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State v. Hicks

Superior Court of Delaware

May 15, 2019

State of Delaware
v.
Bartholomew A. Hicks,

          DATE SUBMITTED: May 9, 2019

          Caroline C. Brittingham, Esquire

          Heather Lingo, Esquire

          E. SCOTT BRADLEY JUDGE

         Dear Counsel:

         Pending before the Court is an appeal which the State of Delaware ("the State") has filed from a decision of the Court of Common Pleas ("CCP") dismissing the case against Bartholomew Hicks ("defendant"). This is my decision affirming the judgment of CCP.

         The information set forth below is contained in the record from CCP. In their briefing on this appeal, both sides have submitted information that was not a part of the record before the trial court. The Court ignores that information and considers only information in the record which was available to the trial court when the decision to dismiss was made.[1]

         FACTS

          Defendant was charged with leaving the scene of an accident after a collision which involved property damage, driving while suspended or revoked, failing to provide to the owner of the damaged property appropriate identifying information, following a motor vehicle too closely, and failing to report to the police a collision resulting in property damage in the amount of $500.00 or more. These offenses allegedly occurred on or about July 17, 2018. Defendant was arrested on these charges on or about September 17, 2018.

         On October 10, 2018, Heather Lingo, Esquire's office entered her name into the docket on defendant's behalf so that her appearance would be on all calendars going forward. On October 10, 2018, Ms. Lingo filed discovery requests with CCP and also served discovery requests on the State. Ms. Lingo also appeared on defendant's behalf at his October 15, 2018 arraignment.

         A week before the trial, Ms. Lingo confirmed with the CCP Clerk's Office that CCP's court file contained a copy of the discovery requests. Although the discovery requests were in the Court's file, they had not been docketed. In fact, the Clerk's office did not docket Ms. Lingo's appearance and discovery requests until November 29, 2018.[2]

         The State checked CCP's docket on October 23, 2018. At that time, for the reason explained above, neither Ms. Lingo's entry of appearance nor the discovery requests were on the docket. The State did not have the entry of appearance or discovery requests in its file.

         The State never responded to defendant's discovery requests.

         On the day of trial, December 3, 2018, defendant's attorney made an application for violation of discovery. Although she did not specify the sanction she was seeking, a review of her argument regarding prejudice to defendant leads to the conclusion she was seeking a dismissal of the case.

The following exchanges occurred regarding the matter:
[THE STATE]: Your Honor, we do not have a copy in our file. I'm not saying we didn't receive it but we do rely on the court's docket, and according to the court's docket defendant was unrepresented (emphasis added).
THE COURT: Why would you not open up the file rather than doing that? You got this October the 10th.
[THE STATE]: I don't have it in my file, Your Honor, and it was not on the court's docket until November 29th. So when you pull it up, the docket, that's what we rely on, it did not show the docket.
THE COURT: You can't just rely on that.
[THE STATE]: I understand, Your Honor. It's also my understanding that Ms. Lingo may have emailed ...

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