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HOW DO I SEARCH DELAWARE COURT RECORDS?

The Delaware Freedom of Information Act allows the public to inspect and copy court records. Different bodies under the Delaware court system are in the custody of court records. Generally, court records are available in both electronic and paper formats. The public may access Delaware court records in the following ways:

  • Visit the local courthouse and request to inspect the paper records
  • Visit the local courthouse, request to view the electronic copies of available court records
  • Remotely access electronic court records via the internet (for certain court records)

Note, court records restricted or sealed by law or court order may be unavailable to the public. To determine the location of a courthouse in the state consider the directory on the Delaware Judiciary website.

HOW TO GET DELAWARE COURT RECORDS ONLINE FOR FREE

There are no free court records. However, the Delaware State court system provides electronic and paper copies of court records at an affordable fee. Note electronic court records may not suffice for legal requirements hence contact the local courthouse for certified copies.

The Delaware Court system provides an online search platform forcivil court records of the Superior Courts, Courts of Common Pleas and Justice of the Peace Courts. The CourtConnect affords its users, the opportunity to search for civil court records by:

  • a person's name, business name or case type
  • judgments against a person or business
  • case information or activities

Criminal and Family Court records in the state are available on requests from the court where the cases were filed and subject to the access policy of each court.

Court records are considered open to the public and are usually accessible through government sources, though they may also be accessed through third-party websites. These websites offer an easier method in most cases, as they are not limited by geographical area, or by limitations in search engine technology. They can often serve as a starting point when looking for a specific record, or multiple records. Interested parties must usually provide:

  • The name of the person listed in the record. This may not apply to records on juveniles.
  • The assumed or known location of the person listed in the record. This will most often be a city, county, or state.

Because they are not government-sponsored, record availability on third party websites may vary when compared to government sources.

HOW DOES THE DELAWARE COURT SYSTEM WORK?

The Delaware court system consists of a Supreme Court, Trial Courts of both general and limited jurisdictions, and related agencies. The Supreme Court is the apex court in Delaware with appellate jurisdiction. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is the administrative head and sees to its efficiency.

The Superior Court and the Court of Chancery are the state's trial courts of general jurisdiction. The Family Court, Justice of The Peace Court of Common Pleas, and the Alderman's Court are all trial courts of limited jurisdiction.

Annually, the state trial court system handles over 600,000 cases; the Justice of the Peace of Courts handle the majority of the cases. The Supreme Court also handles about 570 appeals annually.

HOW DOES THE DELAWARE SUPERIOR COURT WORK?

The Superior Court has statewide jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. The Superior Court has exclusive jurisdiction over felonies and drug offenses except ones involving minors and possession of marijuana cases. The court also has jurisdiction over:

  • Personal injury
  • Libel
  • Slander and contract claims
  • Medical malpractice,
  • Legal malpractice,
  • Property cases (involving mortgage foreclosures, mechanics liens, condemnations)
  • Involuntary commitments of persons with mental conditions.

It also serves as an intermediate appellate court for the Court of Common Pleas, Family Court adult criminal cases, and over 50 Administrative Agencies. The Superior Court also hears appeals from the Alderman's Court and Justice of Peace Courts which are heard as de novo (a fresh trial) as well as appeals related to landlord-tenant disputes, and the Automobile Arbitration Board.

The Superior Court consist of 20 judges who are elected after nomination by the Governor. The nomination must then be approved by the State Senate. The judges serve for a term of 12 years. The Chief judge of the Superior Court is also nominated for election by the governor, and the Senate approves.

HOW DOES THE DELAWARE COURT OF CHANCERY WORK?

The Court of Chancery has jurisdiction over all matters and causes in equity. Generally, the Court has jurisdiction over commercial and contractual matters. It handles largely the following cases:

  • Corporate matters
  • Trusts,
  • Estates
  • Disputes involving the purchase and sale of land
  • Questions of title to real estate
  • Contract
  • Other fiduciary matters, 

When faced with disputes where there is an issue of fact to be tried by a jury, the court may order such disputes be tried at the Superior Court. The Court of Chancery consists of one chancellor and six vice-chancellors. The chancellor is elected after they are nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate for a term of 12 years.

HOW DOES THE DELAWARE FAMILY COURT WORK?

The Family Court as empowered by the General Assembly to exercise jurisdiction over:

juvenile delinquency,

  • Child neglect,
  • Dependency,
  • Child abuse,
  • Adult misdemeanor crimes against juveniles,
  • Child and spouse support,
  • Paternity of children,
  • Custody and visitation of children,
  • Adoptions,
  • Terminations of parental rights,
  • Divorces and annulments,
  • Property divisions,
  • Specific enforcement of separation agreements,
  • Guardianship over minors,
  • Imperiling the family relationship,
  • Orders of protection from abuse, and
  • Intra-family misdemeanor crimes

The Family Court is made up of 17 judges of equal authority. All judges including the chief judge are nominated by the governor for election, who are then confirmed by the Senate. The judges are appointed for a term of 12 years subject to re-appointment.

