Posted: Jan. 24, 2013
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
By Celia Cohen
The typical duration for a correction commissioner is two years. Carl Danberg, who has been Delaware's, looked it up. He has lasted six years.
That is a long time to run a place full of people aggrieved about being where they are. A lot can go wrong, and it has. Overcrowding. Poor health care. Inmates released from custody too early or too late. Shoddy record-keeping on a day labor program.
It sounds like a ticket to oblivion, but not here.
Danberg was confirmed as a judge by the state Senate on Wednesday without a dissenting vote. This is what happens in a small state given to personal familiarity, not to the politics of reprisal, where being at home with the senators is an unmatchable advantage to making it onto a court.
They know Danberg. They know he stepped up to be the attorney general when Jane Brady unexpectedly left for a judgeship and then stepped aside so Beau Biden could run. They know he next persevered against the odds as the correction commissioner, perhaps the most perilous job in the Cabinet, for two Democratic governors, first for Ruth Ann Minner and now for Jack Markell.
They know him as a good soldier, literally, a lieutenant colonel serving as a JAG officer in the National Guard.
"If I were to write up a profile of my ideal state employee, it would be you," said Dave McBride, the Democratic majority leader.
Even Greg Lavelle, the Republican minority whip who has been outspokenly critical about problems in the prison system, backed off. After making only a vague reference to "particularly challenging" times for the Correction Department, he voted yes on the nomination.
"To err is human, to confirm is divine," Lavelle quipped afterwards.
Danberg will take a Democratic seat on the Court of Common Pleas to replace Eric Davis, who recently moved to the Superior Court.
While Danberg was breezing through, so were two other nominees also well-known to the senators. Vivian Rapposelli and Paul Wallace were confirmed for the Superior Court for two new judgeships, respectively one Democratic and one Republican, to satisfy the state constitution's requirement for political balance in the judiciary.
Rapposelli has spent the past four years as the secretary for children's services, and Wallace is a deputy attorney general who has been a legislative liaison for the Justice Department, not to mention he has two children who interned with the Senate.
They met with cross-partisan warmth. Gary Simpson, the Republican minority leader, was struck by the cultural heritage Rapposelli, who was born in Guatemala and deeply involved in the state's Hispanic community, could bring to the court, while Patti Blevins, the Democratic president pro tem, told Wallace, "We've seen you in action, and we know your judicial temperament will be just right."
This is the way of judicial confirmations here, not the stuff of Robert Bork or Clarence Thomas, but old home week.