Ayers v. Delaware

A Kent County Grand Jury returned an indictment against defendant-appellant Dashawn Ayers, defendant-appellant Michael Demby, Galen Brooks, and 11 other individuals. Ayers was charged with one count of Drug Dealing, one count of Aggravated Possession, and one count of Conspiracy Second Degree. Demby was charged with two counts of Drug Dealing, two counts of Aggravated Possession, two counts of Conspiracy Second Degree, one count of Criminal Solicitation Second Degree, and one count of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Before trial, Ayers and Demby unsuccessfully moved to suppress the wiretap evidence. Ayers also filed a Motion to Sever, which was denied. The jury convicted Ayers on all counts. Demby was convicted of one count of Drug Dealing, one count of Aggravated Possession, one count of Conspiracy Second Degree, and one count of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. He was acquitted on the remaining charges. Ayers and Demby filed separate appeals, which were consolidated for consideration and decision. Defendants argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that the recordings were “testimonial” because two witnesses explained the meaning of the codes used in the recorded conversations, and appellants were unable to cross-examine the declarants about the coded language. The Court held that the wiretap recordings, used to prove that appellants committed the crime of conspiracy, were admissible. There was no constitutional violation, and defendants' remaining arguments lacked merit. Accordingly, the Court affirmed defendants' convictions. View "Ayers v. Delaware" on Justia Law

Luttrell v. Delaware

Defendant-appellant Ronald Luttrell appealed his convictions for one count of Attempted Rape in the First Degree, three counts of Unlawful Sexual Contact in the First Degree, one count of Attempted Unlawful Sexual Contact in the First Degree, and two counts of Indecent Exposure. Luttrell raised two claims in a direct appeal to the Supreme Court: (1) the Superior Court abused its discretion when it failed to grant his motion for a bill of particulars, because the indictment did not clearly delineate the acts for which he was being prosecuted or when they occurred, and therefore it did not allow him to adequately prepare a defense or protect him from double jeopardy; and (2) the Superior Court committed plain error when it allowed impermissible "vouching" evidence to be presented to the jury. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court abused its discretion in denying Luttrell’s motion for a bill of particulars. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the admission of vouching evidence constituted plain error. The matter was remanded for a new trial. View "Luttrell v. Delaware" on Justia Law

Norwood v. Delaware

This appeal arose from the robbery of a Family Dollar store in Dover in 2012 three men. The State charged defendant Cameron Norwood as one of the three. But Norwood denied being the third man. Norwood sought to create a reasonable doubt about his guilt by arguing that another man, Khalil Dixon, had been the third man who robbed the store. In support of that defense, Norwood tried to introduce evidence that Dixon and the same two perpetrators had also robbed the same Family Dollar earlier that same year, and attempted to rob it again a few days later. The State objected, and the Superior Court excluded the evidence at the State's request. The Supreme Court concluded that the Superior Court's decision to exclude the evidence was an abuse of discretion, given the substantial similarities between the prior crimes and this one. The Superior Court's decision was reversed and the case remanded for a new trial. View "Norwood v. Delaware" on Justia Law

Butler v. Delaware

Defendant-appellant Lamonte Butler appealed his convictions of Attempted Robbery First Degree, Assault Second Degree, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Conspiracy Second Degree, Carrying a Concealed Deadly Weapon, Resisting Arrest, Possession of a Firearm by a Person Prohibited, and misdemeanor drug possession. Butler raised two claims on appeal: (1) that his convictions were barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause because the trial judge took a series of improper actions that impelled defense counsel to move for a mistrial; and (2) the Trial Judge abused her discretion by denying his post-trial Motion for Recusal without conducting the analysis required by "Los v. Los." The Supreme Court concluded that: (1) the Trial Judge did not intend to preside over Butler's trial before the already empaneled jury; and (2) the Trial Judge took a series of actions intended to ensure that the trial would not take place. For those reasons, Butler's convictions were reversed. "In so concluding, we note that this appeal presents aberrational circumstances that markedly depart from the serious priority the Superior Court gives to trying felony criminal cases. . . . The outcome is regrettable, but it is dictated by the need to respect Butler's constitutional right." View "Butler v. Delaware" on Justia Law

Knott v. LVNV Funding, LLC

In 2003, a default judgment was entered in the Court of Common Pleas against appellant Sharon Knott, in favor of appellee LVNV Funding, LLC. The Creditor did not attempt to execute on the judgment for more than nine years, until the Creditor moved to refresh the judgment in 2012. Throughout the proceedings, Knott argued that 10 Del. C. sec. 5072 acted acts as a statute of limitations that requires the holder of a judgment to seek to execute on the judgment within the first five years after the judgment is entered. The Superior Court rejected that argument, relying on a decision of a Commissioner finding that the five year limit in 5072 did not operate as a statute of limitations, but was merely a time period after which a judgment creditor had to affirmatively ask the Superior Court to refresh the judgment in its discretion, rather than the judgment creditor being entitled to execute on the judgment as of right. At oral argument on appeal, the parties acknowledged for the first time that perhaps the relevant statute was actually 10 Del. C. sec. 5073. But Knott argued that the result was the same under either statute, because both statutes imposed a five year period of limitations on the collection of judgments. Disagreeing with Knott's argument, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court. View "Knott v. LVNV Funding, LLC" on Justia Law

SPX Corporation v. Garda USA, Inc., et al.

