Delaware Court Records
Instant Access to State, County and Municipal Public Records
Are Delaware Court Records Public?
Court records in Delaware are accessible by members of the public. The Delaware Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) regards every information or document collected or compiled by government bodies in the discharge of official duties, courts inclusive, as public record. Provided a document is not sealed by a court order or exempted by state statute, members of the public can inspect or make copies of such a record. Some of the records that the public may not be able to access are personnel records, medical records, trade secrets, and records of impending litigations not filed with any court.
The FOIA was enacted in Delaware in 1977. The need to ensure that public officials execute government duties transparently necessitated its introduction. The FOIA has undergone several amendments since its inception. A notable revision occurred in 1999 that extended the FOIA to cover some Delaware Legislature records previously excluded. Currently, emails received or sent by members of the Delaware General Assembly or their staff are still exempted from the FOIA.
How Do I Find Court Records In Delaware
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Delaware is to know the case type and the court in which it was heard. Delaware courts and the types of cases under their jurisdictions are:
Justice of the Peace Courts: Justice of the Peace Courts have jurisdiction over both criminal and civil cases. A civil case, such as the recovery of properties, where the amount in dispute does not exceed $25,000 is heard in a Justice of the Peace court. They also hear criminal misdemeanor suits and traffic cases that do not involve physical injury or death. Application for court records in the Justice of the Peace Courts should be submitted to the clerks of courts at various court locations.
Court of Common Pleas: The Court of Common Pleas in Delaware hears appeals of criminal cases decided by the Justice of the Peace Courts. It handles preliminary hearings of felony cases and trials of misdemeanors, including misdemeanor drug offenses. The Court of Common Pleas also has jurisdiction over civil cases involving amounts not exceeding $75,000. Court record requests sufficiently describing the particular records of interest may be made to the Administrator of the Court of Common Pleas at their locations.
Family Courts: The Delaware Family Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over matters involving juveniles. The court, however, does not hear cases in which minors have been accused of first and second-degree murders, rape, or kidnapping. Fees charged for inspecting and making copies of Family Courts records vary. Requestors may apply to view or copy Family Court records at their courthouse locations.
Superior Court: Delaware Superior Courts have jurisdictions over civil and criminal suits, excluding those that have been assigned to other courts. The Superior Court does not try equity cases because they are under the purview of the Court of Chancery. Felonies and drug offenses committed by adults are tried at the Superior Courts. Civil cases are also heard at the Superior Court, with no limit attached to the value of the damages being sought. The Superior Court serves as an intermediate Appellate Court in the state. It reviews decisions of the Family Courts and the Court of Common Pleas. Furthermore, about 50 Delaware government agencies settle legal disputes at the Superior Courts. Inspection and duplication of Superior Courts’ records cost varying amounts depending on the urgency of a request, the number of pages, and the delivery mode. Superior Court record requests may be directed to the Court Administrator of the Superior Courts at their court locations.
Court of Chancery: The Delaware Court of Chancery has exclusive jurisdiction over equity matters. Cases involving contractual disagreements, purchase of lands, titles to real estates, wills, and guardianship are heard by this court. Copying court records at the Chancery Courts comes at a fee and such requests may be submitted at the Delaware Chancery Court locations.
Supreme Court: The highest court in the State of Delaware is the Supreme Court. The court reviews appeals on cases decided by the lower trial courts. The Supreme Court charges $0.25 to make copies of records in its custody. Requestors may also be billed additional fees for the time spent by administrative staff to locate requested records. If the total estimated fee exceeds $100, the administrator should notify requestors and seek their consent before making copies of requested documents. Court administrators can charge half of the estimated fees as deposits before fulfilling record requests. Administrators may also waive charges if an application is for public benefit. Requests for court records in the custody of the Supreme Court may be submitted at:
Court Administrator of the Supreme Court
The Renaissance Centre
405 North King Street, Suite 509
Wilmington, DE 19801
Delaware public records custodians typically respond to public record requests within ten days of the receipt of such applications. Requestors must be notified within this period if, for any reason, their requests will be denied. They must equally state the reasons for rejections to help requestors who may consider appealing such denials. However, some record requests may require more than the usual ten days for retrieval. In such cases, requestors will also be notified of the impending delay, and requested records are made available as soon as they are ready. Appeals of record requests must be made to the Supreme Court within ten days after the denial.
Members of the public can remotely access records of civil cases tried at the Superior Court, Court of Common Pleas, and the Justice of the Peace Courts. The Delaware Judiciary manages CourtConnect, an online case management system that makes court records publicly available. Interested persons can use parameters such as names of persons or businesses who are parties to a case, judgment status, and case information to query CourtConnect for their court records of interest.
