Randy J. Holland

January 27, 1947 – March 15, 2022

Randy J. Holland grew up in Milford, Delaware. He graduated from Milford High School, where he was the captain of the football and baseball teams and president of the honor society. While in Milford, he met his high school sweetheart, wife, and love of his life, Ilona Holland. June 24, 2022 would have marked their 50th wedding anniversary. 

Randy’s top priority was creating a loving home full of joy. He was devoted to his family without fail. He loved nothing more than his wife Ilona, his son Ethan, his daughter-in-law Jennifer, and his granddaughters Aurora (Rori) and Chloe. He cherished his brother, James C. Holland, sister-in-law Nancy, niece Lily and nephews Stephen Holland and Walker Szucs. He was a beloved father figure to his brother-in-law, David Szucs. His love of his family was reflected in everything he did. 

Out of humble beginnings, Randy decided at an early age to always do the right thing, never to cut corners, and to have faith in others. He treated everyone equally, patiently, and with respect. Throughout his life, Randy used the power he had on behalf of those who were powerless. 

Randy received an academic scholarship to Swarthmore College, where he majored in economics and excelled in sports. He received a scholarship from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he graduated cum laude and was awarded the Henry C. Loughlin prize for legal ethics. Randy earned a Master of Laws degree in the judicial process from the University of Virginia. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the Delaware Law School of Widener University and Swarthmore College.

Randy was admitted to the Delaware bar on December 12, 1972. He practiced law in Georgetown, Delaware in Sussex County. For six years, he was a named partner in his own law firm. In 1981, he became a partner in Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell, where his practice was divided between litigation and transactions.

While in private practice, Randy was involved in many professional and community activities. He served on the Board of Bar Examiners, the Delaware Bar Foundation, and was Chair of the Judicial Nominating Commission. He served as a Trustee of the Methodist Peninsula Conference, and was President of the Administrative Board and Lay Leader of Avenue United Methodist Church. He was a founding director of both the Milford Senior Center and the Sussex County Arts Council. 

Randy was appointed to the Supreme Court by Governor Michael N. Castle. When he took his oath of office on December 12, 1986, at age 39, he became the youngest person to serve on the Delaware Supreme Court. He was reappointed to a second twelve-year term by Governor Thomas R. Carper and unanimously confirmed. In 2009, he became the longest serving justice in the history of Delaware. He was appointed to an unprecedented third term by Governor Jack A. Markell. 

Throughout his thirty-year tenure on the bench, Justice Holland authored more than 700 reported opinions and several thousand case dispositive orders. Several of his opinions were cited with approval by the United States Supreme Court, and many of his opinions reside in law school casebooks.

Justice Holland was widely recognized as a state constitutional law expert. He published two books on the Delaware Constitution: he co-edited Delaware Constitution of 1897, The First One Hundred Years and authored The Delaware Constitution: A Reference Guide.  In 2009, he co-authored a law school casebook from the perspective of all fifty states entitled State Constitutional Law, The Modern Experience. The third edition was published in 2019. With Justice Holland’s encouragement, the Conference of Chief Justices passed a unanimous resolution recommending that all law schools offer courses on state constitutions.

Justice Holland was the first state supreme court justice to serve as a Trustee of the American Inns of Court Foundation, an organization founded by United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger to promote ethics, civility, professionalism, and legal ethics. Justice Holland went on to serve as the American Inns of Court national Vice President and then President (2000-2004). In recognition of this service, he received the A. Sherman Christensen Award at a ceremony in the United States Supreme Court. During the presentation, it was said that “Justice Holland is largely responsible for the current health and structure of the American Inns of Court. He raised the international stature of the Inns through his tireless efforts to build lasting relationships with the English and Irish Inns of Court.” The Randy J. Holland Delaware Workers’ Compensation American Inn of Court is named in his honor.

The opening of The Randy J. Holland Delaware Workers’ Compensation Inn of Court

Justice Holland was a longtime leader in matters involving legal ethics and professionalism. For many years, he was a member and then chair of the American Judicature Society’s National Center for Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee. He also chaired the American Bar Association (ABA)’s Joint Committee on Lawyer Regulation. He served on the ABA Standing Committee for Lawyer Competence and Client Protection, as well as the ABA Judicial Division Committee on Ethics and Professionalism. For more than two decades, he chaired the Delaware Judges’ Code of Conduct Revision Committee and was instrumental in establishing the Delaware Judges’ Ethics Advisory Committee. Justice Holland chaired a program on professionalism at the Qatar International Rule of Law Forum. With Justice Holland’s encouragement, Taiwan adopted the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct. He received the American Inns of Court’s Lewis Powell Jr. National Award for Professionalism. He also received the AJS national Dwight D. Opperman Award for Judicial Excellence. Chief Justices Rehnquist and Roberts both appointed Justice Holland as the only state judge member of the United States Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Appellate Rules. 

Justice Holland was one of only three Americans named as an honorary Master of the Bench of Lincoln’s Inn in London. Upon a member’s death, the Inn rings the chapel bell – the same bell from the John Donne poem, “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. On Monday, March 21, 2022 at 12:30 PM the bell was rung for Justice Holland. 