The issue this case presented to the Delaware Supreme Court centered on the circumstances under which an arbitration award could be vacated where it was argued that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded the law. The parties to a corporate acquisition agreed to arbitrate disputes about the acquired company’s balance sheet on the effective date of the transaction. They retained an arbitrator to decide whether a workers' compensation reserve had been calculated correctly. The arbitrator decided, without any analysis, that there would be no adjustment to the balance sheet. The Court of Chancery vacated the arbitrator's decision, finding that the arbitrator did not follow the relevant provision of the parties’ share purchase agreement. But the test for “manifest disregard for the law” was not whether the arbitrator misconstrued the contract (even if the contract language is clear and unambiguous). "To vacate an arbitration award based on 'manifest disregard of the law,' a court must find that the arbitrator consciously chose to ignore a legal principle, or contract term, that is so clear that it is not subject to reasonable debate." Because the record did not support such a finding, the arbitrator’s award was reinstated. View "SPX Corporation v. Garda USA, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

Biolase, Inc. v. Oracle Partners, L.P.

This appeal stemmed from dispute in the Court of Chancery over the membership of the board of directors of Biolase, Inc. The Court of Chancery resolved the dispute by finding that the Biolase board of directors consisted of five directors, including Paul Clark. The Court of Chancery concluded that Clark was appointed to the Biolase board after a previous director, Alexander Arrow, resigned through oral statements at a board meeting. A press release issued by Biolase after the board meeting quoted Federico Pignatelli, Biolase's Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, as saying he was "thrilled" with Clark's appointment to the board. But Pignatelli quickly reversed course when he learned that Clark had aligned himself with a faction of the board that wanted to remove Pignatelli from his position as CEO. Pignatelli argued that because Arrow's resignation at the board meeting was given orally and was not reduced to writing before Clark was appointed to fill the vacancy created by Arrow's resignation, Clark had not been properly appointed to the board under 8 Del. C. section 141(b). Biolase's largest stockholder, appellee Oracle Partners, L.P., brought suit Biolase seeking a declaration that, among other things, Arrow had resigned from the Biolase board and been replaced by Clark at the board meeting. The Court of Chancery rejected the Pignatelli Faction's legal argument and held that section 141(b) was a permissive statute, that a director may resign by an oral statement, and that there was no requirement that a resignation be in writing. Because the Court of Chancery's holding that directors are permitted under section 141(b) to resign by oral statements was not legally erroneous and the Court of Chancery's determination that Arrow resigned at the board meeting was supported by substantial evidence, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Chancery's ruling that Clark was properly appointed to the Biolase board of directors. View "Biolase, Inc. v. Oracle Partners, L.P." on Justia Law

Crothall, et al. v. Zimmerman, et al.

In 2006, Michael and Connie Jo Zimmerman obtained two separate commercial loans from Eagle National Bank, the predecessor in interest to Customers Bank. The Zimmermans later defaulted on these loans and entered into a forbearance agreement. In addition to the Forbearance Agreement, the Zimmermans each executed a Disclosure for the Confession of Judgment acknowledging that a Confession of Judgment provision in the Forbearance Agreement had been called to their attention, that they understood that the provision permitted Customers Bank to enter judgment against them without notice or opportunity for a hearing, and that the waiver of the right to notice and a hearing was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. The Forbearance Agreement also provided that all notices, requests, demands, and other communications were to be sent to the Zimmermans at an address in Dover, Delaware with a copy sent to their attorney. Based on the Warrant of Attorney to Confess Judgment in the Forbearance Agreement, Customers Bank filed a complaint seeking the entry of a judgment by confession against the Zimmermans. The Zimmermans opposed the entry of a judgment by confession and a hearing was held where the Zimmermans argued, among other things, that at the time the Forbearance Agreement was executed they were residents of Florida and that Customers Bank had not complied with the requirements for entry of judgment by confession against a non-resident under Rule 58.1. The Zimmermans also argued that they did not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive their right to notice and a hearing before judgment could be entered against them. After deliberation, the superior court found the Zimmermans’ waiver of their right to notice and a hearing had been knowing, intelligent, and voluntary, and entered judgment by confession against the Zimmermans. The Zimmermans appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Crothall, et al. v. Zimmerman, et al." on Justia Law

Council on Police Training v. Delaware

The issue this case presented to the Delaware Supreme Court arose out of a situation where a police officer retired while his conduct was under investigation by his employing police force. After the officer retired, the Council on Police Training revoked his certification as a police officer in the State of Delaware on the grounds that the officer’s retirement itself constituted a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court concluded that because the plain language of section 8404(a)(4)(e) provided that the Council could only revoke the certification of a retired officer if the officer both retired pending the resolution of an investigation that could have resulted in his discharge from the police force and “knowingly and voluntarily waived” his right to a hearing under the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights, the Council erred. The Superior Court’s reversal of the Council’s revocation of his certification was affirmed. View "Council on Police Training v. Delaware" on Justia Law

Chambers v. Delaware

Appellant Kenneth Chambers was arrested in 2013 after he failed a field sobriety test and was determined to have a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit. Chambers was indicted for driving under the influence of alcohol. Because Chambers had two prior alcohol-related driving offenses, the State filed a notice that it would seek to have him sentenced as a felon for third offense DUI. Chambers filed a motion to preclude the felony prosecution, arguing that the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution1 barred his two prior alcohol-related driving offenses from counting as qualifying offenses and prevented his prosecution for felony third offense DUI in this case. Because Chambers was prosecuted for an offense that he committed in 2013, after the July 1, 2012 effective date of the applicable amendments to the sentence enhancement ultimately applied to him, the Supreme Court concluded Chambers' argument that the State extended a previously expired statute of limitations in violation of the ex post facto clause was without merit. View "Chambers v. Delaware" on Justia Law