Posted: Aug. 28, 2003
MUSICAL CHAIRS, JUDICIAL STYLE
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
When a governor fills a judicial vacancy with
a sitting judge, it is known as a "two-fer." This is because it lets
the governor generate a derivative appointment, creating the
opportunity to name yet another judge in a two-for-one deal out of
the original opening.
Because of a couple of "two-fers" set up in
June, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner is on the verge of nominating a new vice
chancellor for the Court of Chancery and a new judge for the Family
Court. In addition, she also must appoint someone to the Superior
Court because of the recent death of Judge Haile L. Alford.
The lists of candidates for Chancery and
Family Court have been forwarded to the governor from the Judicial
Nominating Commission, the panel responsible for screening and
recommending applicants. The deadline for applications for the
Superior Court judgeship was today at noon.
Minner has called for a special session of the
state Senate on Sept. 24 to consider her nominations. All of the new
judges will receive full 12-year terms, even though they are
replacing judges whose terms were unexpired, and their salaries will
be $140,200 a year.
While the nominating process is confidential,
there is too much interest among the bench and bar for word not to
spread, and it has.
There are said to be two lawyers in the
running for vice chancellor, regarded as one of the premier
judgeships in the state. They are Professor Lawrence A. Hamermesh,
an academic authority on the Chancery Court from the Widener
University School of Law, and Donald F. Parsons Jr., a Delaware
State Bar Association past president who practices law at Morris
Nichols Arsht & Tunnell in Wilmington.
The nominee would replace Justice Jack B.
Jacobs, whom Minner elevated from vice chancellor to the Supreme
Court in one of her "two-fers," to join a five-member court that
brings international recognition to Delaware as a forum for
There are said to be four candidates on the
list for the Family Court: Alan N. Cooper, a Wilmington attorney
with a family law practice at Berkowitz Schagrin Cooper & Dryden;
Arlene Minus Coppadge, a Court of Common Pleas commissioner; Mary
Susan Much, a lawyer in the Office of Disciplinary Counsel; and
Loretta M. Young, a Family Court commissioner.
The Family Court vacancy opened when Minner
promoted Chandlee Johnson Kuhn from judge to chief judge, replacing
Vincent J. Poppiti, who retired to join a law firm. The 15-member
court hears both civil and criminal cases in domestic law, including
divorces and juvenile crime.
The Superior Court candidacies have not sorted
themselves out yet, but it would not surprise anyone if the list
sent to the governor resembled the one she received when she
selected Calvin L. Scott Jr. for the bench in January.
Finalists on that roster included Chief
Disciplinary Counsel Mary M. Johnston and Chief Deputy Attorney
General Ferris W. Wharton, who already is set to change jobs. He is
leaving the state Justice Department at the end of the month for the
U.S. Attorney's Office.
The Superior Court has 19 judges who hear both
civil and criminal cases.
Although the governor is a Democrat and the
state Senate is controlled by Democrats, the Delaware judiciary must
be balanced politically by law. Democratic slots are being filled on
the Chancery Court and the Family Court, and a Republican one on the
For Minner, these judgeships would bring to 11
the number of appointments or reappointments she has made to the
state's 54-member judiciary since taking office in 2001.
There is something of a constitutional end-run
occurring with the Chancery vacancy. Under the state constitution,
the governor is required to submit a nomination to the state Senate
within 60 days of a vacancy on that court. Jacobs departed on June
4, so the deadline has come and gone.
Matthew P. Denn, the governor's legal counsel,
said scheduling problems for both the Judicial Nominating Commission
and the state Senate made the deadline nearly impossible to meet, so
Minner administration officials took another look at the
"We concluded that the constitution did not
provide any consequence for appointing the replacement beyond the 60
days," Denn said. So they are.
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