A Tribute to Richard K. Herrmann, Esquire
The Bencher—September/October 2021
By Chief Judge Michael K. Newell and Ryan P. Newell, Esquire
After 50 years of service to the bar, Richard K. Herrmann, Esquire, a frequent contributor to The Bencher, has retired. Typical Richard, he did not seek attention as he transitioned from practice to teaching. But his unassuming nature should not overshadow his trailblazing contributions to the bench and bar.
Chief Judge Michael K. Newell: In 1983, I started the private practice of law with Bayard, Brill, and Handelman P.A. It did not take me long to have a meeting with Richard, then-managing partner of the firm, where he discussed how technology could assist the family law practice. At the time, alimony was taxable income to the payee and tax deductible to the payor. Within a week, I was invited to his office to sit at a Macintosh computer to perform an alimony calculation using a tax program that Richard had created, allowing us to present the various calculations to the Family Court without having the expense of hiring a tax accountant. (Richard had the only computer in the firm. He led the firm at that time to the conversion of magnetic card typewriters, which were the predecessor to more sophisticated word processors.) While others would later create for-profit software, Richard did this for free.
In the late 1980s, the Delaware Superior Court had to develop a method to handle the high-volume insurance coverage litigation. According to retired Delaware Supreme Court Justice Henry duPont Ridgely, then-president judge of Superior Court, “[t]he cases were bigger than anything ever seen in the Superior Court of Delaware.” In 1991, Richard led the development of what we now know as e-filing, making Delaware the first court system to have e-filing.
Ryan P. Newell, Esquire: As a child, I would attend the Bayard holiday parties. A frequent party attendee was a robot, Abercrombie. At the time, Richard had (unsuccessfully) proposed to the Bayard management committee that Abercrombie would greet clients and escort them to a particular attorney’s office. His legal career aspirations dashed, Abercrombie thereafter made appearances at our family birthday parties. The last to leave the party, Abercrombie has to this day taken up residence in the family basement.
Fast forward to 2009 after I had been admitted to the bar, Richard and Kevin Brady, Esquire, created the first American Inn of Court focused exclusively on technology. Despite Richard’s protestations, we named the Inn the Richard K. Herrmann Technology American Inn of Court. Richard was ahead of his time—some of our earliest meetings involved him educating us on remote video trial capabilities.
In 2013, the Delaware Supreme Court, guided by Richard and Kevin, established its Commission on Law and Technology. It was the first and, at the time, only commission in the country focusing on technology and the practice of law. The commission has established best practices that serve as a framework for ethical and competent use of technology.
Chief Judge Newell: When I became chief judge of the Family Court in 2015, I explored how we could use technology to improve service to our litigants, particularly those without counsel. To assist the court in handling text messages, social media posts, emails, and similar electronic evidence, Richard designed an eCourtroom equipped with Surface Pro tablets, a document camera, a server, speakers, and a wireless printer. (See The Bencher November/December 2017 and November/December 2018. For all of Richard’s columns visit www.innsofcourt.org/BencherTech.)
In a matter of months, the equipment was selected, tested, and installed and the first hearing using the “eCourtroom” took place. Despite frequent requests from me, Richard has never submitted a bill or charged the Court for his development and years of oversight since the eCourtroom’s inception. Generous and genuine, he just wants to help and never wants the credit.
In a recent article, Richard wrote: “I have been fortunate to be part of all of this. I was at the right place, at the right time.” He then thanked us all. For the first time, we must tell you, Richard, that you are wrong. We are the direct beneficiaries of your wisdom, intellect, dedication to the improvement of justice, and generosity. We, who have been fortunate to know you and work with you “were at the right place at the right time.” Thank you and we wish you well. ◆
The authors would like to thank retired Justice Henry duPont Ridgely for his contributions to this article.
Michael K. Newell is the chief judge of the Delaware Family Court in Wilmington, Delaware. He is a member of the Melson-Arsht American Inn of Court and the Richard K. Herrmann Technology American Inn of Court. His son, Ryan P. Newell, Esquire, is a partner at Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP in Wilmington, Delaware. He is a member of the Richard K. Herrmann Technology American Inn of Court.