Summary Review of Court Systems -
Structure of Civil Courts
Delaware courts are divided between law and equity. The nationally recognized Court of Chancery is vested with equity jurisdiction, while the Superior Court is the primary law court. There are also lower law courts – the Court of Common Pleas and the Justice of the Peace Court. Delaware has a separate Family Court for domestic relations matters. Appeals to the Delaware Supreme Court are available in civil matters from the Court of Chancery, the Superior Court and the Family Court.
Basis of Jurisdiction
Court of Chancery – 10 Del. C. §341 provides the basis for equity jurisdiction: “The Court of Chancery shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine all matters and causes in equity.” 10 Del. C. §342 limits the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery if there is a sufficient remedy in a law court. Certain other matters may also be heard in the Court of Chancery, including requests for injunctive relief (§343); Technology Disputes (§346); and mediation and arbitration of Business Disputes (§347, §349).
Superior Court – 10 Del. C. §541 provides: “The Superior Court shall have such jurisdiction as the Constitution and laws of this State confer upon it.” That includes original jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases, except equity cases. Similar to the Court of Chancery, the Superior Court has the power to mediate and arbitrate Business Disputes (§546).
Court of Common Pleas – The Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction in civil cases where the amount in controversy, exclusive of interest, does not exceed $75,000.
Justice of the Peace – The Justice of the Peace Court has jurisdiction over civil cases in which the disputed amount is less than $15,000.
Court of Chancery – The Court of Chancery has a national reputation in the business community and is responsible for developing the case law in Delaware on corporate matters.
Superior Court – The Superior Court has a Complex Commercial Litigation Division (“CCLD”). With certain enumerated exceptions, commercial cases with an amount in controversy above $1,000,000, or that involve an exclusive choice of court agreement, or that are designated by the President Judge, qualify for assignment to the CCLD.
In the Court of Chancery, there are two types of non-mandatory mediation available: (i) mediation pursuant to Court of Chancery Rule 174, which provides for mediation in an ongoing case pending in the Court of Chancery, and (ii) mediation pursuant to 10 Del. C. §347 and Rules 93 to 95, which now provide for “mediation only” dispute resolution for certain types of business disputes where there is no pre-existing pending action. Mediation in both cases is voluntary and can only proceed with consent of the parties.
In the Superior Court, mediation is also voluntary. The Court maintains a directory of active mediators within the Delaware Bar and/or individuals that completed the Superior Court’s mediation training in conflict resolution.
Delaware also has a Rapid Arbitration Act (10 Del. C. §5801 et seq.), which provides a streamlined arbitration process for prompt, cost-effective resolution of business disputes. The Act imposes time limitations on the arbitrator – arbitrations must be completed within 120 days, although this period can be extended by 60 days.
For More Information:
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