Posted: June 4, 2003
JACOBS AND KUHN MOVE UP
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
A strong presence of the Delaware judiciary
Wednesday in Legislative Hall seemed like a good clue that the
judges were anticipating that two of their own would be elevated
that day to front-line judgeships.
Not that any stumbling blocks had been
expected. None were, and there weren't.
In a rapid show of assembly-line judge making,
Jack B. Jacobs entered the building in Dover as a Court of Chancery
vice chancellor and left as a Supreme Court justice, and Chandlee
Johnson Kuhn came in as a Family Court judge and emerged as the
chief judge there.
From the start of friendly confirmation
hearings to oaths of office, it only took about two hours and 15
minutes. Both nominations were approved by the state Senate without
dissent, 19-0 with two absent.
Almost as soon as the roll calls were tallied,
Jacobs and Kuhn displayed some of the good judgment they will need
in their new roles. With friends, family and colleagues in tow, they
assembled in Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's office to take their oaths as
quickly as possible.
The quirky state Senate has been known to find
ways to reverse a vote, but there is no taking back an oath. Jacobs
and Kuhn were good to go for 12-year terms.
The whole process actually could have gone a
shade more quickly, but there was a pause until a Bible could be
located for the swearing-in. This was no time for separation between
church and state.
There is little more that is joyous in state
government than the confirmation of a judge. Jacobs and Kuhn were
engulfed in handshakes and hugs and recognized with standing
ovations. Colleagues on hand to congratulate them included Supreme
Court Justices Randy J. Holland and Myron T. Steele and at least
seven Family Court judges.
"It's a very good day when you get not just
your hearings, but the vote on the very same day," Minner said. She
could have added that it is also a very good day when the governor
gets her nominees confirmed without any opposition.
Jacobs plans to have a more formal swearing-in
ceremony on July 2, but Kuhn said she hasn't decided whether she
wants to repeat her oath-taking in a more public setting.
Jacobs, 60, of Wilmington, became only the
20th judge to serve on the modern Delaware Supreme Court, which was
formed in 1951. He replaced Justice Joseph T. Walsh, who stepped
down after more than 30 years in the state judiciary.
Jacobs' elevation to the state's highest court
is the latest in a long line of examples of how diligently all three
branches of government here nurture the state's reputation as the
forum of choice of business law, with all the prestige, revenue and
economic benefits that it brings.
Jacobs is the third Supreme Court member,
along with Justices Carolyn Berger and Steele, to sit previously on
Chancery, the trial court for business law. Holland and Chief
Justice E. Norman Veasey were corporate law practitioners before
joining the court.
Jacobs' move is not only a reflection that
Chancery is the most favored route upwards but signals that the two
courts will continue their tandem attention to business law.
Jacobs is a Democrat. His arrival maintains
the political balance required by the state constitution on the
court, which will continue to have three Democrats in Berger, Steele
and Jacobs and two Republicans in Veasey and Holland.
Kuhn 41, of Wilmington, became the fourth
chief judge of the modern Family Court, which was created in 1971.
She replaced Chief Judge Vincent J. Poppiti, who spent 24 years in
the state court system before leaving for private practice. She will
lead a court of 15 judges.
Depending on the reckoning, Kuhn could be
regarded as the first woman to be named a presiding judge on a state
court. Chief Magistrate Patricia W. Griffin heads the Justice of the
Peace Courts, but Kuhn is the first to take over a state court with
judges who have law degrees.
Also, Chief Judge Sue L. Robinson has the top
judgeship on the U.S. District Court for Delaware, but Kuhn is the
first to break through on the state side.
"She's representing an important new crack in
the glass ceiling," said Senate Majority Leader Harris B. McDowell
III, a Wilmington Democrat.
Kuhn is a Republican. Her confirmation leaves
the Family Court split politically with seven Republicans, seven
Democrats and one vacancy.
Now that Jacobs and Kuhn are installed, Minner
must find replacements for them, but that is for another day.
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