Delaware to allow judges from minor parties or independents

FILE PHOTO: View of the state of Delaware flag

By Tom Hals

WILMINGTON, Del (Reuters) -Delaware's governor agreed Monday to consider judicial candidates who have no political affiliation or belong to minor parties, ending a longstanding rule that only Democrats or Republicans could sit on the state's influential courts, according to a court filing.

The agreement, which was approved a U.S. judge on Monday, leaves in place a requirement in the state's constitution that no party have more than a "bare majority" of judges on a court, such as 3-2 on the state's supreme court.

Prior to Monday's agreement, judicial appointments were limited to the two major parties.

A majority of U.S. companies are incorporated in Delaware and its courts sort out many high-stakes disputes, such as Elon Musk's bid last year to walk away from his agreement to buy social media platform Twitter Inc, which was overseen by the Court of Chancery.

“This settlement protects Delaware’s longstanding and vital interest in avoiding partisan domination of the courts by preserving the 'bare majority' provisions in our constitution," said Emily Hershman, a spokeswoman for Governor John Carney.

"That will help ensure that Delaware’s courts continue to be recognized as the preeminent court system in the country.”

The agreement resolves a lawsuit brought by James Adams, who applied to be a judge in the state but was not a member of either major party and was not considered. He argued the major party requirement violated his right to free association under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The bare majority requirement still applies, but now that majority could consist of independents.

Carney, a Democrat, had argued that the state's courts are trusted by business leaders because of the political balance.

Judicial candidates in the state are selected by a nominating committee and presented to the governor. The governor's choice must be approved by the state Senate.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; editing by Deepa Babington)