Posted: May 16, 2003
IT'S JACOBS AND KUHN
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
Gov. Ruth Ann Minner is ticketing a pair of
judges for promotions to two of the top posts in the Delaware
judiciary, nominating Vice Chancellor Jack B. Jacobs to be a Supreme
Court justice and Family Court Judge Chandlee Johnson Kuhn to become
the chief judge there.
Jacobs would replace Justice Joseph T. Walsh,
who retired, on the state's highest court. Kuhn would take over the
Family Court leadership from former Chief Judge Vincent J. Poppiti,
who left to practice law again after 24 years on the bench.
Minner's choices, announced Friday, must be
confirmed by the state Senate, but their approval appears to be a
foregone conclusion after the General Assembly returns on June 3
from a two-week break.
"I think they will do very well," said Senate
President Pro Tem Thurman G. Adams Jr., a Democrat who also doubles
as the chairman of the Executive Committee with jurisdiction over
With Jacobs' nomination, Minner reinforced the
symbiosis between the Supreme Court and the Court of Chancery that
has kept Delaware an internationally-recognized forum of choice for
corporate law since the early years of the 20th Century.
Jacobs would join Justices Carolyn Berger and
Myron T. Steele as vice chancellors who made the jump to the Supreme
Court. Its other members, Chief Justice E. Norman Veasey and Justice
Randy J. Holland, came from two of Delaware's leading corporate law
firms, Veasey from Richards Layton & Finger and Holland from Morris
Nichols Arsht & Tunnell.
"He [Jacobs] will help the Supreme Court to
retain its reputation as the pre-eminent Supreme Court in the nation
with respect to corporate matters and will exercise his proven good
judgment in the variety of other civil and criminal matters that
come before the court," Minner said in a statement announcing the
With Jacobs on board, the court would maintain
its current political alignment of three Democrats and two
Republicans. Jacobs is a Democrat, as are Berger and Steele, while
Veasey and Holland are Republicans. Under the state constitution,
the court must be as politically balanced as possible.
For Jacobs, the opportunity to serve on the
Supreme Court represents a dream come true. As a young lawyer,
Jacobs clerked for the late William Duffy and saw him rise through
the judicial ranks to chancellor and Supreme Court justice, and it
became a goal of his own.
"He became almost a role model, and in the
back of my mind, I thought I'd be delighted to do what he did,"
Jacobs said. "To be able to come close to what Justice Duffy did
would be a great honor. I just wish he were here."
Jacobs, 60, of Wilmington, has been a vice
chancellor since 1985. Previously he was a partner at Young Conaway
Stargatt & Taylor in Wilmington. He is a graduate of the University
of Chicago and Harvard Law School.
For Kuhn, 41, of Wilmington, her confirmation
would put her in charge of a court that is practically her second
A judge there since 1998, she was 22 when she
got her first job on the court as a bailiff and later a staff
development instructor. A law degree in 1988 from Delaware Law
School -- in the last class before the name was changed to Widener
University law school -- got her a job at the Wilmington firm of
Prickett Jones & Elliott, practicing corporate litigation and
domestic relations, before she received her judgeship.
Kuhn also had a stint as a law clerk for
Justice Walsh. "It's fitting timing," she said.
Minner cited Kuhn's experience on the court as
a prime reason for the appointment. "I think it is important that
the chief judge of the Family Court be a person with a thorough
understanding of that court's docket, procedures and personnel, and
Judge Kuhn is keenly aware of all of these different facets," the
Kuhn is a Republican, and her elevation would
leave the 15-judge court split evenly with seven Republicans, seven
Democrats and one vacancy. Poppiti had a Democratic seat.
While Minner is a Democrat notable for a
decided preference for her own party, her appointment of Kuhn would
mean four of the state's six courts have presiding judges who are
Republican -- the Supreme Court, the Court of Chancery, the Superior
Court and the Family Court. Only the Court of Common Pleas would
have a Democratic chief judge and the Justice of the Peace Courts a
Democratic chief magistrate.
That arrangement should do nothing but
increase the speculation that Minner intends to make a chief justice
out of Steele, a Democrat, when Veasey's term ends next year.
Besides, Kuhn may be a Republican, but she
comes with an unbeatable Democratic connection. When her father-in-law was
a student at the University of Delaware, his roommate was none other
than Thurman Adams.
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