Posted: May 28, 2003
PARKOWSKI & GUERKE . . . AND
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
Between a solid law practice and coveted
appointments from the governor, F. Michael Parkowski has so much
going his way that it is hard to think he could add to it.
He just did.
Next week Parkowski is joining forces with
David S. Swayze, another lawyer recognized for his political
playmaking. The firm of Parkowski & Guerke will become Parkowski
Guerke & Swayze with offices in Dover and Wilmington for 15 lawyers.
The alliance unites a pair of attorneys who
know their way around the inner workings of government, representing
clients before state and federal regulatory agencies, lobbying for
them in the General Assembly and litigating for them in court.
"When you look at government legal work, they
become a significant legal firm," said Robert L. Byrd, a top Dover
lobbyist who knows influence when he sees it.
The new partnership comes at a time when
Parkowski already has perhaps as high a public profile as any lawyer
in Delaware with his close connections to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, the
One of Minner's first acts after assuming
office in 2001 was to name Parkowski the chairman of the Judicial
Nominating Commission, a panel that screens applicants for
judgeships and holds considerable sway among the bench and bar.
As if that assignment were not enough, Minner
recently tapped Parkowski for the chairmanship of the Delaware River
& Bay Authority, the troubled agency she has been vitally interested
in remaking in her own image.
Parkowski was the co-chairman of the finance
committee that collected the contributions for Minner's first
gubernatorial campaign in 2000, and he expected to be in the thick
of her fund raising again in 2004.
Somewhere in there he also runs a law firm
that he started in Dover in 1975, building his own practice mostly
in environmental law and land use matters with clients that include
the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, the state Transportation
Department and the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation
No wonder Parkowski is welcoming Swayze. "You
might say I'm doing this so there's somebody around to practice
law," he quipped.
Swayze brings plenty of connections of his
own. Although he is a Democrat, his experience with state government
dates from his days as legal counsel and chief of staff in the first
term of Republican Gov. Pierre S. du Pont, whose two-term
administration lasted from 1977 to 1985.
Swayze's insider status was on display at his
wedding earlier this month. Legislators were there, including
Thurman G. Adams Jr., the Senate's Democratic president pro tem, and
so was the judicial trifecta of Supreme Court Justice Myron T.
Steele, Chancellor William B. Chandler III and Superior Court
President Judge Henry duPont Ridgely.
As a lawyer in private practice, Swayze helped
to usher in the move of out-of-state law firms to Delaware, going
with the Wilmington offices of Duane Morris in 1986 and Reed Smith
in 2000. After years of trying to recruit Parkowski and his law firm
as a downstate practice group, he said he saw the light.
"Michael and other members of the law firm
valued their independence far too much," Swayze said. "I concluded
that's the way I want to spend my last 10 years of practice."
Swayze is not coming alone. He is bringing
with him Reed Smith partners Christine P. Schlitz and Michael W.
Teichman, who also have governmental practices. Schlitz, once a law
clerk for Steele, works in regulatory law and lobbying. Teichman, a
former deputy attorney general assigned to the state Insurance
Department, represents insurance companies and banks in his
Even before these new reinforcements arrived,
Parkowski's firm was on the move. He added lawyers after partner
John W. Noble left in 2000 with a judicial appointment for the Court
of Chancery -- a feather in the cap of the firm. He also opened a
Wilmington office in December, a presence that clearly will be
"This isn't a Dover firm with a
Wilmington office. This is a statewide practice. To the extent we
were before, this establishes it beyond question," Parkowski said.
The move from downstate to upstate tends to
run against the trend. In general it is the Wilmington firms setting
up offices in lower Delaware, like Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor
in Georgetown or Prickett Jones & Elliott in Dover.
"We've watched this invasion from the north,"
Parkowski said. "Essentially we're counterattacking."
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