CHAPTER 185

FORMERLY

HOUSE BILL NO. 282

AS AMENDED BY HOUSE AMENDMENT NOS. 1, 2 AND 3 AND SENATE AMENDMENT NO. 1

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLES 9, 10, AND 29 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE PROTHONOTARY OFFICES, TRANSFERRING RESPONSIBILITY AND AUTHORITY FOR PROTHONOTARY OFFICES FROM COUNTY GOVERNMENT TO THE STATE OF DELAWARE.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

Section 1. Amend §9101, Chapter 91, Part VI, Title 9, Delaware Code, by deleting said Section in its entirety and substituting in lieu thereof, a new §9101 to read as follows:

"§9101. Definitions.

As used in this chapter:

"County offices" or 'county officers' means the elected or appointed public officers of the respective counties and includes county councilmen, Levy Court Commissioners, clerks of the peace, members of the boards of assessment, receivers of taxes and county treasurers, collectors of delinquent taxes, county comptrollers, Registers in Chancery, registers of wills, sheriffs, recorders, coroners, and any other officer, board, commission, department or agency (other than a court or judge) whose jurisdiction is limited to a single county, provided, however, that the Prothonotaries of New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County, shall not be considered to be county offices."

Section 2. Amend §9114(a), Chapter 91, Part VI, Title 9, Delaware Code, by deleting the word "Prothonotary" wherever it appears in the heading or text of said Section.

Section 3. Amend §9125(a), Chapter 91, Part VI, Title 9, Delaware Code, by deleting the word "Prothonotary" wherever it appears therein.

Section 4. Amend §1966, Subchapter IV, Chapter 19, Part I, Title 10, Delaware Code, by deleting the words of any record of the Superior Court in and for Kent County," or where they appear following the words "Whenever the index or indices", at the beginning of the section, and further amend §1966 by deleting the words "Superior Court", where they appear following the words "for any of the records of the".

Section 5. Amend Delaware Code, Title 10, Part I, Chapter 19, Subchapter IV, by deleting §1971 in its entirety.

Section 6. Amend Delaware Code, Title 10, Part I, Chapter 19, Subchapter V, §1973, by deleting the words "of any record of the Superior Court in and for New Castle County, or" where they appear following the words "Whenever index or indices", at the beginning of the Section, and further amend §1973 by deleting the words "Superior Court", where they appear following the words "for any of the records of the".

Section 7. Amend Delaware Code, Title 10, Part I, Chapter 19, Subchapter V, by deleting §1978 in its entirety.

Section 8. Amend Delaware Code, Title 10, Part I, Chapter 19, Subchapter VI, §1980, by deleting the words "of any record of the Superior Court, or" where they appear following the words "Whenever the index", at the beginning of the Section.

Section 9. Amend Chapter 19, Part I, Title 10, Delaware Code, by adding a new Subchapter VI-A to read as follows:

"Subchapter VI-A. Judicial Records and Indices; Superior Court and Prothonotary §1984. Revision of indices of court records.

Where the index or indices of any record of the Superior Court, or the office of the Prothonotary needs renewing, revising, altering or recopying, or any of such records are not sufficiently indexed or are in need of a new or better System of ascertaining their contents, or need renewing for preservation purposes, the Superior Court may order that a renewed, revised, altered, recopied or sufficient index be made of any such records.

§1985. Omission of satisfied liens from new indices.

Whenever a new index is made under this subchapter for the records of judgments, mechanics' liens, foreign or domestic attachments, or other records of the Superior Court or Prothonotary, the new index shall omit all such as have been fully and legally satisfied. No other change shall be made in the manner or system of keeping any index except by order of the Superior Court.

§1986. Officer in charge; preparation.

Whenever an order is made under this subchapter for the making of any index or indices, the Prothonotary in the County in which such records are kept shall make the index or indices or cause the same to be made pursuant to the provisions of this subchapter and such order. He may procure all books necessary for such purpose, the cost of which shall be paid by the Prothonotary.

