Articles Posted in Government & Administrative 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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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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This dispute centered on subrogation claims Victoria Insurance Company and Nationwide Insurance Company asserted against the City of Wilmington. This appeal presented a question of first impression before the Supreme Court: whether, under Delaware's motor vehicle insurance statute governing subrogation disputes among insurers and self-insurers, the losing party may appeal de novo to the Superior Court from an adverse arbitration award. In considering consolidated motions to dismiss two such appeals filed by the City against the insurers, the Superior Court determined that 21 Del. C. 2118(g)(3), which mandated arbitration for subrogation disputes arising between insurers and self-insurers, did not provide a right to appeal. Because the statute unambiguously provided for appeals from mandatory arbitration of subrogation disputes between insurers and self-insurers, the Supreme Court reversed. View "City of Wilmington v. Nationwide Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Magdalena Guardado, an undocumented worker, was employed as a machine manager for Roos Foods when she was involved in a work-related accident. She injured her left wrist and thereafter received total disability benefits. The employer petitioned the Industrial Accident Board (“the Board”) to terminate those benefits on the ground that the worker was no longer disabled and could return to work. The Board found: (1) the employer met its initial burden of showing that the worker was no longer totally disabled; (2) that the worker was a prima facie displaced worker based solely on her status as an undocumented worker; and (3) the employer had failed to meet its burden of showing regular employment opportunities within the worker’s capabilities. Accordingly, it denied the employer’s petition. The questions this case presented for the Delaware Supreme Court's review were: (1) whether an injured worker’s immigration status alone rendered her a prima facie displaced worker; and (2) whether the Board properly found that the employer failed to meet its burden of showing regular employment opportunities within the worker’s capabilities because its evidence failed to take into account the worker’s undocumented status. The Court concluded that an undocumented worker’s immigration status was not relevant to determining whether she was a prima facie displaced worker, but it was a relevant factor to be considered in determining whether she is an actually displaced worker. The Court also concluded that the Board correctly rejected the employer’s evidence of regular employment opportunities for the worker because that evidence failed to consider her undocumented status. View "Roos Foods v. Guardado" on Justia Law

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Robert Ovens appealed the Superior Court’s reversal of the Delaware Human Relations Commission’s award of damages, attorney’s fees, and costs to Ovens based on the Commission’s determination that a prison was a place of "public accommodation." The Commission found that the Department of Correction (“DOC”), through its operation of Sussex Correctional Institution (“SCI”), violated section 4504(a) of the Delaware Code (known as theEqual Accommodations Law), by not providing equal accommodations to Ovens, who was deaf, while he was incarcerated. After review of the issue, the Delaware Supreme Court concluded that a prison was not a place of "public accommodation" as contemplated by the law. "Ovens’ argument hinges on his assertion that a prison is a state agency, and therefore, it falls under the second sentence of section 4502(14), which includes state agencies, local government agencies, and state-funded agencies in the definition of a place of public accommodation. But, he ignores that the second sentence of section 4502(14) cannot be decoupled from the critical language in the first." View "Ovens v. Danberg" on Justia Law

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While off-duty, out of uniform, driving his own car, and under the influence of alcohol, Wilmington Police Officer Michael Spencer ran a red light and collided with a car driven by Morgan McCaffrey. After the accident, Officer Spencer asked McCaffrey to handle the matter without police involvement and to move their damaged cars out of the roadway and into parking spaces in front of McCaffrey’s nearby apartment. Officer Spencer and McCaffrey then went into the apartment, where Officer Spencer undressed and made sexual advances toward McCaffrey, which she refused. McCaffrey called the police after Officer Spencer passed out in her bed. The responding officers took Officer Spencer to the hospital, and later to the police station, where after a delay of five hours, Officer Spencer supposedly passed field tests for intoxication. The Wilmington Police Department (WPD) disciplined Officer Spencer for his conduct that evening. McCaffrey filed suit against Officer Spencer, the WPD, and others, including former Chief of Police Michael Szczerba, stemming from the car accident and Officer Spencer’s admitted inappropriate conduct with McCaffrey. In a series of opinions, the Superior Court dismissed all claims against the defendants other than Officer Spencer, and entered a final judgment excluding Officer Spencer. McCaffrey raised two issues on appeal: (1) the Superior Court erred by dismissing Count I of her complaint arguing that she sufficiently alleged that Spencer was acting within the scope of his employment as a Wilmington Police Officer when he ran into McCaffrey’s car and made inappropriate sexual advances after the accident; (2) that the Superior Court erred in dismissing Count IV, against Chief Szczerba and the City because the County and Municipal Tort Claims Act did not immunize them from suit for Officer Spencer’s actions. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court. View "McCaffrey v. City of Wilmington, et al." on Justia Law