Justice John Paul Stevens, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Randy J. Holland – The only three Americans named as honorary Masters of the Bench

Justice Holland was active internationally. He was the only state judge on a nine-person Anglo-American Exchange that included United States Supreme Court Justices Breyer and Scalia.  For over a decade, he worked with the Chief Justice of Taiwan in training its judiciary about handling complex corporate and commercial litigation. For more than twelve years, he gave the keynote address to the Taiwan Corporate Governance Association (TCGA). He was elected as the first Distinguished Fellow of the TCGA Directors’ Academy. Justice Holland edited a Chinese-language casebook on Delaware Corporation Law published only in Taiwan. In 2019, a book of his speeches in Taiwan on corporate law was published in Chinese

Justice Holland spoke about corporate matters around the world in Canada, China, Qatar, Spain, Australia, England, Austria, South Africa, India, Italy, Israel, France, Japan, Colombia, Curacao and Brazil. He was an honorary member of COMBAR, the commercial bar association in England. He gave the prestigious COMBAR lecture in London, which presented a comparative analysis of the attorney-client privilege. Justice Holland presented a keynote address during an international gathering of judges and lawyers in London on Terrorism and the Rule of Law. Following his retirement, he was designated as the initial United States member of the Arbitration Panel established by the new Astana International Finance Centre in Kazakhstan. 

Justice Holland was very involved in the adjudication and administration of matters affecting children. For more than twenty-five years, he acted as the liaison to the Delaware Court Improvement Project, a federally funded program for neglected children placed in foster care. The project developed best practices for achieving permanency by either reuniting children with their parents or placing them in an adoptive home. Justice Holland co-chaired the National Judicial Advisory Committee to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. He was the author of the opinion in Dalton v. Clanton, which became the seminal decision on the Delaware child support formula that was recommended as a national model. Thereafter, Justice Holland taught other state supreme court justices about child support issues at the National Judicial College. In 1992, Justice Holland was named Judge of the Year by the National Child Support Enforcement Association.

Justice Holland was committed to equal access to the judicial system. He co-chaired the Delaware Supreme Court Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts and was appointed to the ABA Presidential Commission on Fair and Impartial State Courts. As a member of the Delaware Bar Foundation, Justice Holland was a leader in seeking to provide adequate funding for indigent litigants. He was an elected trustee of Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, Inc

Justice Holland endeavored to promote public confidence in the administration of justice. Under his leadership, the iCivics program in Delaware made great strides. iCivics is a national web-based education project designed to teach students civics which was initiated by former United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to ensure that students receive the information and tools they need for effective civic participation, and that civics teachers are provided better materials and support. For many years, Justice Holland was involved with Law Day in Delaware, a program that arranges for judges and lawyers to speak in Delaware schools.

Justice Holland was an adjunct professor at several law schools: the Delaware Law School of Widener University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Iowa, the University of Washington in St. Louis, and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to state constitutional law, he taught courses on corporate governance and appellate practice. He co-authored a law school casebook: Appellate Practice and Procedure. Justice Holland was honored as a distinguished adjunct professor of law by the Delaware Law School of Widener University. The University of Iowa College of Law’s annual award for the best corporate law paper is named for Justice Holland. 

Justice Holland had a keen interest in legal history. He was the editor of Delaware Supreme Court History, co-editor of the Delaware Supreme Court Golden Anniversary and honorary chair of the book entitled The Delaware Bar in the Twentieth Century. Justice Holland co-authored Middle Temple Lawyers and the American Revolution, published as part of the 400-year commemoration of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia. The foreword was written by the Chief Justice of the United States and the Chief Justice of England. Justice Holland also wrote Delaware’s Destiny Determined by Lewes, which recounts how Lewes became the ‘First Town in the First State’. Justice Holland edited Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, which was published by the Library of Congress and Thomson-Reuters for the eight-hundred year anniversary of that historic document. The foreword was written by United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who inscribed Justice Holland’s copy with “friendship, admiration, and respect.” 

 After 30 years on the bench, Justice Holland retired in 2017 as the longest serving Delaware Supreme Court Justice.

Upon his retirement, the Delaware Supreme Court created the Randy J. Holland Family Law Endowment Fund “to honor Justice Holland’s legacy and to give meaning to his deeply held belief that access to justice must not be dependent on ability to pay.” The fund established a fellowship that will place, in perpetuity, an attorney at one of Delaware’s three civil legal aid clinics for two years at a time. It was completely endowed within a few months by generous donations in Justice Holland’s honor of more than $2.3 million. 

All nine Justices of the United States Supreme Court signed a copy of Justice Holland’s Middle Temple Lawyers book, which was presented to him as a retirement gift. The Delaware Workers’ Inn of Court presented him with a marble bust of his likeness, which is on loan to the Delaware Law School of Widener University. Thomson-Reuters presented Justice Holland with nine bound volumes containing his 700 reported opinions.  Governor Carney awarded him the “Order of The First State,” which is the State of Delaware’s highest honor conferred for meritorious service. Justice Holland was presented with separate tributes signed by all members of the Delaware Senate and House of Representatives.  In addition, Delaware’s United States Senators and Representatives united in a joint tribute placed in the Congressional Record. 

Justice Holland with his family at the “Dedication of the Bust of The Honorable Randy J. Holland” event at Delaware Law School in 2018

 In May 2017, Justice Holland joined the Wilmington, Delaware office of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati as Senior Of Counsel. The Delaware Law School of Widener University appointed him its Distinguished Jurist in Residence. Justice Holland was elected a Door Tenant by 3 Hare Court, a Barristers’ Chambers in London – the first retired American jurist to receive that honor from any Barristers’ Chambers. 

In 2020, Justice Holland was co-counsel for Delaware Governor John C. Carney, Jr. in a successful case recognizing merit-based selection of Delaware state court judges, heard before the United States Supreme Court and decided unanimously.

Justice Holland’s motto was “Your life is your message.”  His message was a love of his family, warmth and kindness toward others, and a life spent in service. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Randy J. Holland Memorial Fund for History and Civics Education.

A celebration of life will be held on Saturday April 30, 2022 at 2:00 PM at the Delaware State University Education and Humanities Theater – more information and maps are here.

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