§1987. Appointment of commissioners to examine new indices.

Whenever it is directed that any index or indices shall be made as provided in this subchapter, the Judges of the Superior Court shall appoint 2 commissioners. The commissioners shall examine such index or indices, and, if they approve of the execution and exactness thereof, they shall certify the same to be a true and correct index or indices. After such certification, the index or indices shall become and be the index and indices in lieu of those theretofore in use.

§1988. Compensation of commissioners.

After the commissioner appointed under §1987 of this title have certified the indices, the State Treasurer shall, upon application by the commissioners, pay to the commissioners a just and reasonable compensation for their services at the rate which shall have been established by rule of the Superior Court prior to the commencement of work by the commissioners. With each application, there shall be presented to the State Treasurer, a sworn, itemized account of the time spent and disbursement made, if any by the commissioners in connection with the examination of the indices.

§1989. Examination of judgment satisfactions by commissioners.

The Judges of the Superior Court of the State in and for each County, during the month of May in each year, shall appoint two(2) commissioners who shall examine all entries of the satisfaction of judgments entered in the Superior Court in and for such County, and who shall enter in the index opposite the record of each and every judgment which they find to be legally and fully satisfied the word 'Satisfied,' together with the signature of one of them as commissioner. The term of office of the commissioners shall be for one year commencing on the first day of June after their appointment. Any vacancy occurring in such office by reason of death, resignation, removal from the County in which the commissioner was appointed or otherwise, shall be filled by the Judges of the Superior Court of the State in and for that County for the unexpired term. The commissioners shall receive for their services a just and reasonable compensation for their services at the rate which shall have been established by rule of the Superior Court prior to the commencement of the commissioner's term."

Section 10. Amend Subchapter VII, Chapter 19, Part I, Title 10, Delaware Code, by re-numbering existing Sections 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992, as Sections 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1955, respectively.

Section 11. Amend Delaware Code, Title 10, Part II, Chapter 23, §2301, by deleting said Section in its entirety and substituting a new Section to read as follows:

The salaries of the Prothonotaries in each county shall be established in accordance with the provisions of Title 29 Delaware Code, Chapter 33."

Section 12. Amend Delaware Code, Title 10, Part II, Chapter 23, §2302(a), by deleting said subsection in its entirety and substituting in lieu thereof, a new subsection (a) as follows:

"(a) In each county the Judges of the Superior Court resident in the county shall name a chief deputy Prothonotary who shall perform such duties as shall from time to time be assigned by such judges. The compensation of each such chief deputy shall be established by the Judges of the Superior Court resident in the county."

Section 13. Amend §2324, Chapter 23, Part II, Title 10, Delaware Code by striking subsections (a) and (b) and substituting in lieu thereof the following:

The Prothonotary shall deposit any sums of money held by him for costs or fees in accordance with policies and guidelines established by the State Treasurer."

Section 14. Amend Part VIII, Title 29, Delaware Code by adding a new Chapter 90A, as follows:

"CHAPTER 90A. PROTHONOTARIES
Subchapter I. General Provisions

§9001A. Assumption of Authority by State.

The offices of the Prothonotaries of New Castle County, Kent County, and Sussex County, as heretofore established shall hereafter be under the authority and jurisdiction of the State of Delaware.

§9002A. Definitions.

As used in this subchapter, "state row offices" or "state row officers" means the Prothonotaries of New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County.

§9003A. Location of offices.

The State shall provide and assign office space for the respective state row offices and, whenever occasion requires, may change such space and assign different space. The state row officers shall occupy, and their offices shall be located, in the space assigned to them from time to time by the State.

§9004A. Record books and supplies.

The State shall provide for the state row offices, the necessary record books, cases, seals and supplies for the use of the offices, for the preservation and security of the public records, the convenience of business, and for public accommodation.

§9005A. Records.

The state row officers shall keep all records, books, papers, and other things belonging to their offices, in their respective offices.

