Posted: March 8, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The herky-jerky search for a new federal judge appears to have lurched to life again, the focus this time believed to be on a career prosecutor who would fit right in on a U.S. District Court bench composed entirely of ex-prosecutors.

The prime candidate is said to be Richard Andrews, who is currently the state prosecutor in charge of the criminal division for Beau Biden, the Democratic attorney general, and spent more than 20 years with the U.S. Attorney's Office beforehand.

It has been a slow and circuitous emergence for Andrews to be in line for the judgeship, which has been vacant since Joe Farnan retired in July to set up a law firm.

Andrews made the first cut when Tom Carper, the Democratic senior senator, sent the Obama administration three names to be considered for the appointment, which comes with a lifetime term requiring Senate confirmation, but he was not the immediate frontrunner.

The others on the list were Linda Ammons, the Widener law school dean, and C.J. Seitz, a Wilmington lawyer, and it quickly looked like Ammons was on her way to the nomination. She never made it, though, apparently because of a lack of courtroom experience in a legal career spent otherwise in academia and government.

Now Andrews seems to have the edge, more evidence that the best doorway to the federal court here is the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Greg Sleet, the chief judge, was a U.S. attorney, and Sue Robinson and Len Stark, the other two judges on the court, were assistant U.S. attorneys. Naturally Farnan was a U.S. attorney, too.

Andrews got to be the first assistant U.S. attorney and periodically filled in as the U.S. attorney, but in addition to that seemingly essential credential, his current assignment as the state prosecutor comes with another connection that probably should not be overlooked.

The president who has the power of appointment has a vice president who has a son who is Andrews' boss.

In a state as small as Delaware, it is no surprise there would be other notable crosscurrents, as well, if Andrews was to replace Farnan on the bench. Farnan was the U.S. attorney who hired Andrews -- right out of a clerkship with Collins Seitz, the famous judge whose civil rights opinions anticipated Brown v. Board, the Supreme Court decision striking down school segregation.

Seitz, who died in 1998, was the father of C.J. Seitz, another of the candidates recommended along with Andrews for the judicial vacancy. Clerkship must count for more than kinship.