HOW DOES THE DELAWARE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS WORK?

The Court of Common Pleas is a court of limited jurisdiction. The court has criminal jurisdiction over misdemeanors (including misdemeanor drug offenses for persons over the age of 18) and motor vehicle offenses, and civil jurisdiction over actions that do not exceed $75,000. The court also exercises jurisdiction over the following matters:

  • Preliminary Hearings in Felony Charges
  • Appeals of Criminal Matters from the Justice of the Peace Courts
  • Appeals of Criminal Matters from Alderman's Courts
  • Change of Name Petitions
  • Habitual Offender Motor Vehicle Hearings
  • Administrative Appeals from the Division of Motor Vehicles
  • Appeals of Civil Lawsuits from the Justice of the Peace Courts

The court consist of nine judges; five of the judges are residents of New Castle County, two of the judges are residents of Kent County, and the remaining two are resident of Sussex County. Judges of the Court of Common Pleas are nominated by the Governor, for an election to be approved by the State Senate. They are in office for a term of 12 years.

HOW DOES THE DELAWARE JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURT WORK?

The Justice of the Peace Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. The court is regarded as a court of entry-level because the majority of all criminal cases passthrough it. Criminal and civil cases tried at The Justice of the Peace Court may be tried de novo before a three-judge panel at the Court of Common Pleas.The court has jurisdiction over:

  • Criminal misdemeanor cases, and all criminal violations.
  • Violations of the County Code and other ordinances of municipalities.
  • Truancy cases.
  • Enumerated Fish and Wildlife violations.
  • Enumerated Alcoholic beverage violations.
  • Miscellaneous violations initiated by other state agencies.
  • Limited jurisdiction for juvenile offenses.
  • Contractual disputes where the amount in controversy does not exceed $15,000.
  • Replevin actions (actions brought to recover possession of personal property unlawfully taken) where the amount in controversy does not exceed $15,000.
  • Negligence cases (not involving physical injury) where the amount in controversy does not exceed $15,000.
  • Landlord/Tenant cases, including summary proceedings for possession for which jury trials are authorized, and appeals from landlord/tenant cases to special courts consisting of a three-judge panel.
  • Issue summonses and warrants for all criminal offenses based upon findings of probable cause.
  • Issue search warrants for all criminal offenses based upon findings of probable cause.
  • Conduct initial appearances to set bonds for all criminal offenses and conduct bond review hearings when requested.
  • Issue and execute capiases.

Judges of the Justice of the Peace Court must be a local and state resident to be appointed by the Governor. The initial term for these judges lastsfour years, the second and third terms last six years, while subsequent years last eight years. The Chief Magistrate of the Delaware Justice of the Peace Courts is nominated by the governor to be approved by the Senate for a term of 12 years.

WHAT IS THE DELAWARE ALDERMAN'S COURT?

These courts are small local courts authorized by town charter in their municipalities. The Alderman's Court has specific jurisdiction that varies depending on the town charter of the different municipalities. It, however, has limited jurisdiction over minor civil matters such as:

  • Misdemeanors
  • Traffic offenses
  • Parking violations

There are six active Alderman's Courts in the state of Delaware.

WHAT IS DELAWARE APPELLATE COURT?

The Supreme Court is the court of highest jurisdiction and final appellate court in Delaware. The Supreme Court has both appellate and discretionary jurisdictions. The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over criminal cases in which the sentences exceed certain minimums and civil cases as to the final judgment. The court also has appellate jurisdiction over certain orders of the Court of Chancery, the Superior Court, and the Family Court.

The Supreme Court has discretionary jurisdiction to issue a writ of prohibition, quo warranto, certiorari, and mandamus. Also, to accept appeals of certain non-final orders or certified questions.

The Supreme Court is made up of the Chief Justice and four justices who are elected upon nomination by the Governor and confirmation by the Delaware State Senate. The justices of the Supreme Court are appointed for a 12 years term.

HOW MANY CASES DOES THE DELAWARE COURT SYSTEM HANDLE ANNUALLY?

Over 600,000 cases are filed at the trial courts in Delaware by litigants and attorneys every year. For instance, in the 2013 fiscal year, a total of 707,700 cases were filed while in the 2018 fiscal year a total of 587,000 cases were filed.

In the fiscal year of 2019, the total number of cases filed in the Court of Chancery was 4,211; when compared to the total cases filed in 2018, there was a 1.9% increase in the total filed cases. In the same year, the Superior Court recorded a total of 16,211 cases which showed a -25.3% decrease in filed cases compared to the fiscal year of 2018.