§9006A. Row offices; days open; penalties.

(a) State row offices shall be open each day except legal holidays, Saturdays and Sundays.

(b) State row offices shall not refuse or neglect to attend at his office for the transaction of business, as required in subsection (a) of this Section.

(c) A deputy of any state row officer may attend for the performance of such services as required in subsection (a) of this Section, as are strictly ministerial.

§9007A. Disposition of fees.

All the fees, costs, allowances and other perquisites which are taxable and paid to any state row offices for any official service rendered by any such offices, shall be for the sole use of the State, and when received shall be paid to the State Treasurer.

§9008A. Duty to account for fees.

(a) Every state row officer in each of the counties, shall collect all fees, costs and allowances by law taxable by or payable to such officer, without any deduction, abatement or remission, except fees, costs and allowances payable by the State to such officers, and shall keep in a properly indexed record an itemized account showing the amount of each fee, item of cost and allowance by law taxable by or payable to such officer, and the service for which the same was rendered or charged, the date of payment and the name of the person paying the same. On or before the fifteenth day of each month, every such officer shall file with the State Treasurer an account of all fees, costs and allowances received by him in the preceding month, which account shall be so itemized that it may be compared with the fees, costs and allowances as entered in the record.

(b) The correctness of the accounts so rendered shall be verified by the affidavit of the officer rendering the same. Each of the officers shall also, on or before the fifteenth day in each month, pay over to the State Treasurer all the fees, costs and allowances so received from any source, which shall be payable to the State Treasurer as provided in §9007A of this title.

§9009A. Fee records; inspection and examination.

The fee records mentioned in this chapter shall be a part of the records of the office for which it is kept, and shall be at all times open to inspection and examination.

§9010A. Audit of fees.

The state auditor shall, not less than biannually, audit, inspect and examine the books, accounts, papers, records, and dockets of the several state row officers and ascertain the amount due to the State in fees.

§9011A. Liability for fees.

Each state row officer is made liable upon his respective official bond, for the payment to the State Treasurer of all the fees which he shall collect. All the official bonds to be entered into by the officers shall contain the following condition: And if the said shall truly and without delay pay over to the State Treasurer all of the fees which it shall be his duty to collect and which are to be paid to the State Treasurer.' The State shall cause proceeding to be brought on any of the bonds for the breach of the foregoing condition for the recovery of the penalty therein.

§9012A. Penalties for failure to collect and pay over fees.

If any state row officer fails, neglects or refuses for 10 days to pay over all fees, costs, allowances and perquisites he receives and collects for use of the State, or fails to collect the fees required to be paid by law, or demands or receives from any person any fee or allowance greater than is provided by law, he shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both. Such officer shall also be liable in a civil action for the amount of such fees, costs, allowances and perquisites as he may have thus illegally witheld.

Whenever any officer is convicted under this Section, it shall operate as a forfeiture of his office, and he shall be removed from office by the Governor within 10 days from the date of such conviction.

§9013A. Bonds of State Row Officers.

(a) Every state row officer elected or appointed for any county shall, at the next term of the Superior Court in that county, after his election or appointment, before entering upon the duties of his office, become bound to the State with sufficient surety by a joint and several obligation in the penalty of $3,000 with condition that if the above named who has been duly elected (or appointed) to

be shall and do well and diligently execute his office of as aforesaid and duly and faithfully fulfill and perform all the trusts and duties to the said office appertaining, and truly and without delay deliver to his successor in office, the seal and all the books, records and papers belonging to said office safe and undefaced, and if the said shall truly and without delay pay over to the State Treasurer all the fees which it shall be his duty to collect and which are to be paid to the State Treasurer, then this obligation shall be void and of no effect, or else shall remain in full force and virtue'.

(b) The obligations required by this Section shall be forthwith delivered to the recorder of deeds in and for the County in which such officer sits to be recorded and filed.

§9014A. Cancellations of bonds.

