SCOTUS Opinion: Political Independent Lacks Standing To Challenge Delaware Political Balance Law


Delaware’s Constitution requires that no more than a bare majority of judges in any of its courts be from the same political party (the “bare majority requirement”). It also states that the remaining members of three of those courts must be from “the other major political party” (the “major party requirement”). In Carney v. Adams, a registered political independent sued, arguing that these provisions made him ineligible to become a judge unless he joined one of the major political parties in violation of his First Amendment rights. The district court held that the challenger had standing and that the provisions were both unconstitutional. The Third Circuit held that the challenger had standing to challenge the major party requirement only, but held that it was unconstitutional, and that the bare majority requirement was not severable from it, so both were invalid.

The Court, in an 8-0 decision by Justice Breyer (Justice Barrett recused), reversed, holding that the record evidence did not establish that the challenger had standing to contest either requirement. The Court held that the challenger was not “able and ready” to become a judge—he had not applied to any judicial vacancy, nor had he made any preparations to apply. The majority did not comment on the constitutionality of either requirement. Justice Sotomayor penned a concurrence arguing that the major party requirement was more problematic than the bare majority requirement, which weighs toward making them severable, and noting that questions regarding those provisions should be certified to Delaware’s highest court rather than determination by the federal courts.

A link to the opinion is here: