Category Archives: Corporations

What’s really happening with Delaware?

I’ve been trying to write this for weeks.  It’s hard–too personal and my stomach knots up thinking about these things.  So I will try a different approach and include more that is personal.

Would it surprise you to know that people in Minnesota live, on average, 2.7 years longer than people in Delaware?  Why might this be? Continue reading

Delaware’s courts–the ongoing horror show. Family Court starring in this episode.

Note:  Revised 12/24/2013

It should not be a secret that Delaware’s court system is bad.  Nor should the reason be obscure.  I once sat in the chamber of the Delaware House of Representatives and listened to the Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court boast of the role Delaware’s courts play as a tool for “economic development.”  Meaning, of course, that businesses will incorporate in Delaware because they know the courts will side with them against employees, customers, the environment, etc.

It should be obvious that courts dedicated to serving special interests are unlikely to offer justice to the people with any reliability.  It was not obvious to the Delaware senators and representatives in the House chamber that day, who rose in loud applause.

These problems exist at every level of Delaware’s court system, from the Justice of Peace (“Magistrate”) courts to the Supreme Court.

Some very dedicated people have worked persistently for many years to open up the “Family Court” of Delaware, which operates behind closed doors in flagrant violation of the Delaware Constitution.  (Article 1, Bill of Rights, Section 9. “All courts shall be open”  I don’t see any fuzziness there.)

The “official” argument on this point is that because the Family Court is established by statute and is not mentioned in the Constitution, the constitutional provision that “all courts” be open does not apply.  This argument is convenient, but appears to me to be nonsense.

It is easy to see why the Chancery Court or the Supreme Court would favor big businesses over humans, but one might wonder why the Family Court, which generally doesn’t deal with business matters, would be such a scandal–the tales of evil and injustice meted out in this “court” go back decades.

My theory–please comment if you have a different one–is that the Family Court is run not by the judges, but by the lawyers practicing before it–effectively, the Family Law Section of the Delaware State Bar Association.  These lawyers operate the Court as a profit center for themselves:  The more matters can be dragged out, the more misery inflicted, the bigger slices of peoples’ assets end up in the pockets of the lawyers themselves.

To put it another way, it is in the interest of people going through a divorce, say, to get things resolved and get on with their lives.  The lawyers have a financial interest in prolonging the pain.

The Family Court has been investigated over and over again and the complaints are always similar, but little has changed.

Delaware has a permanent Family Law Commission that never seems to do much.

The lawyers and others opposing obedience to the Constitution typically claim that the tender sensibilities of children and others will be affronted by public proceedings.  They, of course, are trained advocates who know how to get their way, and are treated with excessive deference by the General Assembly.

For another piece of the puzzle, see this post from January 2009: “… Governor Jack Markell needs to reform Delaware’s judicial selection process”  Need we say:  he didn’t.

Some people–I’m one of them–suspect that work done by Common Cause of Delaware on opening up the Family Court , lead by John Flaherty,  generated pushback that contributed to the shutdown of Common Cause in Delaware.  (Since reborn more-or-less as a brownnoser org.)

This post is timely because a “Task Force” on the openness of the Delaware Family Court, operating under a Senate Concurrent Resolution,  has recently held meetings and heard testimony.  The Associated Press has reported:   “Task force recommends to open more Family Court hearings.”  A report to the legislature is due by Feb 15, 2014.  However, this sort of thing has happened before and little has changed.  Still we have heard from some people who think that this time around some good will emerge.  So this could be a good time to submit comments.

The Task Force has two more meetings scheduled:

Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 7, from 2:00 to 4:00 with a public comment session from 1:00 until 2:00;

Thursday morning, Jan. 23, from 10:00 until 12:00 with a public comment period from 9:00 until 10:00.

Both meetings will be held in the Senate hearing room on the second floor of Leg Hall.

Comments can be emailed to  Dick.Carter@state.de.us .

In my opinion this would be needed to force real change:  A very clearly worded law, stating that all Family Court proceedings be open, unless a judge makes a detailed written finding, specific to that proceeding at that time and place, as to why the Constitution of Delaware should not apply. Mandatory criminal penalties should apply to violations.

