Posted: Feb. 3, 2003
POPPITI TO LEAVE FAMILY COURT
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
In a surprise move, Family Court Chief Judge
Vincent J. Poppiti has decided to leave the bench about a year
before his 12-year term expires and become a partner at Blank Rome,
a law firm headquartered in Philadelphia with a growing Wilmington
A mainstay of the judiciary with almost a
quarter-century in the court system, Poppiti expects to depart for
private practice toward the end of March, a date he said he will firm
up after a discussion with Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.
"I'm in the last year of my term. I thought it
was important to accept an opportunity sooner rather than later,"
Poppiti said in an interview Monday evening.
An official announcement from Blank Rome,
saying Poppiti is joining the firm, is expected as early as Tuesday.
Poppiti is only the third judge to run the
statewide Family Court, which was set up in its current form in
1971. Its 15 judges hear civil and criminal matters, including
divorces and juvenile crimes.
Poppiti's replacement must be nominated by
Minner, a first-term Democrat, and confirmed by the state Senate for
a 12-year term with a current salary of $145,300 a year. Poppiti is
a Democrat, but he could be succeeded by either a Democrat or a
Republican to maintain the Family Court's political balance required
by law. Currently there are eight Democrats, including Poppiti, and
seven Republicans on the bench.
Poppiti became the Family Court's chief judge
on Jan. 31, 1992, after an appointment by Gov. Michael N. Castle, a
Republican now in the U.S. House of Representatives. Poppiti's term
was set to expire on Jan. 31, 2004.
Poppiti moved to the Family Court from the
Superior Court, where he had served since 1983, spending his last
two years there as the resident judge in New Castle County with the
responsibility for running the court upstate. He began his judicial
career on the Family Court in 1979 before shifting to the Superior
Judicial service, however, is hardly all that
Poppiti is recognized for. He is also known for his singing and
acting talent, performing at various times with the Delaware
Children's Theatre and the First State Gridiron Dinner & Show, which
is a political roast. He also has been willing to cook the pungent
smelts for St. Anthony's Italian Festival.
Poppiti's decision to leave the bench came
rather suddenly. Its catalyst was a feeler from Thomas P. Preston, a
Wilmington lawyer and longtime friend who joined Blank Rome as a
partner last month after leaving Reed Smith, a Pittsburgh-based firm
with a Wilmington office.
The two had talked for years about practicing
together someday, and the time seemed right to Poppiti. "It happened
quick. It clearly was not an easy decision after 24 years on the
bench," he said.
Poppiti plans to have a practice in domestic
law and also mediation. He will be part of a 55-year-old firm with
more than 440 lawyers in 11 offices, including 21 attorneys in its
Wilmington location in the Chase Manhattan Centre at 12th and Market
Poppiti regards his upcoming private practice
as an extension of what he has always done. "I've had a career
making decisions for others when they can't," he said. "This is the
right place to be."
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