The several bonds and recognizances of the several officers provided for in this subchapter shall be cancelled 3 years after the expiration of the terms of office of the several officers and shall after such time cease to be a lien on any property of any kind of the several officers or their respective bondsmen.

§9015A. Satisfaction of bonds.

The bonds filed and recorded in the offices of the recorders of deeds in this State shall at the time designated in this subchapter be marked by him "cancelled" and under the word "cancelled" he shall sign his name as recorder and shall affix the official seal of his office. The bond filed and recorded in the offices of the Prothonotaries of the Superior Courts in this State shall at the time designated in this subchapter be marked by him "cancelled" and under the word "cancelled" he shall sign his name as Prothonotary and shall affix the official seal of his office, and the original bonds shall be returned to the obligors, or if they are dead, to their legal representatives.

§9016A. Violation of bond requirements; penalty.

Whoever, being an officer within the provisions of this subchapter, neglects to comply with such Sections, shall be fined not less than $500 nor more than $1,000, and shall, ipso facto, forfeit his office.

§9017A. Uniform mileage payments.

The authorized mileage rate for officers or employees of the several counties who receive mileage from the State shall be 20 cents per mile.

§9018A. Posting of fee lists.

Every state row officer who keeps a public office, shall post in some convenient and conspicuous place therein, a printed or written list of the fees prescribed in this part, as they relate to him.

§9019A. Deputy Prothonotaries.

(a) The state row officers each may select and employ 1 deputy prothonotary who shall serve at the pleasure of the appointing officeholder. The provisions of this Section shall not authorize any elected officeholder to increase the number of employees in any of the state row offices.

(b) The compensation to be paid the deputy prothonotary shall be set by the appointing officeholder.

§9020A. Jurisdiction.

The Superior Court shall have jurisdiction of offenses under this Chapter. Subchapter II. Deputies and Clerks

§9031A. Duties and responsibilities of officers appointing deputies and clerks.

All deputies and clerks shall be under the control of the officer by whom they are selected and employed, who may discharge any such deputy or clerk at any time, subject to the provisions of any applicable collective bargaining agreement or personal rules. The officer shall be responsible for all the official acts, neglects and defaults of all deputies and clerks he employs.

§9032A. Powers and duties of chief deputies.

The chief deputy or, if there is no chief deputy, the deputy employed by each of the officers shall be possessed of all the authority of their respective offices, and in the absence or disability of the duly elected officer, the chief deputy of such officer shall perform all duties of the office, until the vacancy so created shall be filled as required by the Constitution of the State."

Section 15. Amend §8705, Chapter 87, Title 10 of the Delaware Code by striking said Section in its entirety and substituting in lieu thereof the following:

"The fees of the Prothonotary for services provided shall be established by the Rule of the Superior Court and shall be uniform among the three counties."

The fees of the Prothonotary for services provided shall be established by Rule of the Superior Court and shall be uniform among the three counties."

Section 16. Amend §8706, Chapter 87, Title 10 of the Delaware Code by striking the said

Section In its entirety and substituting in lieu thereof the following:

Section 17. Amend subsection (a), §3303, Chapter 33, Part IV, Title 29, Delaware Code, by inserting the phrase ", the Prothonotaries in each of the three counties," immediately preceding the phrase "and the Public Defender" where it appears in said subsection.

Section 18. The foregoing provisions of this Bill shall become effective October 1, 1987.

Section 19. From and after October 1, 1987, each of the offices of the Prothonotaries of the three counties shall be independent agencies of the Government of the State of Delaware.

Section 20.All fees assessed by any Prothonotary prior to October 1, 1987, shall be collected by said Prothonotary and shall, within 30 days of receipt thereof, be paid over to the Treasurer or Director of Finance of the county government of the county in which said Prothonotary sits.

Section 21. Until acted upon by the Delaware Compensation Commission in accordance with the terms of this Bill, the salaries of the Prothonotaries in each of the three counties shall remain as established by state statute prior to the date of the adoption of this legislation.