Here is a batch of moving commentary and testimony, linked from Nancy Willing’s Delaware Way blog.

Note this curious document, “Privacy of Proceedings in Family Court,” which seems to say that the Constitution of Delaware, supposedly the supreme law of the state, applies in only one of the fifteen “case types” called out.   Appears to me that the Judges running the Family Court need some basic legal education.

See the site of the Delaware Court Reform Initiative.

New York Times: “How Delaware Thrives as a Corporate Tax Haven”

I’ve written a few times about Delaware’s shameful status as a safe harbor for corporate misconduct.   Delawareans seem willing to go along with this–I suppose because they think they are getting lower taxes out of it.  I Most people don’t seem to consider that this is not only helping schemers rip off others elsewhere, but it also tends to deny Delawareans access to justice in our own courts.

Is resentment getting to the point where something may get done about it at the federal level?  Hard to say.  But it IS amusing to see representatives of the Cayman Islands complaining about Delaware, as in the NYT story below.

“You can have companies in Delaware that have no U.S. bank accounts, no requirements for documentation and no one knows who owns them,” says Anthony B. Travers, chairman of the Cayman Islands Stock Exchange and former chairman of that country’s Financial Services Association. “There should be a level playing field and Delaware should have to comply with the same standards as the Caymans.” Continue reading

Alert 681: “Revived” Common Cause Delaware gives award to the least-deserving person in Delaware

Alert 681: "Revived" Common Cause Delaware gives award to the least-deserving person in Delaware

A sad mockery of what Common Cause used to be….is supposed to be

Have an opinion about this:  Jeff Raffel:  302-831-1685 (office), raffel@udel.edu

Few independent Delaware NGOs seem to be functioning well

Can Delaware be an alive, vibrant place with so little courage and so much sucking up?

Continue reading

Earth Day thoughts: Fix a poor “recycling” bill

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Earth Day thoughts

SB 234, latest Delaware “recycling” bill, shuts down container deposit program rather than fixing it.  This isn’t good enough.  Please ask Senators to hold off voting on this bill until it can be fixed.

Last week was the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970.  Few serious environmental campaigners have much interest any more in Earth Day, which is mostly now celebrated by big polluters “greenwashing” themselves.  But it is still a good time to reflect on where we are and how we arrived. Continue reading

DuPont at work in West Virginia

Worker killed by poison gas leak
February 5, 2010

Federal jury finds Bureau of Land Management, DuPont negligent in damaged farmland case

AP:  http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_HERBICIDE_LAWSUIT?SITE=PAREA&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A federal jury has found the Bureau of Land Management and E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co. negligent in the use of an herbicide blamed for damaging thousands of acres of crops across a broad swath of southern Idaho. Continue reading

“NEWS FROM GOVERNOR MARKELL – ECONOMIC OMBUDSPERSON ANNOUNCED”

This just out from Governor Markell’s office.  (Emphasis in red added.)  Exactly what it will mean in practice is uncertain, but the rhetoric is straight “Republican:” businesses/corporations over humans/health/environment.  This sort of language is almost always bad news.  One token mention of “citizens” is in the last line.  It is true, of course, that Delaware’s economy is stagnant and this is not good.  Whether Markell’s various initiatives can stimulate the economy without destroying the remaining vestiges of human citizen control over Delaware remains to be seen. Continue reading

Alert 662: The big bad guys, a sick river, some good guys, and “Cooling towers”

Many readers will know about this issue–Green Delaware has written about it quite a bit, and recently even the mainstream press has been paying some attention.

Technically, the problem is simple:  Big bad industrial sites–mainly, in Delaware, Conectiv’s Edge-Moor Power Plant, Valero’s Delaware City Refinery, and NRG’s Indian River Power Plant–pump hundreds of millions of gallons of water out of the Delaware River and Rehoboth Bay every day.  DuPont, Sunoco, and others are also offenders.  The biggest single offender is the Salem/Hope Creek nuclear complex across the river in New Jersey. Continue reading