The Court of Common Pleas handled a total case filing of 100, 995; this was -4.5% lower than the total filed in the fiscal year of 2018. Also, the Family Court recorded a total of 47,383 filed cases, which was just a little drop of -0.2% from the filed cases in 2018. In that same year, the Justice of Peace recorded 412,420 filed cases; a difference between the fiscal year of 2019 and 2018 was -4.5%.

The Supreme Court in the fiscal year of 2019 handled a total filing of 572 appeal cases and made 643 dispositions. The Alderman'sCourt handled 23,155 cases and made 23,038 dispositions that same year.

Delaware Supreme Courts Caseloads Fiscal Years 2012 Through 2019

FY2012 FY2013 2014 FY2017 FY2018 FY2019
Total Filings 757 661 716 533 646 572
Dispositions 747 712 696 604 583 643

Data provided by the Delaware Judiciary

Delaware Court of Chancery Caseloads Fiscal Years 2012 Through 2019

Civil Estate Miscellaneous Total
Total Filings
FY2012 1,113 2,469 667 4,249
FY2013 1,064 2,476 615 4,155
FY2014 1,199 2,605 733 4,537
FY2017 1,004 2,859 286 4,149
FY2018 959 2,913 259 4,131
FY2019 1,167 2,792 252 4,211
Dispositions
FY2012 1,288 2,312 2,432 6,032
FY2013 1,069 2,582 1,328 4,979
FY2014 1,128 2,765 1,290 5,183
FY2019 1,211 3,633 740 5,584
FY2018 973 2,663 433 4,069
FY2019 987 2,868 385 4,240

Data provided by the Delaware Judiciary

Delaware Superior Courts Caseloads Fiscal Years 2012 Through 2019

Civil Criminal Total
Total Filings
FY2012 12,430 8,186 20,616
FY2013 11,726 8,671 20,397
FY2014 11,972 7,532 19,504
FY2017 14,394 5,056 20,315
FY2018 13,076 5,056 18,132
FY2019 11,492 4,719 16,211
Dispositions
FY2012 14,422 8,123 22,544
FY2013 11,619 7,908 19,527
FY2014 11,166 7,497 18,663
FY2017 12,934 5,379 18,447
FY2018 14,026 5,379 19,405
FY2019 12,522 4,776 17,298

Data provided by the Delaware Judiciary

Delaware Family Courts Caseloads Fiscal Years 2012 Through 2019

Adult criminal case Civil Juvenile Total
Total Filings
FY2012 4,600 40,549 6,419 51,568
FY2013 4,331 40,511 5,522 50,364
FY2014 3,917 35,223 5,103 44,243
FY2017 4,273 40,216 4,345 48,834
FY2018 4,704 38,487 4,278 47,469
FY2019 4,689 38,978 3,716 47,383
Dispositions
FY2012 4,372 40,769 7,072 52,213
FY2013 4,322 39,849 6,020 50,191
FY2014 3,658 36,564 5,294 45,516
FY2017 3,528 42,812 4,529 50,869
FY2018 4,400 42,333 4,667 51,400
FY2019 4,395 39,803 4,264 48,462

Data provided by the Delaware Judiciary

Delaware Courts of Common Pleas Caseloads Fiscal Years 2012 Through 2019

Civil Criminal Total
Total Filings
FY2012 8,552 101,284 109,836
FY2013 9,748 112,004 121,752
FY2014 8,793 110,071 118,864
FY2017 10,575 93,630 104,205
FY2018 13,788 92,008 105,796
FY2019 12,233 88,762 100,995
Dispositions
FY2012 8,013 103,802 111,815
FY2013 4,229 90,873 95,102
FY2014 4,327 88,507 92,834
FY2017 5,034 71,401 76,435
FY2018 6,508 69,504 76,012
FY2019 6,896 66,639 73,535

Data provided by the Delaware Judiciary

Delaware Justice of Peace Caseloads Fiscal Years 2012 Through 2019

Criminal Civil total
Total Filing
FY2012 441,167 34,416 475,583
FY2013 445,854 33,981 479,835
FY2014 421,896 32,321 454,217
FY2017 394,959 34,128 429,087
FY2018 349,607 13,788 385,107
FY2019 377,143 12,233 412,420
Dispositions
FY2012 464,669 27,071 491,740
FY2013 440,548 32,144 472,692
FY2014 436,316 29,657 465,973
FY2017 403,178 27,965 431,143
FY2018 378,433 6,508 408,130
FY2019 343,029 6,896 372,862

Data provided by the Delaware Judiciary

Delaware Alderman's Court Caseloads Fiscal Years 2012 Through 2019

FY2012 FY2013 FY2014 FY2017 FY2018 FY2019
Total Filings 29,442 31,197 29,067 21,267 26,365 23,155
Dispositions 31,632 32,065 31,673 21,789 20,952 23,038

Data provided by the Delaware Judiciary

First names in Delaware