The Delaware Judiciary also maintains a database of some criminal and civil cases, as well as opinions of the Appellate Court. Members of the public can access these case files by selecting the court that tried the case and time to find specific court records. Currently, about 1,413 opinions and orders are on this database. It is regularly updated.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
How Do Delaware Courts Work?
The Delaware court system comprises six courts. They include the Supreme Court, Court of Chancery, Superior Court, Family Court, Court of Common Pleas, and the Justice of the Peace Court.
The Delaware Supreme Court, founded in 1951, is the court with the highest authority in the state. Deriving its powers from Article IV of the Delaware Constitution, it reviews decisions made by the lower courts and sets them aside or reaffirms them as the case may be. The court has five justices, including a Chief Justice, who are nominated by the governor and approved by the Delaware Legislature. Each justice serves a 12-year term.
The Court of Chancery in Delaware largely handles corporate disputes, cases involving the purchase of land, trusts, estates, contractual matters, and other equity cases. It was created in 1792 and has a responsibility of arriving at resolutions that every party involved in equity cases will believe to be fair. The court has one Chancellor, with six other Vice-Chancellors who preside on the court alongside the Chancellor. The Chancellors of the Court of Chancery are nominated by the governor and then confirmed by the Senate to serve a 12-year tenure.
Delaware Superior Courts are courts of general jurisdictions. They hear most cases in the state, including criminal offenses that attract the death penalty as punishment. There are no limits to the value of disputed agreements in civil cases brought before the Superior Courts. The Superior Court serves as an intermediate appellate court, reviewing rulings of the lower courts. Decisions of the Superior Courts are appealed at the Delaware Supreme Court. There are currently 21 judges, one of whom serves as the President Judge. Superior Court judges sit on the court for a period of 12 years. They are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Delaware Senate.
The Delaware Family Court has jurisdiction over cases involving minors. Cases such as child abuse, neglect of a minor, delinquency, misdemeanor crimes against minors, child support, and paternity disputes are heard at the Family Courts. The courts also have jurisdiction over disputes involving adults cohabiting together, adults living separately but with a child together, and misdemeanor offenses committed between former couples. Felony disputes involving adults are not tried at the Family Courts, so are cases involving juveniles accused of first or second-degree murder, rape, or kidnapping. Decisions of the Family Courts are appealed at the Delaware Supreme Court, except for adult criminal cases that are appealed at the Superior Courts. Currently, the Delaware Family Court has 17 Judges, including a Chief Judge. They are spread across New Castle, Kent, and Sussex Counties. The Judges are appointed by the governor and serve a renewable 12-year tenure.
The Delaware Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction over misdemeanor cases, including misdemeanor drug suits, and those involving motor vehicles. The court also handles preliminary hearings for felony cases and receives appeals from the Justice of the Peace Courts. Civil cases with a value of $75,000 or less and administrative appeals from the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) are equally heard by this court. The Delaware Court of Common Pleas currently has nine judges appointed by the governor for a 12-year term and two Commissioners whose duty is to dispense justice.
At the bottom of the Delaware court system is the Justice of the Peace Court. It has jurisdiction over civil disputes where the value of controversy does not exceed $25,000. Civil suits such as debt recovery, trespass, recovery of properties, and all landlord-tenant disputes are brought before the Justice of the Peace Courts. Most criminal disputes also pass through the Justice of the Peace Courts at entry-level. Additionally, the court hears motor vehicle cases where death or injury is not involved and other suits enumerated in the statutes. Decisions of the Delaware Justice of the Peace Courts are appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. However, exceptions are made for disputes involving landlords and tenants, which are appealed to a three-member panel of the same Justice of the Peace Court. There are currently 16 Justice of the Peace Courts in the state, distributed across 14 locations, with 286 personnel and about 60 Judges.
What Are Civil Court and Small Claims in Delaware?
Small claims, like other civil suits, are disputes where the plaintiffs seek money for damages. However, the value of the damages sought in small claims cases is usually low and varies from one state to another. Delaware small claims courts, the civil divisions of the Justice of the Peace Courts, handle civil cases involving amounts less than $25,000.
