Delaware can continue to mandate the composition of its major courts to be as close as possible to an even split between the two major parties, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
Gov. John Carney hailed the ruling.
“Delaware’s judiciary has a longstanding reputation as objective, stable and nonpartisan,” Carney said in a statement. “That is largely thanks to the wisdom of those who wrote the Delaware Constitution. They understood the importance of keeping partisan politics out of Delaware’s courts, which are widely respected nationwide for their excellence and garner tremendous respect from our citizens and members of our bar. We are pleased with today’s ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The court’s unanimously said that “the would-be judge challenging the practice lacked legal standing to advance his argument,” The Washington Post reported. “The court did not reach a question on the constitutionality of such a system, because it said James Adams was not ‘ready and able’ to apply for a judicial appointment in the near future.”
“A grievance that amounts to nothing more than an abstract and generalized harm to a citizen’s interest in the proper application of the law does not count as an ‘injury in fact,’ Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in the first two pages of the ruling. “And it consequently does not show standing.”
Adams argued in his lawsuit that because he was not a registered Democrat or Republican he was denied his First Amendment right to freedom of political association.
The Supreme Court ruling, however, noted that he used to be a Democrat and didn’t submit his name to a nominating commission when he was a party member.
Adams plans to file a new case. “During the course of this litigation Mr. Adams has applied and been rejected from three judgeships in Delaware,” his lawyer, David Finger, told Delaware Public Media. “So that creates, we believe, standing. And that will allow him to proceed with a new lawsuit, since the First Amendment issue was never decided.”
Delaware for more than a century has required the split on the state Supreme Court and Superior Court. It also requires political balance in Family and Common Pleas courts, and political balance when adding up the judges on the state Supreme Court, Superior Court and the Court of Chancery, the American Bar Association journal reported in 2017 when Adams filed his case.
Delaware is the only state with such a requirement, started in 1897 and expanded in 1951. Delaware Business Times said it’s a big deal to American business because so many companies are headquartered here and hence are involved in lawsuits in Chancery Court.