In Memoriam: Del. Supreme Court Justice Ret. Randy Holland

Meineke

Retired Delaware Supreme Court Justice Randy Holland – who was the youngest person to be appointed to the Supreme Court and became the longest-serving jurist on Delaware’s highest court – has died.

According to the Delaware Judiciary, Holland died on Tuesday of this week. Tributes and condolences started to pour in when his passing was announced Wednesday.

“This is a tremendous loss for our state,” Governor John Carney said. “Justice Holland was a true public servant and a steady source of wisdom on Delaware’s Supreme Court for more than three decades. He had a deep knowledge of the Constitution and Delaware’s unique history. His books on the Delaware Constitution have served as a guide for countless public officials in our state. And I have personally sought his counsel many times during my time in office. Justice Holland made his mark in our history books by serving on Delaware’s highest court longer than anyone else. He was a thoughtful, model jurist and will be greatly missed. Tracey and I are praying for Justice Holland’s family, and his many friends across our state, during this difficult time.”

“Martha and I are saddened to learn about the passing of one of Delaware’s great leaders, and a good friend, former Delaware Supreme Court Justice Randy Holland.,” Senator Tom Carper said. “I had the honor of reappointing him to his second term on the Delaware Supreme Court when I was Governor, and by his retirement in 2017, he made history as the longest serving justice in Delaware’s history, serving 30 years. His longevity on the bench is a result of his broad knowledge of the law and of our State, and the respect and professionalism he upheld on and off the bench. Justice Holland was more than a Supreme Court Justice, he was also a world-renowned historian and author, and wrote a number of books on the Delaware judiciary. Delaware has one of the most highly regarded judiciaries as any state in America and Justice Holland was able to capture that in his written work. Our hearts go out to his wife, Ilona, and their entire family. Delaware – and its judicial system – is a better place because of his service on the bench.”

“The Delaware Judiciary mourns the loss of one of our greatest public servants,” Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz, Jr. said. Justice Seitz served with Justice Holland from 2015 to 2017. “Randy Holland served on the Delaware Supreme Court for over 30 years. He wrote cogent and authoritative opinions in all areas of the law that have withstood the test of time. He championed the highest ethical standards for Delaware lawyers and judges. As president of the American Inns of Court, he worked to further its nationwide mission to improve the skills, professionalism and ethics of the bench and bar. Most recently, he chaired a court committee to work on bail reform in domestic violence cases. What Justice Randy Holland will be most remembered for is his kindness, humility, and graciousness, and his personal notes written with a blue felt tip pen. The Supreme Court will recognize this giant of a man in a future event. His family will be in our prayers.”

“Delaware just lost one of its true servants,” said former Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr., who served with Justice Holland from 2014 to 2017. “No one loved our state or its bar more than Justice Holland. Through his dedication to the judicial craft, his fostering of bench-bar relations through the Inns of Court movement, his preservation of our state’s history, and his concern for the most vulnerable of litigants – particularly the children served by our Family Court – Randy made our state a better place and burnished its reputation as a legal center of excellence. We will miss his friendship and are profoundly sorry for his family’s irreplaceable loss.”

“Justice Holland has left a legacy as a giant of the Delaware legal community, but those who knew him will also remember him for his thoughtful kindness and dedication to our state,” U.S. Senator Chris Coons said. “No matter how busy he was or how often you talked to him, it was not uncommon to receive a handwritten note wishing you well, simply because that was who he was – a gracious man who took his role as a leader of our state seriously and served as a mentor to many. Annie and I will keep his wife Ilona and the rest of his family in our prayers tonight.”

In a statement, leadership of the House Democratic Caucus (Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Majority Whip Larry Mitchell said:

It is with deep sadness that we offer our condolences to the family and loved ones of Delaware Supreme Court Justice Randy Holland. We are stunned by the news of his passing and share in the immense grief of his loss. The legacy Justice Holland leaves behind is unmatched in the history of Delaware jurists and all who dedicate their lives to public service in our state. As the longest-serving member of the Delaware Supreme Court, his career was defined by a tireless pursuit of fairness, justice and equality under the law. In addition to being the undisputed expert on the Delaware Constitution, Justice Holland was a world-renowned authority on judicial ethics, appellate procedure and American jurisprudence. Many of us had the great privilege to have known Justice Holland personally and developed cherished friendships with him over the course of our lives and careers. He was eminently thoughtful, completely trustworthy, and utterly kind. “The state of Delaware and all of us who call it home are better off because of the life and work of Justice Randy Holland.”

Senate President pro tempore David Sokola, Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, Majority Whip Elizabeth Lockman and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Kyle Evans Gay stated:

“Justice Holland was one of the most intelligent, compassionate and dedicated jurists Delaware has ever known. In an arena in which impressive resumes are the norm, Justice Holland stood out in every respect. A gifted athlete whose skill on the ballfield was eclipsed by his remarkable intellect, Justice Holland was a Milford High School alum who graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and went onto became the youngest person to serve as a Delaware Supreme Court Justice. Never one to rest on his laurels, he wrote more than 700 opinions on the state’s highest court, including some of the most seminal corporate law decisions ever handed down, on his way to become the longest-serving Supreme Court Justice in Delaware history. One of the most respected state constitutional law experts in Delaware, Justice Holland also was a champion of the vulnerable and the underprivileged, a mentor to generations of young lawyers and a model of professional ethics. 

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. Our thoughts today are with Justice Holland’s family, his loved ones, and the people of Delaware, as they mourn a true icon of judicial excellence.” 

The Delaware Judiciary provided additional biographical information about Justice Randy Holland:

Justice Holland graduated from Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he received the Loughlin Award for legal ethics. He later earned a Master of Laws in Judicial Process from the University of Virginia Law School and was awarded honorary Doctor of Law degrees by the Delaware Law School and Swarthmore College.

Justice Holland taught corporate governance, appellate practice and state constitutional law and frequently focused on business ethics. He travelled internationally to advance corporate governance and ethics including working with the justice system in Taiwan. On several occasions he hosted visiting delegations from Taiwan to Delaware.

During his years on the Court, Justice Holland was known as not only an expert on state constitutional law but also as an avid historian of Delaware and the Delaware Supreme Court. He authored or co-authored ten books, including two books on the Delaware Constitution, two histories of the Delaware Supreme Court, and a History of the Delaware Bar in the Twentieth Century in addition to many law review articles.

After leaving the Delaware Supreme Court, he became Senior of Counsel in the Wilmington office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. In 2018 the Randy J. Holland Family Law 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 for low-income families.

“Justice Holland was a great and historic jurist of the Court,” said former Chief Justice E. Norman Veasey, who served with Justice 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. He was the longest-serving justice in the history of the Court, having been sworn in to the Court as the youngest justice in the history of the Court in 1986. He was appointed to three 12-year terms on the Court from his investiture and served thirty years until he retired from the Court in February 2017. Not only was he historically long-serving as a jurist but also he was an extraordinarily gifted and scholarly writer, having authored or co- authored nine books and treatises as well as innumerable articles. Above all, he was a warm and noble human being – a truly good man in all respects. He was devoted to his wife of 50 years,
Dr. Ilona Holland, their son, Ethan, daughter-in-law, Jen, and their granddaughters, Rori and Chloe. He will be missed in ways we have not begun to fathom by all who knew him, worked with him, and admired him.”

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