For example, disputes between landlords and tenants, recovery of damaged properties with values not exceeding $25,000, and breach of contracts may be heard at the Justice of the Peace Courts. There are time limits within which suits must be filed to avoid being dismissed for the expiration of the right to sue. Disputes involving breach of contracts must be filed with the court within three years after the commission of the offense. Likewise, damages to properties or personal injuries have a limit of two years within which cases must be filed with the court. To file small claims cases with the Justice of the Peace Court, plaintiffs are required to pay the following as filing fees:
- Claims that do not exceed $1,000 pays $35
- Claims between $1,000 to $5,000 pay $40
- Claims above $5,000 pays $45
- Landlord-tenant dispute pays $40
Although cases with claims below $25,000 are tried at the Justice of the Peace Courts, civil suits to claim damages higher than that may be filed at higher Delaware courts. For example, civil cases to recover properties worth more than $25,000 can be filed at the Superior Court. Similarly, suits to claim damages for personal injuries where the amount being sought is up to $75,000 may be filed at the Court of Common Pleas. Those above $75,000 are under the purview of the Superior Court.
What Are Appeals and Court Limits in Delaware?
Appeals refer to requests by dissatisfied parties in court cases for review of lower courts’ decisions by higher courts. After judgment is passed, displeased parties can file an appeal with a court of higher authority. Civil cases tried at the Family Courts are appealed to the Supreme Court, while appeals on criminal cases are filed at the Superior Court. An appeal must be filed within 30 days after the order to be appealed has been entered to a superior court in the same county as the court that made the decision.
Decisions made by the Court of Common Pleas are appealed to the Superior Court. The Superior Court does not conduct new trials of cases appealed to it. Instead, it reviews transcripts of proceedings of the initial trial and checks for any error that may have been committed while making a decision. Grieving parties in civil cases decided by the Justice of the Peace Courts have the right to file appeals for a new trial at the Court of Common Pleas. This excludes landlord-tenant disputes that are only appealed to a panel of three judges of the Justice of the Peace Courts. A notice of appeal must be filed within 15 days after the entry of a decision. Fees paid to appeal decisions of the Justice of the Peace Courts at the Court of Common Pleas include a non-refundable $135 filing fee. There is also a $30 fee covering the sheriff’s cost for each address being served a notice of appeal. An additional $5 fee is paid if persons being served are at the same address.
The Supreme Court reviews final judgments of the Courts of Chancery, the Superior Courts, and the Family Courts. The notices of appeals must be filed within 30 days after decisions have been entered by trial courts. The court only grants an extension if there is a delay caused by it. It costs a non-refundable fee of $510 to file an appeal at the Supreme Court. Indigents and poor residents can apply for a waiver under the “forma pauperis” motion. This waiver only applies to the compulsory $510 filing fee if approved. Any other money that has to be paid regarding the appeal process must be paid. It usually takes about 90 days to conclude an appeal case at the Delaware Supreme Court.
What Are Delaware Judgment Records?
Delaware judgment records are created towards the end of a case when a judge issues a decision and the court clerk enters the decision into the court docket. So, judgment records mostly exist for cases considered closed or adjudicated unless a litigant pursues an appeal.
Copies of Delaware judgment records are available for public perusal per the Delaware Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). Interested persons who wish to obtain judgment records in Delaware must visit the clerk’s office during work hours. The administrative staff will require specific information to process the request, including the case number and the names of the parties involved in the case.
Furthermore, the requester must pay the applicable search fees and administrative cost of copying or certifying the judgment record. Most clerk offices accept cash, money order, certified check, and credit cards. Yet another way to obtain judgment records in Delaware is to prepare and send a mail-in request. Requesters who prefer to obtain judgment records from the repose of their homes may obtain judgment records online via Delaware CourtConnect. A typical judgment record in Delaware contains the litigants’ names, the judge’s name, a case description, and the court’s decision.
What are Delaware Bankruptcy Records?
Delaware bankruptcy records consist of officially generated and stored documents of bankruptcy proceedings in the state. These records are considered open to the public except where exempted by law. For instance, interested parties can access the proof of claim form or search for information on filing a claim from the Court’s website. Furthermore, a creditor can search a national database called the U.S. Party/Case Index with a registered PACER account to determine if an entity has filed for bankruptcy. The search result will supply the party’s name, case number, case’s jurisdiction, and a link to the case docket. In Delaware’s Bankruptcy Court, appointed trustees in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case usually distribute funds six to eight weeks after the Notice of the Final Report and Account. Similarly, in Chapters 11 and 13 cases, the debtor in possession or appointed trustee will distribute funds following the court-approved plan. However, there are instances where the distribution may take longer. Delaware bankruptcy records can be accessed at the following address:
824 Market ST N
Wilmington, DE 19801
Phone: (302) 252-2900
Along with bankruptcy records, Delaware Liens, contracts, writs and related recordings can be made available to interested and eligible persons on request. To obtain these documents, requestors must query relevant custodians and provide the information required to facilitate the record search.
How Do I Find My Case Number In Delaware?