Section 22. All property of each county, exclusive of real property which is assigned to or used in the office of the Prothonotary thereof as of September 30, 1987, including but not limited to all files, supplies, furniture and equipment, shall, as of October 1, 1987, become the property of the State of Delaware, provided, however, that no such property shall be assigned to any other State office without the approval of the Prothonotary of the county wherein such property was originally located. This paragraph shall not apply to any data processing hardware or software owned by or licensed to New Castle County.

Section 23. From and after October 1, 1987, the employees in the offices of the Prothonotaries shall be governed by the merit system of the State of Delaware, and shall be assigned to such classifications as the State Director of Personnel may direct.

Section 24. Until such time as the Secretary of Labor of the State of Delaware shall otherwise direct in accordance with the provisions of Title 19 of the Delaware Code, the State shall recognize and accept Council 81, AFSCME, as the bargaining agent for employees in the office of the Prothonotary in and for New Castle County, provided, however, that nothing herein shall be construed to require the State to negotiate wages with said bargaining agent and provided further that nothing herein shall prevent the said employees from exercising any rights available them under state law with respect to election and certification of bargaining units.

Section 25. All employees employed in the office of the Prothonotary in New Castle County as of August 15, 1987, shall be offered the option of becoming a State employee in the office of the Prothonotary or of remaining a County employee and being offered available employment with New Castle County. No later than August 15, 1987, each current employee shall deliver to the State Director of Personnel and to the Director of Personnel of New Castle County written notice of his or her election to become a state employee or to remain in the employ of New Castle County. Employees failing to give timely written notice shall be deemed to have elected to remain in the employ of New Castle County.

Section 26. Any individual employed in the office of the Prothonotary of New Castle, Kent or Sussex County as of August 15, 1987, who elects to become a state employee continuing in the office of said Prothonotary, shall be entitled, at his or her election, to remain as a member of any county pension plan in which he or she is enrolled as of September 30, 1987. New Castle County shall continue to make employer contributions to such plan based on such employee's actual compensation as if the employee had remained in the employ of New Castle County, provided, however, that the State shall deduct from such employee's state compensation and remit to the New Castle County Pension Fund the employee's contribution which would have been required had such employee remained in the employ of New Castle County. With respect to those employees in the offices of the Kent and Sussex County Prothonotaries who elect to remain as members of their respective County Pension Plans, the State shall make the annual contribution to such plan based upon Actuarial estimates on a pro rata basis. Any employee transferring to State employment with the Prothonotary of New Castle, Kent or Sussex County may, in the alternative elect to terminate membership in any applicable county pension plan, and to exercise any rights existing under the provisions thereof with respect to a refund of contributions or receipt of pension benefits.

Section 27. Amend paragraph (3), subsection (a), §5501, Part V, Title 29, Delaware Code by deleting said paragraph in its entirety and substituting in lieu thereof a new paragraph to read as follows:

"(3) a. Is not a member of any other state or municipal retirement system which is financed in whole or in part by the State unless the state pension plan provides for a unified state service pension and the member is not concurrently accruing nor collecting benefits under that system; and

b.Is not a member of a county pension plan with respect to which the employee is accruing-credited service, and to which the employee and/or the State is making contributions on account of employment with the State."

Section 28. New Castle County shall- pay directly to any individual employed in the office of the Prothonotary of New Castle County as of August 15, 1987, who elects to become a state employee continuing in the office of said Prothonotary, a percentage of the amount by which the actual cost to the employee for his or her health insurance coverage obtained through the State, exceeds the cost which would have been incurred by such employee to obtain equivalent coverage had he or she remained in the employ of the County. The percentage to be paid by the County shall be:

One hundred percent (100%) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1988; Seventy five percent (75%) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1989; Fifty percent (50%) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1990; and Twenty five percent (25%) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1991.

Payments in accordance with the foregoing schedule shall be made by the County not more than quarterly, upon application together with appropriate documentation from eligible employees.

