Posted: Oct. 27, 2005


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

A roll call in the state Senate is all that stands between Attorney General M. Jane Brady and a judgeship on the Delaware Superior Court.

Brady got her wish late Thursday afternoon for a judicial nomination from Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, who announced she was sending Brady's name to the Senate for confirmation.

The arrangement represents a convergence of interests between Brady, a three-term Republican, and Minner, a two-term Democrat.

For Brady, it spares her from what was expected to be a grueling re-election campaign next year when the Democrats are planning to field Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, the senator's son, as their candidate. Brady barely was re-elected in 2002 with 48 percent of the vote in a three-way race.

For Minner, it gives her the opportunity to appoint her own choice to serve the remainder of Brady's term, as well as to weaken singlehandedly the Republicans' waning grip on statewide offices. The Republicans would be down to two of the nine posts with only U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle and state Auditor R. Thomas Wagner Jr. to represent their party.

Minner had to appoint a Republican, anyway, because the state constitution requires the courts to be balanced politically. Brady would be replacing Judge Richard S. Gebelein, once a Republican attorney general himself, who took early retirement to accept an international judgeship in Bosnia.

There was no mention of the politics swirling around this appointment in the press release from the governor's office announcing it.

Instead, Minner's statement on Brady read, "The Superior Court bench will benefit from her knowledge and years of experience with Delaware's courts."

Brady's statement on Minner read, "I am deeply honored by the governor's nomination."

Brady's appointment did not come without some foot-dragging from the state's bench and bar, which have been rumbling about the unusually raw politics involved in her selection.

It was reflected in the list of candidates given to Minner by her Judicial Nominating Commission, which is responsible for screening the applicants. The commission customarily forwards three names but sent six this time, as though it understood Minner would ask for a new list if Brady's name was not included.

Brady's nomination will be considered Nov. 8 by the state Senate during a special session, along with a number of other judicial appointments that Minner made at the same time.

Minner notified the Senate that she was reappointing Chief Judge Alex J. Smalls of the Court of Common Pleas and Superior Court Judges William C. Carpenter Jr. and Fred S. Silverman.

In addition, Minner announced she was filling two new judgeships on the Family Court with Joelle P. Hitch, currently a Family Court commissioner, and Alan N. Cooper, a lawyer with the Wilmington firm of Berkowitz Schagrin & Cooper.

All judges serve 12-year terms. Brady would get a raise from $136,600 a year as attorney general to $163,900 as a judge on the 19-member Superior Court, which hears both criminal and civil cases. Like the Superior Court judges, Family Court judges are paid $163,900 a year. Smalls receives $178,400 a year.

State Sen. Thurman G. Adams Jr., the Bridgeville Democrat who is the president pro tem, said Thursday afternoon that he expected the governor's nominees to pass muster.

"I think so," he said. "The ones [senators] I've talked to, there won't be a problem."

Brady said in a telephone interview she will work to gain the senators' confidence. "I'm not going to take anything for granted. I'm in the middle of a process, and I take it very seriously. I will be reaching out to the senators to answer any questions or provide any information that will help them make their decision," she said.

If all goes according to plan, Minner will have that final appointment to make for attorney general, setting off a new guessing game in the state's political circles, wondering whether it could go to Beau Biden?