Lawyer sues over Delaware constitutional requirement for political balance on state courts

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A Delaware lawyer filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday that challenges a state constitutional requirement limiting the number of judges from one political party on state courts.

James Adams claims in his lawsuit (PDF) that the provision violates the First Amendment right to freedom of political association, the Associated Press reports.

The Delaware constitutional provision says that three of the five justices on the state supreme court “shall be of one majority political party” and the two other justices “shall be of the other major political party.”

Similarly, when the appellate-level superior courts have an even number of judges, no more than half of the judges shall be from the same political party, and when there are an odd number of judges, no more than a bare majority of judges shall be of the same major political party, the amendment says. The rest of the judges shall be of the other major political party.

The amendment also requires political balance in family and common pleas courts, and political balance when adding up the judges on the state supreme court, the superior court, and the court of chancery.

Delaware is the only state with such a requirement, according to the suit. Judges are selected by the governor based on recommendations from a judicial nominating commission.

Adams says he has standing because he has been prevented from applying for judgeships when he was not from the required political party.

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