Second challenge of state judicial appointments continues

Major party affiliation unconstitutional, lawsuit claims
September 28, 2022

An attorney is continuing his lawsuit against Gov. John Carney over the way judges are chosen in Delaware.

New Castle attorney James Adams, who spent most of his career working for the Delaware Department of Justice before retiring in 2015, is suing Carney for a second time over Delaware’s Constitution, which requires state courts to have balanced representation by both major political parties.

On Sept. 23, U.S. District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika denied Carney’s motion to dismiss the case in the latest action of the case, now in its second year after a preceding lawsuit filed in 2017 was thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

In the first lawsuit, the District Court ruled in favor of Adams, but Carney filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. On Dec. 10, 2020, the U.S Supreme Court reversed the decision of the lower court, “because Adams has not shown that he was ‘able and ready’ to apply for a judicial vacancy in the imminent future, he has failed to show a ‘personal,’ ‘concrete’ and ‘imminent’ injury necessary for Article III standing.”

The same day, Adams filed his second lawsuit in U.S. District Court, this time including letters of denial for three judicial positions for which he applied – positions which also required a specific political affiliation. Nothing was said about party affiliation in the denial letters, only that the Judicial Nominating Commission received a number of well-qualified and distinguished applications for the same position. 

“The denial of any opportunity for a judgeship unless Adams is a Republican or a Democrat is an ‘injury in fact’ as it denies Adams his constitutional rights under the First Amendment,” Adams’ lawsuit states.

The lawsuit continues to say Adams’ rights under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment have also been violated.

“By restricting judgeships to members of political parties, Delaware’s Constitution situates politically unaffiliated lawyers differently from those who are members of political parties, denying them any consideration on their merits,” the lawsuit states.

Adams is asking the court to end Delaware’s use of political affiliation as a criterion for the appointment of state judges, and rule the provision in Delaware’s Constitution that allows it unconstitutional.


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