Superior Court functions as the state’s trial court of general jurisdiction. The superior court exercises original jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters, including:
- Unlimited civil cases
- Unlimited felony and misdemeanor cases
- Juvenile cases involving child abuse, child neglect, and delinquency cases
- Appeals from the Court of Common Pleas
- Appeals from some administrative agencies
It is important to note that the Superior Court does not hold trials for cases pertaining to domestic relations and equity. The Superior Court has a specialized division known as the Complex Commercial Litigation Division (CCLD). This division handles commercial disputes between businesses.
The Delaware Superior Court has intermediate appellate jurisdiction over criminal appeals on the record from the Family Court (adult criminal), Delaware Court of Common Pleas, as well as appeals from more than fifty other administrative agencies. The Superior Court also holds de novo hearings (second trials) for appeals from the Alderman’s Court and Justice of the Peace Court.
The Delaware Superior Court judges are appointed through an appointment method of judicial selection. In this system, the Governor of Delaware is required to appoint judges based on the nominations provided by the Delaware Judicial Appointment Council. The duty of making judges is not left for the governor alone. The governor’s appointment must be confirmed by the senate to be valid. Generally, Superior Court judges serve 12-year terms and must be well-versed with the law.
There may be up to 21 judges serving at the superior court bench. One of the judges is appointed as the president judge, tasked with the administrative and management duties. Each county has three resident judges, and as a standard rule, each of these judges must live in the county in which they are appointed.
While Delaware Superior Court Judges are selected by appointment, no more than a bare majority of the judges may be of one major political party. The remainder must be of the other major political party.
A judge of the Delaware superior court is subject to an impeachment by the legislature if found guilty of misconduct. An active superior court judge in Delaware is not allowed to practice law or engage in other personal professions/businesses. These engagements are seen as distractions that may affect the judge’s judicial performance.
The length of time a case will take to be resolved in the Superior Court varies. Civil cases take longer than criminal cases. Offenders in a criminal case have a right to a speedy trial, which should be within 120 days from the date of indictment. An alleged offender is expected to appear before the superior court within 24 hours after an arrest. The right to a speedy trial rule may be affected by the defendant’s plea to delay the court proceedings. In contrast, most civil cases brought before the superior court may take a year or 18 months before attaining judgment.
The adjudication of civil cases in the Superior Court is guided by the Rule of Civil Procedure. On the other hand, criminal defendants are acquitted or convicted in accordance with the Superior Court Rule of Criminal Procedure.
Pursuant to Policy of Public Access to Superior Court Judicial Records, superior court records are public records unless otherwise stipulated by law. Delaware superior court records are created and maintained by the Superior Court Prothonotary. As such, those interested in finding these records may do so by contacting the applicable prothonotary’s office via mai, in-person, or facsimile. Civil court dockets generated in the Superior Court may be also accessed online. The docket may be searched by name, case type, and judgement search.
Note that physical copies are restricted to in-person courthouse visits only. Visitors also have the privilege of accessing the self-help public access terminals available at the courthouses. The New Castle County Superior Court has six public access terminals in Judgment’s Office on the first floor of the building. In Kent County, there are three of such computer terminals located in the Prothonotary’s Office on the first floor of the courthouse. The Sussex County Superior Court operates two public access terminals available at the Prothonotary’s Office on the second floor of the courthouse.
Generally, access to the public access terminals is strictly by appointment. To schedule an appointment, interested parties are required to call or send an email to the prothonotary’s office. The email must bear “Public Access” as its subject line. The email addresses and contact details dedicated for appointment purposes include:
New Castle County
Phone: (302) 255–0603
• Kent County
Phone: (302) 735–1902
• Sussex County
Phone: (302) 855–7399
Note that appointments are scheduled in two (2) hour time slots. There are usually three (3) time slots each day for each terminal including:
- 9:00 a.m.—11:00 a.m.
- 11:00 a.m.—1:00 p.m.
- 1:00 p.m.—3:00 p.m.
Make sure to schedule an appointment at least 24 hours in advance. Appointments are generally not scheduled on consecutive days; however, a person may request to be placed on a waitlist. Also, It is recommended to come along with the appointment confirmation - email copy or telephone messages—to avoid confusion.
Below are the addresses and contact details of the superior courts in Kent, Sussex, and New Castle:
New Castle (Wilmington) Superior Courthouse
Leonard L. Williams Justice Center
500 North King Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30a.m - 4:30p.m.
Phone Number: (302) 255–0800
Jury Services Phone: (302) 255–0824
Jury Services Fax: (302) 255–2263
Prothonotary: Suite 500, Lower Level 1 (L1)
Kent County Courthouse
414 Federal Street
Dover, DE 19901
38 The Green
Dover, DE 19901
Hours: Monday-Friday 8:15a.m - 4:30p.m.
Phone Number: (302) 735–1900
TDD Number: (302) 739–1587
Fax Number: (302) 739–6717
Prothonotary: Room 140, First Floor
Sussex County Courthouse
1 The Circle, Suite 2
Georgetown, DE 19947
Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m - 4:30 p.m.
Phone Number: (302) 855–7055
Fax Number: (302) 856–5739
TDD Number: (302) 856–5895
Jury Services Office:
Phone Number:3 02–855–7055
Fax Number: (302) 856–5955