The civil case search docket allows interested persons to search civil cases of the Superior Court, Court of Common Pleas, and the Justice of the Peace Courts. Requestors can find case information on CourtConnect, a case management system, and then retrieve case numbers of their cases of interest. Names of parties involved in the suit and the status of the proceedings can be used to find information on a court case, including case numbers. A Delaware court database also offers requestors an avenue to find court case numbers. They may browse the database and search for their cases of interest using parameters such as type of case, the court that tried the case, and the year final judgment was made.
Can You Look Up Court Cases In Delaware?
Interested members of the public have two options for looking up court cases in Delaware. They may use CourtConnect, a database of civil cases heard at the Superior Courts, Court of Common Pleas, and the Justice of the Peace Courts. Parameters such as names of persons or businesses who are parties to the cases can be used to look up court cases.
Another option is to search the Delaware court’s website for cases of interest. The website presently has orders and opinions from different courts, and it is regularly updated. Requestors may use particular court and date decisions were entered to look up court cases.
Does Delaware Hold Remote Trials?
The Delaware court system responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by introducing video conferencing for some court proceedings, especially non-jury trials. In one of its orders, the Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court mandates all the state trial courts to use video conferencing for proceedings, except for jury trials. Another directive by the Supreme Court outlined the different parts of court proceedings expected to be heard using video conferencing technology.
What is the Delaware Supreme Court?
The Delaware Supreme Court is the final decider of most cases in Delaware. It has the highest judicial authority in the state and reviews decisions made by lower courts. The court was established in 1951 and had three justices at inception. In 1978, an amendment to the Delaware Constitution increased the number of Supreme Court justices to five, including one Chief Justice. They are nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Delaware Senate to serve for 12 years. Constitutionally, three of the Supreme Court justices must represent one of the two major political parties, while the other two must belong to the other political party.
Delaware Court of Chancery
The Court of Chancery in Delaware is modeled after the British court system. It was created in 1792 to have jurisdiction over equity cases. Equity cases are disputes that need the court to find common ground that is fair to all parties involved. Disputes involving mergers and acquisitions, contractual disagreements, trusts, estates, matters relating to the sale of lands, and titles to real estate are some of the suits handled by the Court of Chancery. One Chancellor and six Vice Chancellors preside over the Court of Chancery. Chancellors are nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Senate to serve a renewable term of 12 years.
Delaware Superior Courts
The Delaware Superior Court was established in 1951 to have jurisdiction over both civil and criminal cases. Civil cases under the purview of the Court of Chancery and domestic cases handled by the Family Court are not heard by the Superior Courts. The court also hears appeals of cases decided by the lower courts. A total of 19 judges, including a President Judge, sits in sessions across the three counties of Delaware to preside on proceedings. The judges are appointed by the governor and serve a renewable 12-year tenure.
Delaware Family Courts
Family Courts in Delaware gained full recognition by the Delaware Constitution in 1971. The court has general jurisdiction over cases involving minors. It handles suits such as neglect of minors, child abuse, adoption of minors, and child support. Some adult disputes like misdemeanor between former spouses or those between persons who have a child together but living separately are also tried at the Family Court. The court does not hear cases involving minors charged with first-degree or second-degree murder, rape, or kidnapping. The court has 17 judges, including a Chief Judge who presides over proceedings at the court. These Judges are spread across the state, with ten of them stationed at New Castle County. Kent County and Sussex County have three Family Court judges each. They all serve for 12 years and are eligible for reappointment.
Delaware Court of Common Pleas
The Delaware Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction over misdemeanor cases, including misdemeanor drug cases and motor vehicle offenses. Civil cases in which the disputed amount does not exceed $75,000 are also brought before the Court of Common Pleas. The court has nine judges, including a Chief Judge and two Commissioners at its helm of affairs. The judges, all serving 12-year tenures, are spread across Delaware. Five of them reside in New Castle County. Kent and Sussex Counties have two judges each. The counties also share the two Commissioners, with one at New Castle County, while the other Commissioner serves both Kent and Sussex Counties.
Delaware Justice of the Peace Court
The Delaware Justice of the Peace Courts was co-opted into the Delaware court system in 1965. It has jurisdiction over some criminal misdemeanor cases and motor vehicle accident cases that did not lead to injuries or deaths. The court also has jurisdiction over civil cases where the disputed amount does not exceed $25,000. Appeals of decisions made by the Justice of the Peace Court can be filed for a new trial at the Court of Common Pleas. Also, appeals of disputes between landlords and tenants are heard by the Justice of the Peace Court. The court judges fear appeal in a panel of three members. The Justice of the Peace Court in Delaware currently consists of 286 personnel, including magistrates, who are distributed across 16 courts in 14 different locations.