Senate Bill 25
145th General Assembly (2009 - 2010)
The General Assembly has ended, the current status is the final status.
Rep. M. Smith
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 10 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO JUDICIAL BRANCH EMERGENCIES.
This legislation provides for the operation of the courts in the event of an emergency due to natural or manmade causes that destroys or severely damages one or more court facilities or severely impacts the ability to staff the courts. Although 20 Del. C. § 3116 provides for the Governor to suspend the provisions of regulatory statutes prescribing the conduct of state business, and the orders, rules, and regulations of state agencies if strict compliance would in any way prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency or disaster, it is not clear that this provision would apply to the operation of the criminal and civil courts. This legislation provides for the continuing operation of the courts during an emergency by clarifying that the Chief Justice has the authority to take necessary steps to ensure their orderly functioning during an emergency. Specifically, this legislation: 1) Grants the Chief Justice the authority to declare a judicial emergency when there are emergency circumstances affecting one or more court facilities. The order declaring a judicial emergency shall be limited to an initial duration of 30 days, but may be modified or extended for additional 30 day periods. In an order declaring a judicial emergency, the Chief Justice may also: Order that a court may operate in a county other than the county in which it is normally located. Extend statutes of limitations and time periods prescribed by statute as well as those time limitations prescribed by court rule or administrative directive which the Chief Justice already has the authority to extend pursuant to his authority under Art. IV, Section 13 of the Delaware Constitution. Declare that specific proceedings not normally conducted by audiovisual device may be conducted in this manner. When such usage is not otherwise authorized by statute or court rule, an explanation of the compelling state interest in such usage shall be included in the order Take such other actions as the Chief Justice reasonably believes necessary for the continued operation of the courts during a judicial emergency. 2) Provides that the host county shall be a proper venue; 3) Establishes that its provisions shall preempt and supersede but not repeal any conflicting provisions of this Code or any other provision of law. Thus, for example, a judicial emergency does not need to be declared by the Chief Justice for a court location to be moved from one location to another in the same county during an emergency pursuant to 10 Del. C. § 1903. However, if the nature of the emergency requires a move outside the county, the Chief Justice may declare a judicial emergency pursuant to this legislation and this legislation will preempt 10 Del. C. § 1903 which permits a move only within the county (except for the Supreme Court). Author: Senator DeLuca