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The Delaware Supreme Court found that the trial court abused its discretion in this case when it denied defendant Chistopher Clay’s motion for judgment of acquittal on his Tampering with Physical Evidence charge, but rejected his remaining claims. The Court also found the trial court erred by requiring the State to provide a copy of the Department of Justice’s intake document and copies of the prosecutor’s notes under Superior Court Criminal Rule 26.2. Clay appealed after a jury verdict found him guilty of Robbery in the First Degree, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Tampering with Physical Evidence, Conspiracy in the Second Degree, and Resisting Arrest. He claimed: (1) the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion to sever his trial from the trial of his co-defendants; (2) the trial court erred by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal on all charges; and (3) the trial court erred by finding the police possessed a reasonable, articulable suspicion to seize him and probable cause to arrest him. On cross-appeal, the State argued that the Superior Court abused its discretion by requiring the State to provide the defendant with a redacted copy of a Department of Justice intake document and a copy of the prosecutor’s notes from witness interviews under Superior Court Criminal Rule 26.2. View "Clay v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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With certain exceptions, a sex offender can rebut the presumption established by the Child Protection From Sex Offenders Act by demonstrating his compliance with the conditions in the statute. This appeal raised one issue: whether the Sex Offenders Act and its rebuttable presumption operated outside of Family Court custody proceedings. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded, as did the Family Court, that the General Assembly intended that the Act and its rebuttable presumption to operate only when the Family Court determines custody, residency, and visitation as part of a Family Court custody proceeding. The Court therefore affirmed the Family Court’s order. View "Division of Family Services v. O'Bryan" on Justia Law

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A 54-count indictment charged Otis Phillips and numerous co-defendants with gang participation and charges associated with the activities of the “Sure Shots” criminal street gang, including three counts of first degree murder and first degree attempted murder. The jury acquitted Phillips on a count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, but guilty on all other charges. Phillips was sentenced to death for the murder charges, life for second degree murder, and 130 years for the remaining offenses. Phillips appealed, arguing multiple errors at trial warranted reversal of his convictions. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court found Phillips’ death sentence should be vacated, and that he should have been resentenced on his first degree murder charge. The remainder of his arguments were without merit. View "Phillips v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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In 2015 Appellant Gabriel Pardo was convicted of Manslaughter, Leaving the Scene of a Collision Resulting in Death (LSCRD), Reckless Driving, and six counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child. The charges arose from his involvement in a fatal hit-and-run collision with a bicyclist, Phillip Bishop, in 2014. The principal issue raised in this appeal was whether Pardo’s conviction for LSCRD violated his Due Process rights, as he contends that the LSCRD statute imposes strict liability. Pardo also contended that the Superior Court erred by adding a voluntary intoxication instruction to the pattern jury instruction for manslaughter, by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal, and by denying his request for a missing evidence instruction. The Supreme Court concluded that the statute governing LSCRD did not impose strict liability because it required the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant had knowledge that he or she was involved in a collision. Because the Court found Pardo’s other arguments without merit, it affirmed his conviction and sentence. View "Pardo v. Delaware" on Justia Law

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Appellee The Bank of New York Mellon, f/k/a The Bank of New York brought a foreclosure proceeding against Appellants J.M. and and Kathy Shrewsbury. The Bank was not the original mortgagee; it received the Shrewsbury mortgage by an assignment from the original mortgagee. The Shrewsburys answered the complaint asserting that the note representing the debt secured by the mortgage had not been assigned to The Bank. They further asserted that since the note had not been assigned to The Bank, it did not have the right to enforce the underlying debt and, therefore, did not have the right to foreclose on the mortgage. The Superior Court rejected the Shrewsburys' argument and granted summary judgment to The Bank. The narrow question presented on appeal was whether a party holding a mortgage must have the right to enforce the obligation secured by the mortgage in order to conduct a foreclosure proceeding. After review, the Supreme Court held that a mortgage assignee must be entitled to enforce the underlying obligation which the mortgage secures in order to foreclose on the mortgage. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Shrewsbury v. The Bank of New York Mellon" on Justia Law

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The New Castle County Office of Assessment (“New Castle County”) valued office condominium units for real property tax purposes but failed to take into account depreciation. The Superior Court affirmed the decision of the New Castle County Board of Assessment Review (the “Board”) upholding New Castle County’s valuation. The property owner appealed, arguing that its office condominium units were over-assessed because New Castle County and the Board did not factor in the age and resulting depreciation of the units. Because Delaware law required that all relevant factors bearing on the value of a property (in its current condition) be considered, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed and required that New Castle County reassess the value of the units, taking into account the influence depreciation has on their taxable value. View "Commerce Associates, LP, et al. v. New Castle County Office of Assessment, et al." on Justia Law