Section 29. Any individual employed in the office of the Prothonotary of New Castle, Kent or Sussex County as of August 15, 1987, who elects to become a state employee continuing in the office of said Prothonotary, may transfer his or her entire balance of accrued vacation to the State. The balance of vacation to be transferred shall include a pro rata portion of the vacation which the employee would have earned for the calendar year had he or she remained in the employ of that County for the full year. Any employee transferring to State employment with the Prothonotary of New Castle County may elect not to transfer his or her vacation to the State, and nothing in this Section shall preclude any employee electing not to transfer vacation from exercising any rights existing under county law or union contract with respect to receipt of severance pay for accrued vacation actually credited by New Castle County as of September 30, 1987.

Section 30. With respect to any individual employed in the office of the Prothonotary of New Castle, Kent or Sussex County as of August 15, 1987, who elects to become a state employee continuing in the office of said Prothonotary, all years of employment with that County shall be credited in the calculation of "aggregate service" as that term is applied in the merit system of the State of Delaware.

Section 31.Any individual employed in the office of the Prothonotary of New Castle, Kent or Sussex County as of August 15, 1987, who elects to become a state employee continuing in the office of said Prothonotary, may transfer his or her entire balance of accrued sick leave to the State. Any employee hired by New Castle County prior to July 1, 1977 who transfers to State employment with the Prothonotary of New Castle County shall, upon separation from state employment, be entitled to payment from New Castle County for sick leave accrued at the time of separation (including transferred sick leave) up to seven hundred hours less any sick leave pay which the employee is entitled to receive from the State upon separation. Any employee transferring to State employment with the Prothonotary of New Castle County may elect not to transfer his or her sick leave to the state, and nothing in this Section shall preclude any employee electing not to transfer sick leave from exercising any rights existing under county law or union contract with respect to receipt of severance pay for accrued sick leave actually credited by New Castle County as of September 30, 1987.

Section 32. On October 1, 1987, New Castle County shall pay to any individual employed in the office of the Prothonotary of New Castle County as of August 15, 1987, who elects to become a state employee continuing in the office of said Prothonotary, a lump sum equal to 130 hours multiplied by the employee's hourly rate of pay with the County on September 30, 1987. On October 1, 1988, New Castle County shall pay to any individual who was employed In the office of the Prothonotary of New Castle County as of August 15, 1987, who has elected to become a state employee continuing in the office of said Prothonotary, and who is still employed in the office of the Prothonotary of New Castle County on October 1, 1988, a lump sum equal to 130 hours multiplied by the employee's hourly rate of pay with the County on September 30, 1987.

Section 33. On October 1, 1988, and on each succeeding October 1, through October, 1992, New Castle County shall pay to any individual employed in the office of the Prothonotary of New Castle County as of August 15, 1987, who has elected to become a state employee continuing in the office of said Prothonotary, and who is still employed in the office of the Prothonotary of New Castle County on such date, a lump sum equal to the amount by which such employee's annual salary with the County on September 30, 1987, exceeds the average annual salary (exclusive of overtime) paid by the State to such employee during the preceding twelve month period. Should any such employee separate from state employment prior to any of the payment dates specified in this Section, New Castle County shall pay to such employee a pro rata portion of the lump sum payment which would have become payable to such employee had he or she remained in the employ of the State until the next October 1.

Section 34. Any individual employed in the office of the Prothonotary of New Castle County as of August 15, 1987, who elects not to become a state employee continuing in the office of said Prothonotary, shall be offered employment by New Castle County at no reduction in pay, provided, however, that nothing herein shall require New Castle County to offer employment to such individuals in the event of a county-wide reduction in force resulting from events or circumstances other than the passage of this legislation.

Section 35. If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the Act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to that end the provisions of the Act are declared to be severable.

Section 36. To the extent that the provisions of this Act conflict with or contradict the provisions of any existing laws of the State of Delaware, the provisions of this Act shall govern.

Approved July 16, 1987.