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1210 1 of 2

COURT OF APPEALS/COURT OF ERRORS AND APPEALS

The Court of Appeals was established by the 1776 constitution to receive appeals from the Supreme Court. As the court of last resort, it heard all appeals that before the revolution would have been heard by the King in Council. The court consisted of the president, three men named by the legislative council, and three by the House of Assembly. The secretary of state served as the clerk of the court.1

When Delaware’s judicial system was radically reorganized by the 1792 constitution, the ‘High Court of Errors and Appeals’ was established as the highest appellate court. The court had the power to issue writs of error to the Supreme Court and the Court of Common Pleas. It also determined appeals from Chancery Court decrees.2 The Court also heard appeals of decisions by the commissioners of the land office.3 However, jurisdiction was not given over the Court of General Sessions or Court of Oyer and Terminer decisions.4

The High Court of Errors and Appeals was comprised of the chancellor and the judges of the supreme and common pleas courts. If a judge had previously given judgement on a case, he could not hear the case again on the high court. Four judges were needed to try cases, including the chancellor, who presided. If the chancellor was disqualified from hearing a case or absent, the chief justice of the supreme court presided. Judges had the power to issue all processes necessary for bringing records before them and to carry their determination into execution.5

In 1792 the clerk of the court, not the secretary of state, was responsible for filing and keeping the court’s records. He also issued writs of error, citation, certiorari, attachment, or any other necessary writs. He was required to enter into the court docket a full bill of costs, including his fees and those of the sheriff or other court officers.6 He was also required to record the number of days court was in session and the names of judges attending each day. A report of this information was given to the secretary of state each year.7

Court was held once a year in Dover.8 Court terms originally met in August but changed to June in 1817.9 The Kent County sheriff was required to attend the court and execute the orders and processes of the court.10

The 1831 constitution made several changes to the court. Its name was changed to the Court of Errors and Appeals. At the same time the constitution replaced the Supreme Court and the Court of Common Pleas with the Superior Court. Therefore, the Court of Errors and Appeals now had the jurisdiction to issue writs of error to the Superior Court. In these cases the chancellor presided along with the associate judge from the county of the case origin, and one of the judges who had previously heard the case. The court also heard questions of law when requested to do so by the Superior Court.11

On appeals from chancery, court was held by the chief justice and three associate judges.

The duties of the clerk remained the same as in 1792; although after 1832 he was commissioned for a period of five years.12 An additional duty was assigned in 1871 which required the clerk of make a return to the state treasurer of all state fees collected.13

In 1877 the court was expanded to two terms per year, January and June.14

The 1897 constitution abolished the Court of Errors and Appeals, replacing it with a new Supreme Court with greatly expanded powers.15

1210 2 of 2

COURT OF APPEALS/COURT OF ERRORS AND APPEALS

1 1776 Constitution, Article VI

2 1792 Constitution, Article VII

3 2 D.L., ch. 57

4 1792 Constitution

5 Ibid

6 6 D.L., ch. 348

7 6 D.L., ch. 332

8 2 D.L., ch. 19

9 5 D.L., ch. 136

10 2 D.L., ch. 19

11 1831 Constitution, Article VI

12 8 D.L., ch. 106

13 14 D.L., ch. 24

14 15 D.L., ch. 471

15 1897 Constitution, Article IV; 21 D.L., ch. 111

rlg/February 10, 1988; March 11, 1988; December 30, 1988