ADVERTISEMENT

Holland, longest-serving Delaware justice, dies at age 75

March 16, 2022 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Randy J. Holland, the longest-serving Delaware Supreme Court justice in history, has died, state officials said Wednesday.

Holland, 75, died Tuesday, according to a release issued by the Administrative Office of the Courts. No further details were immediately available.

Holland, who joined the state Supreme Court in 1986, retired from the bench in 2017. He was youngest person ever appointed to the Delaware Supreme Court and became the longest serving justice in 2009. In 2011, he was reappointed to an unprecedented third 12-year term. During his time on the court, Holland wrote more than 700 opinions.

“The Delaware judiciary mourns the loss of one of our greatest public servants,” said Chief Justice Collins Seitz Jr., who served with Holland from 2015 to 2017.

Holland was a widely acknowledged expert on state constitutional law and was the author or co-author of 10 books, including two books on the Delaware constitution and two histories of the Delaware Supreme Court.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Justice Holland was a great and historic jurist of the court,” said former Chief Justice E. Norman Veasey, who served with Holland from 1992 to 2004. “Indeed, he was a quintessential and intellectual jurist, with an extraordinary grounding in the law and a marvelous sense of fairness and equity.”

After his retirement, Holland joined the Wilmington office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati as senior counsel, but he remained an important source of legal expertise for state officials.

In 2019, Democratic Gov. John Carney enlisted Holland to help lead an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court over a constitutional provision requiring a political balance among state court judges in Delaware, including splitting judgeships on certain courts between Republicans and Democrats.

The court did not directly address the dispute but instead tossed the suit on procedural grounds, ruling in 2020 that James Adams, a Wilmington lawyer who challenged the provision, didn’t have legal standing to sue Carney because he had not shown that he was “able and ready” to apply to be a judge when he filed the lawsuit in 2017.

More recently, state lawmakers sought Holland’s guidance late last year in understanding their options under a never-before-used constitutional provision that permits the General Assembly to petition the governor to remove an elected official from office “for any reasonable cause.”

The questions were raised after Delaware Auditor Kathy McGuiness was indicted on two felonies and three misdemeanors.

In agreeing to help lawmakers address the issue, Holland noted that the provision regarding removing an elected official had “serious legal ramifications.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“I understand the gravity of what is being asked of me, and I am prepared to work impartially with the legislature to help forge a better understanding of case law, and the legislative record so the General Assembly has the information needed to make an informed decision about its path forward,” he said at the time.

In a statement Wednesday, Senate Democratic leaders said: “We were blessed to work alongside Justice Holland over the last five months as he guided us through unexplored sections of the Delaware Constitution. During that time, we discovered Justice Holland’s reputation was well deserved, but also somehow fell short of capturing the kindness, humor, and grace he brought to every meeting and phone call.”

In an opinion issued earlier this month, the state Supreme Court concluded that “reasonable cause” for removing an elected official could include an indictment, but that an indictment alone was not sufficient.

Holland was a graduate of Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he graduated cum laude and received the Loughlin Award for legal ethics. He later earned a Master of Laws in Judicial Process from the University of Virginia Law School.

In addition to his work as a jurist, Holland taught corporate governance, appellate practice and state constitutional law.

In 2018, the Randy J. Holland Family Law Chair Endowment was created in his honor for the Combined Campaign for Justice to fund a full-time fellowship position to serve the family law needs of low-income families.

Holland is survived by his wife, Ilona, son and daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters.