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Sunday, March 02, 2014

Courts - "Renting Delaware Judges for Secret Rulings"

The ILB had a post Jan. 23rd, quoting stories about the State of Delaware's plans to appeal a 3rd Circuit decision holding that, as Reuters reported, "the state violated the U.S. Constitution with its novel system of allowing judges to arbitrate private business disputes, which critics called secret trials."

Judith Resnik, a professor of law at Yale, had this op-ed in the Feb. 28th NY Times (there are 110 comments). A few quotes from the article:

NEW HAVEN — SHOULD wealthy litigants be able to rent state judges and courthouses to decide cases in private and keep the results secret?

The answer should be an easy no, but if the judges of Delaware’s Chancery Court persuade the United States Supreme Court to take their case and reverse lower federal court rulings outlawing that practice, corporations will, in Delaware, be able to do just that. * * *

Delaware passed a law in 2009 offering new privileges to well-heeled businesses. If litigants had at least $1 million at stake and were willing to pay $12,000 in filing fees and $6,000 a day thereafter, they could use Delaware’s chancery judges and courtrooms for what was called an “arbitration” that produced enforceable legal judgments.

Instead of open proceedings, filings would not be docketed, the courtroom would be closed to the public and the outcome would be secret. The Delaware Supreme Court could review judgments, but that court has not indicated whether appeals would also be confidential.

A group called the Coalition for Open Government, including news and civic organizations, objected that Delaware’s legislation was unconstitutional. In 2012, a federal judge agreed that the law violated the public’s right of access to civil proceedings under the First Amendment. A divided appellate court concurred. Delaware judges are now asking the Supreme Court to reinstate Delaware’s system.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 2, 2014 10:42 AM
Posted to Courts in general