Currently before the Delaware Supreme Court is Eastern Savings Bank v. CACH (Docket # 88, 2012). In a case reflecting today’s troubled economy, involving a dispute over a lien on a foreclosed property sold at sheriff’s sale, the opinions of the Court of Common Pleas and Superior Court (and again) both cite a 106 year old treatise, Practice in Civil Actions and Proceedings in the Law Courts of the State of Delaware by Victor B. Woolley. Often referred to as Woolley on Delaware Practice or simply, Woolley, this venerable treatise is still cited in Delaware Courts. Who was Woolley and why is his treatise still so important?
Born in 1867, Victor Baynard Woolley was a Wilmington attorney. Besides his law practice, he taught Delaware practice at the University of Pennsylvania. As there was no law school in Delaware at that time, he was probably the first person to teach Delaware practice in any law school. He stated in the introduction to his treatise that at that time a “large portion of the practice of the law courts of the State of Delaware … is unwritten law,” so he wrote the treatise for the benefit of young lawyers as well as seasoned practitioners in Delaware.
Woolley was Prothonotary of Superior Court in New Castle County from 1895-1901 and an associate judge on the Supreme Court of Delaware from 1900 to 1914. In 1914 he became a Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He continued in that position until his death in 1945.
Delaware’s small size means that few other treatises on Delaware practice have ever been published. In 1994 David L. and Louis J. Finger published Delaware Trial Handbook, which is now out of print. An online version is available from the Finger & Slanina website. For corporation law, Donald J. Wolfe and Michael A. Pittenger’s Corporate and Commercial Practice in the Delaware Court of Chancery is available.