Posted: April 29, 2003
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
The names for two prime judicial openings for
a Supreme Court justice and the Family Court's chief judge have been
sent to the governor, and as usual their cover has been blown, with
the names flying around the Delaware bench and bar in a gossipy
There are said to be three names on the list
for the Supreme Court. They are Vice Chancellor Jack B. Jacobs,
Superior Court Judge John E. Babiarz Jr. and former Attorney General
Charles M. Oberly III, now with the Wilmington law firm of Oberly
Jennings & Rhodunda.
There are said to be four names on the list
for the Family Court. They are Family Court Judges Chandlee Johnson
Kuhn and Kenneth M. Millman, Chief Magistrate Patricia W. Griffin
and James G. McGiffin Jr., the executive director of the Community
Legal Aid Society Inc.
Matthew P. Denn, counsel to Gov. Ruth Ann
Minner, confirmed that the governor has received the lists of
candidates but otherwise remained mum about what is supposed to be a
dignified and confidential judicial selection process, low on
politics and leaks.
Ha! For matters not illegal, immoral or
fattening, there is probably nothing that generates more interest
among the state's judges and lawyers than vacancies on the bench,
and so the identities of those in the running inevitably become an
Interest may be even more intense than usual
in this round because of the nature of the positions that are open
-- a seat on the state's highest court and the ranking judgeship on
one of the state's six courts.
The posts were occupied by Supreme Court
Justice Joseph T. Walsh, who is retiring on Thursday after more than
30 years in the state court system, and Family Court Chief Judge
Vincent J. Poppiti, who left March 31 after 24 years on the
judiciary to become a partner at Blank Rome, a Philadelphia-based
law firm with a Wilmington office.
The candidates to replace Walsh and Poppiti
came from a pool of applicants to the Judicial Nominating
Commission, which is responsible for evaluating them and forwarding
the lists of potential appointees to the governor.
After Minner chooses her nominees, she will
send her choices to the state Senate for confirmation for 12-year
terms. The current salary for a Supreme Court justice is $147,000 a
year, and for the Family Court chief judge, it is $145,300 a year.
Delaware is the only state that requires
political balance on its judiciary, but the openings are such in
this round that Minner, a first-term Democrat, has the leeway to
fill the vacancies from either party.
The departure of Walsh, a Democrat, leaves the
five-member Supreme Court with two Democrats and two Republicans.
All three of the potential replacements are Democrats.
Similarly, the 15-member Family Court without Poppiti,
a Democrat, is left with a 7-7 split between Democrats and
Republicans. Millman and Kuhn are Republicans, and Griffin and
McGiffin are Democrats.
All of the candidates either did not return
telephone calls or sedately declined to talk, but it hardly matters with the
way the bench and bar are buzzing about them.
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