Delaware Supreme Court Justice James T. Vaughn

Longtime Delaware Supreme Court justice to retire

Charles MegginsonGovernment, Headlines

Delaware Supreme Court Justice James T. Vaughn

Delaware Supreme Court Justice James T. Vaughn, Jr. (Delaware Courts)

Delaware’s second longest-serving Supreme Court justice will retire in May 2023.

Justice James T. Vaughn, Jr., 73, announced his decision Tuesday.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve since 1998 as a Superior Court judge and Supreme Court Justice,” Vaughn said in a letter to Gov. John Carney. “I will always appreciate the memories of working with my colleagues on the bench and with court staff in our efforts to maintain the rule of law in this state.”

Vaughn was just a couple of months shy of being the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court. Justice Karen Valihura was appointed in July 2014, a few months before Vaughn.

Vaughn first joined the bench in 1998 as the resident judge for Kent County Superior Court. In 2004 he was elevated to the position of Superior Court president judge. Ten years later, he was appointed to the Delaware Supreme Court by Gov. Jack Markell.

“Like his father, Justice Vaughn has served our State and its citizens with great distinction,” said Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. “As former Chief Justice Veasey has remarked, Justice Vaughn has a straight-forward/no-nonsense approach to the Rule of Law. The court will miss his hard work, steady hand and unflappable nature.”

Prior to joining the bench, Justice Vaughn spent 22 years as an attorney in private practice in civil and criminal law, first at Vaughn & Vaughn in 1976, then at Vaughn and Nicholas, before joining the firm of Schmittinger and Rodriguez in 1988.

Vaughn also served as a member of the Clayton Town Council from 1979 through 1989, including three years as president. He was elected to the Smyrna School Board and served there between 1989 and 1994, including three years as the board’s president.

Vaughn, a U.S. Army veteran and Delaware native, graduated from J.B. Moore High School in Smyrna in 1967. He received his B.A. from Duke University, graduating magna cum laude in 1971. He later earned his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1976. 

His father, James Townsend Vaughn, served as the Delaware Commissioner of Corrections from 1976 to 1979, and in the Delaware Senate from 1980 until 2007. The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna is named after the elder Vaughn. 

“I leave with a sense of satisfaction that I have done my best to discharge the duties of the judicial offices I have held,” the justice told Carney.

Vaughn’s retirement is effective May 1, 2023. Carney will nominate his replacement, who must be confirmed by the Delaware Senate.

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