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Black v. Justice of Peace Court 13

Supreme Court of Delaware

November 25, 2014

JAMES DAVID BLACK and, ELISABETH V. BLACK, Petitioners Below - Appellants,
v.
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURT 13, and PAUL D. TAYLOR, Respondents Below - Appellees

Submitted: October 15, 2014.

Case Closed December 11, 2014.

Court Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware, in and for New Castle County. C.A. N14A-01-006 CEB.

R. Craig Martin, Esquire (argued) and Brian A. Biggs, Esquire, DLA Piper LLP (U.S.), Wilmington, Delaware, Attorneys for Petitioners Below - Appellants.

Donald L. Gouge, Jr., Esquire, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Paul D. Taylor, Respondent Below - Appellee.

Before STRINE, Chief Justice; HOLLAND, RIDGELY, VALIHURA, Justices, and RYAN, Judge[*], constituting the Court en Banc.

OPINION

Page 393

HOLLAND, Justice:

The matter before this Court began on November 21, 2013, when Paul D. Taylor (" Taylor" ) filed a complaint seeking back rent and possession of a home he had rented to James David Black and Elisabeth V. Black (the " Blacks" ). Justice of the Peace Court 13 ordered an expedited summary possession trial under 25 Del. C. § 5115. That statute grants authority to Justice of the Peace Courts to issue a " forthwith summons" when " the landlord alleges and by substantial evidence demonstrates to the Court that a tenant has caused substantial or irreparable harm to landlord's person or property." [1]

This is an appeal from the Superior Court's judgment denying the Blacks' petition for a writ of certiorari. The Blacks present two arguments on appeal. First, they allege the record shows, and the Blacks pled, that Justice of the Peace Court 13 proceeded contrary to law and denied the Blacks due process of law when it issued a forthwith summons under 25 Del. C. § 5115 absent satisfaction of the statutory requirements for issuance of that summons. Second, the Blacks assert the record shows that Justice of the Peace Court 13 proceeded irregularly because it created no record regarding the basis for its issuance of the forthwith summons.

We have concluded that both of the Blacks' contentions are meritorious. Therefore, the judgment of the Superior Court must be reversed.

Facts

Taylor's complaint was filed in Justice of the Peace Court 13 on November 21, 2013 at 8:13 a.m., alleging:

The plaintiff landlord rented this residential unit to defendant tenants by lease. Rent is $1600 per month. Defendants have not paid rent for August -- November 2013. The ...

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