Posted: April 25, 2003




There was a party Thursday evening to mark Vincent J. Poppiti's exit as the Family Court's chief judge, but it was difficult to decide what to call it.

"Retirement party" didn't seem right, because Poppiti has a new job as a partner at Blank Rome, a firm headquartered in Philadelphia with a growing Wilmington office.

"Going-away party" was certainly wrong, because Poppiti wasn't leaving. His talent for singing and acting is expected to keep him going at Delaware's theatres, weddings, bar mitzvahs and so on. William E. Manning, a good friend and fellow lawyer, calls Poppiti a "judge in tights."

Whatever it was, dozens of people showed up at Buena Vista, the state conference center on U.S. 13 near New Castle, to recognize Poppiti for 24 years on the bench, including the last 11 years running one of Delaware's six courts. His last day was March 31.

The crowd included Chancellor William B. Chandler III and Chief Magistrate Patricia W. Griffin, two other presiding judges in the state judiciary. Griffin is being mentioned prominently, along with Family Court Judge Kenneth M. Millman, as a possible replacement for Poppiti.

Lawrence M. Sullivan, the public defender, and Joseph P. Farley Sr., the Conectiv lobbyist, were asked to speak. This is a little like asking for a blindfold and last cigarette.

Sullivan, who has been a pal of Poppiti's for more than 25 years, said they had a mutual admiration society, referring to one another as the greatest judge in the world and the greatest public defender. "That's how we stayed friends all these years, by lying to each other," he said.

While Sullivan talked, Poppiti sat royally in a chair beside him to object and overrule.

Sullivan said Poppiti characterized the chief judgeship as something like a fire hydrant. "You spend all your time putting out fires and then standing your guard against the big dogs," Sullivan said.

"I didn't say it that way," Poppiti said.

Sullivan said Poppiti also likened the job to a cemetery. "He had lots of people under him, but none of them were listening," Sullivan said.

"I didn't say that, either," Poppiti said.

Meanwhile, Farley zeroed in on one of the greatest puzzles about Poppiti. "Are there two p's and one t in Poppiti? Two t's and one p? P-o-p-p-i-t-t-i?" Farley cracked.

Farley was funnier than he knew. Poppiti confessed that his partnership agreement with Blank Rome was made out to "Vincent J. Poppito." He sent it back. It's three p's, one t, two i's and one ee-aye-ee-aye-o.

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The offices of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Thomas R. Carper, Delaware's pair of Democratic senators, are in flux with the departure of two familiar staff members for the private side.

John T. Dorsey, who spent the last three years as Biden's state director, is returning to lawyering as a special counsel with Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor in Wilmington.

Dorsey, who previously worked at the Wilmington law firm of Richards Layton & Finger, joined Biden's staff after running as the Democratic candidate for attorney general in 1998. He said he expects to stay active in politics, although he doesn't have any plans to run again himself.

Brian R. Selander has left his job as Carper's communications director to become the managing director of Silver Oak Solutions, procurement specialists who include Delaware in their list of government and commercial clients.

Selander got his start in politics in New Jersey. He worked in New Hampshire on the 1998 gubernatorial campaign for Jeanne Shaheen and the 2000 presidential campaign for Bill Bradley before handling media relations for Carper.

Dorsey's job has yet to be filled. Jennifer Connell is the acting communications director for Carper.