Posted: April 18, 2005


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner will be selecting the next chief magistrate from four candidates recommended by her Judicial Nominating Commission, which included on the list two lawyers with ties to her closest advisers.

The names were submitted to the governor late last week, and despite the confidentiality of the judicial appointment process, they quickly circulated among the bench and bar because of the keen interest in finding out who will be elevated to the ranks of Delaware's legal aristocracy.

The list is said to include three lawyers from downstate and one from upstate. In alphabetical order, they are: John C. Andrade, based in Kent County with the law firm of Parkowski Guerke & Swayze; Thomas I. Barrows, also based in Kent County with the firm of Hudson Jones Jaywork & Fisher; Alan G. Davis, based in Sussex County with the firm of Henry Clay Davis III; and Patricia A. Gallagher, who works in New Castle County at the legal division of MBNA America.

The next chief magistrate will replace Patricia W. Griffin, who accepted an offer from Chief Justice Myron T. Steele to give up the post to become the state court administrator. Griffin, the chief magistrate since 1993, switched jobs in February.

The chief magistrate runs the Justice of the Peace Court, which consists of 60 magistrates, also called justices of the peace, who handle minor criminal and civil cases as well as landlord-tenant proceedings. Unlike the magistrates, the chief magistrate must be a member of the Delaware bar.

Within the state's insular legal and political classes, it probably was inevitable that a candidate or two would be linked to Minner's own circle, and they were.

Andrade practices with F. Michael Parkowski, who chairs the Judicial Nominating Commission, the panel appointed by the governor to screen applications for judgeships.

Davis is a great nephew of Edward R. "Ned" Davis, a prominent lobbyist and former Democratic national committeeman who is a member of Minner's kitchen cabinet. Alan Davis also is an attorney for the state House of Representatives, and his father, Edward G. Davis, is a justice of the peace.

The chief magistrate must be nominated by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. A first-time appointment carries a four-year term, although reappointments are expanded to six-year terms. The current salary is $117,000 a year.

Unlike other courts, there is no requirement for political balance. It means that Minner, a two-term Democrat, and the Democratic-run Senate are free to replace Griffin, a Democrat, with another Democrat. Of the candidates, Andrade and Davis are Democrats, and Barrows is a Republican. Gallagher's affiliation could not be ascertained.

There also are no requirements for geography or gender. Under Minner, who is from the Kent County side of Milford and represented a district spanning Kent and Sussex as a legislator, the judiciary has tilted downstate, but the governor also has done her part to make room for women on the predominantly male courts.

In naming a new chief magistrate, Minner is left with a puzzle -- downstate or upstate, Democrat or Republican, male or female, and what to do about the connections to two of her closest advisers?