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Jesse Frederick-Conaway (“Jesse”) and Janice Russell-Conaway (“Janice”) were the original co-executors of the Estate of Everett T. Conaway (“Conaway”) and cosuccessor trustees of the Everett T. Conaway Revocable Trust (respectively, the “Estate” and the “Trust”). Janice was Conaway's widow, and Jesse was Conaway's adult son from another marriage. After intractable disputes arose, the Court of Chancery removed Janice and Jesse and appointed Kevin M. Baird, Esq. (“Baird”) as an independent successor administrator and trustee. Baird petitioned the court for instructions on whether certain of Jesse and Janice's transactions were proper. The Court of Chancery issued a Rule 54(b) order from which Jesse appealed and Janice cross-appealed. Jesse argued: (1) the Court of Chancery did not properly merge the administration of Conaway's Estate and Trust; and (2) the Court of Chancery erred in holding the Trust's interest in a limited partnership could be used to satisfy specific gifts where that the interest was subject to a contractual restriction on transfer and passed to Jesse as residuary beneficiary of the Trust. Janice's cross-appeal raised a question of whether the Court of Chancery abused its discretion by: (1) finding Janice liable for interest at the legal rate on $150,000 that the court determined she had received properly but prematurely; and (2) finding Janice liable for $77,987 she had improperly removed from the Estate, plus interest at the legal rate. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed those portions of the Court of Chancery's Order: (1) directing Jesse to return the Trust's 69% EJKC Limited Partnership interest, together with all interest and dividends paid thereon, to the Trust, to be treated as part of the residue of the Trust; and (2) finding Janice liable for amounts totaling $77,987 with interest at the legal rate. The Supreme Court reversed the determination that Janice's receipt of $150,000 in deferred payments owed to Conaway was proper. The Court also reversed the portion of the Court of Chancery's Order finding Janice liable for interest at the legal rate (as opposed to a rate applicable to funds on deposit) on the $150,000 she received. View "Frederick-Conaway v. Baird" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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This appeal arose from a merger agreement under which two companies involved in the gas pipeline business, Energy Transfer Equity, L.P. (“ETE”), agreed to acquire the assets of The Williams Companies, Inc., (“Williams”). The Merger Agreement signed by Williams and ETE contemplated two steps: (1) Williams would merge into a new entity, Energy Transfer Corp LP (“ETC”); and (2) the transfer of Williams’ assets to ETE in exchange for Class E partnership units “would” be a tax-free exchange of a partnership interest for assets under Section 721(a) of the Internal Revenue Code. After the parties entered into the Agreement, the energy market suffered a severe decline which caused a significant loss in the value of assets of the type held by Williams and ETE. This caused the transaction to become financially undesirable to ETE. This issue ultimately led to ETE’s tax counsel, Latham & Watkins, LLP (Latham) being unwilling to issue the 721 opinion. Since the 721 opinion was a condition of the transaction, ETE indicated that it would not proceed with the merger. Williams then sought to enjoin ETE from terminating the Merger Agreement. The Court of Chancery rejected Williams’ arguments. After review, the Supreme Court found the Court of Chancery adopted an unduly narrow view of the obligations imposed by the covenants in the Agreement. The Supreme Court agreed with Williams that if a proper analysis of ETE’s covenants led to a conclusion that ETE breached those covenants, the burden would have shifted to ETE to prove that its breaches did not materially contribute to the failure of the closing condition. Since the facts as found by the Court of Chancery were that ETE’s lack of conduct did not contribute to Latham’s decision not to issue the 721 opinion, the Supreme Court was satisfied that when the burden of proving that ETE’s alleged breach of covenants is properly placed on it, ETE did meet its burden of proving that any alleged breach of covenant did not materially contribute to the failure of the Latham condition. The Court also agrees with the Court of Chancery’s finding that ETE was not estopped from terminating the Agreement. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Chancery was affirmed. View "Williams Companies, Inc. v. Energy Transfer Equity, L.P." on Justia Law

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At the heart of this appeal was a coverage dispute between a chemical company and a group of insurers over whether the insurers had to compensate the company for expenses and fines associated with environmental claims against the company in Ohio and Arkansas. The policies in question were part of a comprehensive insurance program that covered the chemical company‘s operations around the world. The chemical company and the insurers disputed what law applied to their contract law dispute regarding the application of the insurance policy. The Superior Court held that the insurance policy was not, in fact, to be interpreted by a consistent law, but instead that the underlying contract law of the states where the environmental claims arose would govern on a claim-by-claim basis. The Delaware Supreme Court agreed with the insurer that the Superior Court erred in its application of the relevant choice-of-law principles, and, instead, applied a consistent choice of law principle. New York was the principal place of business for the chemical company‘s predecessors at the beginning of the coverage, and there were a number of contacts with New York over time after the beginning of the coverage, the most significant relationship among the parties for these contracts was New York. Thus, New York law should have been applied to resolve this contract dispute. The Superior Court was therefore reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Certain Underwriters at Lloyds, London, et al. v. Chemtura Cororporation" on Justia Law

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This appeal addressed the legal issues raised by the second of two criminal trials over a single incident where defendant Djavon Holland allegedly burst into an apartment, brandished a gun, and demanded money. A brawl unfolded in which Holland and the apartment‘s occupants were all injured. Holland was indicted before the first trial for two counts of Assault First Degree along with twelve other related charges. After trial, Holland was acquitted on both of the Assault First Degree counts, but the jury was unable to reach a conclusion on the other charges. The various issues in this appeal stemmed from the State‘s decision to reindict Holland. The second indictment included both the charges on which the first jury hung, and, for the first time, three counts of Attempted Robbery First Degree. After the second trial, the jury convicted Holland of two of the three counts of Attempted Robbery and the majority of the other charges from the second indictment. On appeal, Holland made a series of arguments challenging the new charges in the second indictment, and attacking the second trial as a whole on Sixth Amendment grounds. After review, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed Holland‘s convictions for Attempted Robbery and Home Invasion and the associated counts of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony because the State failed to overcome the presumption of vindictive prosecution. But, because the Court found that his waiver of his right to counsel was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary, and reject his other claims, Holland‘s convictions for Assault Second Degree, the related count of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, and Criminal Mischief stand. View "Holland v. Delaware" on Justia Law