HOUSE BILL NO. 477
AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTER 5, TITLE 10 OF THE DELAWARE CODE TO PROVIDE FOR COMMISSIONERS OF THE SUPERIOR COURT AND THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:
Section 1. Amend Subchapter I, Chapter 5, Title 10 of the Delaware Code to provide new sections 511 and 512 to read as follows:
"§ 511. Commissioners of the Superior Court: anointment: terms of office: removal.
(a) The Governor may appoint, with the consent of a majority of all members elected to the Senate, suitable persons to act as Commissioners of the Superior Court, all of whom shall hold office for a term of 4 years. Vacancies in office shall be filled for a term of 4 years by the Governor, with the consent of a majority of all members elected to the Senate. Appointees shall be residents of the State of Delaware, shall be duly admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court of this State, and shall not engage in the practice of law nor any business, occupation, or employment inconsistent with the expeditious, proper, and impartial performance of their duties as judicial officers. The number of Commissioners from one major political party shall not exceed the number of Commissioners from another major political party by more than one.
(b) Individuals appointed as Commissioners under this section shall take the oath or affirmation prescribed by Article XIV, § 1 of the Delaware Constitution before they enter upon the duties of their office.
(c) The salaries of Commissioners shall be part of the annual budget of the Superior Court. The salary of a Commissioner shall not be reduced during the term being served below the salary fixed at the beginning of that term.
§ 512. Jurisdiction and Dowers of Commissioners of the Superior Court.
(a) Each Commissioner serving under this chapter shall have:
(1) all powers and duties conferred or imposed upon Commissioners by law or by the Rules of Criminal and Civil Procedure for the Superior Court;
(2) the power to administer oaths and affirmations, issue orders pursuant to Chapter 21, Title 11 of the Delaware Code concerning
release or detention of persons pending trial, and take
acknowledgements, affidavits, and depositions.
(3) the power to accept pleas of not guilty to any offense within the jurisdiction of the Superior Court and to appoint counsel to represent indigent defendants.
(4) the power to accept a plea of guilty to a misdemeanor or violation and, with the consent of the parties, to enter a sentence thereon.
(b) Commissioners may be designated to perform the following with the approval of the President Judge or his designee:
(1) (A) A judge may designate a Commissioner to hear and
determine any pretrial matter pending before the Court, except a motion for judgment on the pleadings, for summary judgment, to dismiss or quash an indictment or information made by the defendant, to suppress evidence in a criminal case, to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and to involuntarily dismiss an action. A judge of the Court may reconsider any pretrial matter under this subparagraph (A) where it has been shown that the Commissioner's order is based
upon findings of fact that are clearly erroneous, or is contrary to law, or an abuse of discretion.
(B) A judge may also designate a Commissioner to conduct hearings, including evidentiary hearings, and to submit to a judge of the Court proposed findings of fact and
recommendations for the disposition, by a judge of the Court, of any motion excepted in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph or of applications for postconviction relief made by individuals convicted of criminal offenses.
(C) The Commissioner shall file proposed findings and recommendations under subparagraph (B) of this paragraph with the Court and shall mail copies forthwith to all parties.
(D) Within 10 days after being served with a copy of proposed findings and recommendations under subparagraph (B) of this paragraph any party may serve and file written objections to such proposed findings and recommendations as provided by rules of Court. A judge of the Court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or
recommendations made by the Commissioner. The judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the Commissioner with instructions.
(2) A judge may also designate a Commissioner to serve as a special master or master pro hat vice pursuant to the applicable provisions of the Superior Court Civil Rules of Procedure.
(1) A Commissioner may be assigned such additional duties by the President Judge, including assignment to the Court of Common Pleas upon designation by the Chief Justice, as are not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the State of Delaware. A Commissioner designated to sit in the Court of Common Pleas may exercise in that court the powers and duties set forth in paragraphs (a)(2), (4) and (b)(1) of this section."
Approved July 14, 1994.