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The Honorable Maurice

A. Hartnett, III

The Honorable Maurice A. Hartnett, III, age 82, of Dover passed away on May 11, 2009 at Lifecare at Lofland Park in Seaford, DE.

He was born on January 20, 1927 in Dover, Delaware. His father, Maurice A. Hartnett, Jr. was a well-known citizen who was Vice Mayor of Dover and president of the local school board. The Hartnett family operated M.A. Hartnett, Inc. the local lumberyard for 110 years. His mother, Anne Louise Morris, was a descendant of the Ridgely Family that settled in Dover before the American Revolution. In 1945, Justice Hartnett graduated from Dover High School and immediately entered the United States Army. He served at Fort Lee in Virginia and at West Point in New York until 1947. In 1951, Justice Hartnett received his Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from the University of Delaware. He had planned to work in his father's business after graduation, however, with his father's encouragement; he changed plans and studied law. He first attended Georgetown Law School, but ultimately received his Doctorate of Juris Prudence degree from George Washington University School of Law in 1954. In 1953, while in law school, he clerked in the Superior Court for The Honorable Charles L. Terry, Jr. He also received a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Delaware in 1957. After completing his legal education, Justice Hartnett returned to Dover. He was admitted to practice before the Delaware Supreme Court in 1955, the United States District Court of Delaware in 1956 and the United States Supreme Court in 1963. For over twenty-one years, Justice Hartnett practiced law on The Green in Dover. During these years, his general practice included all areas of the law, but he specialized in business and real estate law. His clients included Farmers Bank and several automobile dealerships. During this period he also served in many other capacities including: Attorney for the House of Representatives (1959-60); Executive Director of the Legislative Reference Bureau (1961-1969); Delaware Code Reviser (1961-1972); Attorney for the Kent County Levy Court (1970-1976); Master in Family Court for Kent County (1959-1960); Merit System Study Commissioner (1966); Chairman of the State Tax Appeals Board (1973-1976); Member and Secretary of the Delaware Constitutional Revision Commission (1968-69); and Member of the Delaware Long-Range Courts Committee (1975-1994). He was also Chairperson of the Delaware Supreme Court Uniform Rules of Evidence Committee (1977) and Secretary of the Uniform Commercial Code Study Committee (1964). Justice Hartnett was a member of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws since 1961. He was Secretary for two years and an Executive Committee Member for four years. He served on numerous drafting committees and acted as chair of the committees that drafted the Uniform Exemptions Act; the Uniform Statutory and Rule Construction Act; and the Uniform Trust Code. Justice Hartnett joined the American Bar Association in 1955 and served on several of its committees including the Standing Committee on State Legislation; the Standing Committee on Federal Legislation; and the Judicial Selection and Evaluation Committee. He also served as a vice chair of the Wills, Probate and Trusts Committee, Senior Lawyers Division. Justice Hartnett joined the Kent County Bar Association in 1955 and was president in 1974. He was a member of the American Law Institute. He was a Rehoboth Beach Commissioner (1972-1976) and he was a founder of the Rehoboth Bay Sailing Association. He also served as a Past Commander at the local American Legion post. In 1976, he was appointed by Governor Sherman Tribbett as a Vice-Chancellor on the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware. During his tenure, he heard many corporate cases that received national attention in the 1980s including the Tyson Chicken and Shell Oil cases. In 1988, he was re-appointed by Governor Michael Castle to a second term. In 1994, Governor Thomas Carper appointed him to be a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware. Justice Hartnett officially retired on June 30, 2000, but continued to hear cases by special appointment for several years afterwards. Justice Hartnett was a lifelong member of Holy Cross Church in Dover and served as a past Parish Council President and President of the Steering Committee for the building of the new church.

Justice Hartnett is survived by his wife of 43 years, Elizabeth Anne Hartnett, of Dover, a daughter, The Honorable Anne Hartnett Reigle, her husband Hans H. Reigle and their three children, Derek C. Reigle, Kristen A. Reigle and Blake V. Reigle.

Visitation period will be Thursday May 14, 2009 starting at 5 pm in Holy Cross Catholic Church S. State St. Dover where a Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 6 pm. Private Burial will take place on Friday in Holy Cross Cemetery, Dover. Arrangements are by Michael J. Ambruso Funeral Director, Inc. Dover, DE.

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Published in The News Journal on May 13, 2009
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