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In this appeal, Mary DiFebo argued that the Superior Court erred by dismissing her amended petition seeking review of a Board of Adjustment decision that granted a variance application for two land plots located near DiFebo's home to be subdivided into four flag lots. The Superior Court had two related reasons for dismissing the amended petition: (1) that DiFebo had not named the owners of the two properties that were the subject of the Board's proceeding within the thirty-day statute of limitations for commencing a petition challenging a Board decision, and for that reason alone she was foreclosed from proceeding; (2) alternatively, the court found that DiFebo had not met the requirements for relation back under Superior Court Civil Rule 15(c)(3). The Supreme Court concluded that the Superior Court correctly determined that DiFebo did not satisfy all of Rule 15(c)(3)'s requirements to have her amended petition relate back to her initial filing. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of DiFebo's amended petition. View "DiFebo v. Board of Adjustment of New Castle County, et al." on Justia Law

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"Adam" was born in early 2015 addicted to narcotics. Adam was eventually released to his parents, David Hunt and Carey Land. A few months later, Adam was found unconscious and unresponsive. He was transported to the hospital. The parents offered no explanation as to why Adam had been found unresponsive or unconscious. Though they were home when emergency personnel arrived, neither parent accompanied the child to the hospital. Due to the seriousness of the child's condition, he was transported to a trauma center. Medical personnel determined the child had sustained multiple trauma caused by "unexplained abusive trauma." In addition to multiple fractures, Adam's other diagnoses included chronic bilateral subdural hematomas, destruction of brain tissue, seizures, respiratory failure, malnourishment and splitting of the layers of the retina in his left eye. Emergency custody would ultimately be awarded to the Department of Family Services. This expedited proceeding was the parents' appeal of a Family Court decision granting the attorney guardian ad litem's motion to instruct Adam's medical providers to de-escalate intervention and place a do-not re-intubate order and a do-not-resuscitate order and a "comfort measures" order on Adam's medical chart. The appeal presented four issues for the Delaware Supreme Court's review: (1) whether the Family Court had jurisdiction to de-escalate medical care, a no re-intubate order and do not resuscitate order on the minor's chart; (2) whether the Family Court had authority to allow such orders when the parental rights have not been terminated; (3) whether the Family Court violated the parents' procedural due process rights by not providing the parents adequate notice and process prior to issuing the orders; and (4) were the parents' due process rights violated without receiving evidence from an independent medical expert. The Supreme Court found no reversible error in the Family Court's decision, and affirmed. View "Hunt v. DFS & Office of the Child Advocate" on Justia Law

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The Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (the “Department”) appealed a September 18, 2014 Family Court order finding that the Department failed to establish probable cause at a Preliminary Protective Hearing (“PPH”) to retain an infant in the Department's custody. The Department filed an emergency ex parte petition on September 12, 2014, alleging that A.F., a newborn infant, was dependent, neglected, or abused by Mother, John Tower, and Unknown Father. An investigative worker for the Department, testified that the Department received a hotline report on August 1, 2014, claiming Mother had given birth into a toilet and had appeared to the hotline reporter to be high on drugs, with glassy eyes and slurred speech. The worker contacted Mother at St. Francis Hospital, where Mother and child had been taken following the birth. A.F. was born with methadone and benzodiazepines in his system and remained in the hospital at the time of the PPH for opiate dependence treatment. After hearing all the evidence, the Family Court concluded in its September 18 order that the Department did not establish probable cause to believe that A.F. was dependent, neglected, or abused in the care of Mother and Tower. According to the Family Court, the Department failed to establish that any of the drugs Mother was taking were taken without a doctor's knowledge of her condition or in violation of her physicians' instructions. The court also credited Tower's account of the circumstances of A.F.'s birth over the report from the hotline. The court viewed the remainder of the Department's evidence as insufficient to justify removal of the child from the custody of his parents. The Department argued on appeal that the Family Court failed to apply the correct probable cause standard when it dismissed the Department's petition. The Supreme Court found no merit to the Department's argument and affirmed the Family Court. View "Dept. of Serv. Children Fam. v. Fowler" on Justia Law

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This case arose when Henry and Mary Lou Black and Blackball Properties, LLC (collectively, the “Blacks”), challenged the Department of Land Use's decision to grant a change of use certificate to neighboring property owners, Gary Staffieri and Adria Charles-Staffieri, to the New Castle County Board of License, Inspection and Review. The Staffieris had rented out the property for use as office space for approximately ten years before deciding to open an automobile detailing shop on the premises, which required them to obtain a change of use certificate from the Department. When the Staffieris first received their certificate from the Department, the Blacks successfully appealed and the Board reversed the Department's decision. But the Staffieris reapplied, the Department once again issued their certificate, and this time, the Board affirmed the Department's decision. The Blacks were unable to appeal the Board's decision to a reviewing court because the General Assembly chose not to provide that right to parties aggrieved by a Board decision. The Blacks therefore sought review by writ of certiorari filed at the Superior Court. The Superior Court granted the writ and affirmed the Board. The Supreme Court, after its review, found no reversible error and affirmed the Superior Court. View "Black v. New Castle Cty. Bd. of License, Inspection & Review" on Justia Law