Delaware Supreme Court
Delaware Supreme Court ()

The Delaware Supreme Court is expected to lease new office space in the Renaissance Center, a building across the street from the New Castle County Courthouse in downtown Wilmington, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. Under the proposed plan, the court will eventually forgo its current space at the Elbert N. Carvel State Office Building in favor of more modern digs at the Renaissance Center.

Sources have told Delaware Law Weekly that a lease is “very close” to being finalized, with the possibility of an announcement coming this week. Patricia W. Griffin, state court administrator, did not respond to emails seeking comment.

If a lease is finalized, the Supreme Court will relocate to the Renaissance Center at 405 N. King St. under a multiyear plan. Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr. is expected to relocate his chambers, currently at the New Castle County Courthouse, to the new building, followed by the Administrative Office of the Courts, or AOC. The other justices will gradually relocate their Wilmington chambers and office space to the Renaissance Center.

It is not yet known how much space the Supreme Court plans to occupy at the 194,000-square-foot Renaissance Center. The potential lease’s length and per-square-foot price are also unknown.

The eight-story building has roughly 26,000 square feet of vacant space leasing for $30 per square foot, according to a marketing brochure from the building’s leasing agent, Colliers International.

Strine is still using his New Castle County Courthouse chambers from when he was Court of Chancery chancellor, but that will create a space crunch when Andre G. Bouchard is sworn in as chancellor. Bouchard’s investiture is expected to occur in late April or early May, and he will take over Strine’s space at the courthouse. 
If the relocation plan moves forward, the AOC will be next to move into the Renaissance Center, freeing up space on the 11th floor of the courthouse at 500 N. King St. The Register in Chancery will then move into the AOC’s old space at the courthouse, with the Court of Common Pleas switching floors to occupy the Register in Chancery’s current space. All of the moves are expected to occur over a period of several years.

The Supreme Court’s space at the Carvel Building currently includes office and meeting space, as well as the chambers for Justices Carolyn Berger and Jack B. Jacobs. Berger and Jacobs, who will step down from the court in July, will both be relocated to the Renaissance Center.

Sources have said that if the Supreme Court vacates its space in the Carvel Building, the legislature could possibly be a replacement tenant. The General Assembly was said to have been interested in the Supreme Court’s 11th-floor space in the building since 2002, when many thought the Supreme Court was relocating to the just-built New Castle County Courthouse.

Sources said the Supreme Court is seeking new office space because of space constraints, maintenance needs and lack of upgrades. One source told DLW that the state did not renovate the Supreme Court’s space when it modernized the building last decade because it thought the court would eventually move to the new courthouse. The last time the Supreme Court’s Carvel space was renovated was 1978, just after the court moved into the building, according to the source.

In February, Strine told the Joint Finance Committee that the Supreme Court’s space was close to being obsolete, but he did not provide specifics or discuss a possible move to the Renaissance Center. The chief justice told the legislators that the Carvel space needed renovations and had space deficiencies.

“Judicial facilities are not ornaments that lack a connection to the quality of our justice system,” he said. “Their ability to serve their intended function and, yes, the sense of dignity and respect for the law that they create in litigants are critical to the fact of justice.” 

Jeff Mordock can be contacted at 215-557-2485 or jmordock@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffMordockTLI.