Posted: Oct. 19, 2015
By Celia Cohen
The Court of Chancery has been such a male bastion. Like Legislative Hall would burn before a woman ever sat there again.
Ha! Legislative Hall did burn, and a woman has been nominated for vice chancellor on Delaware's most famous court, storied for its reputation in equity and corporate law.
The appointment by Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, went to Tamika Montgomery-Reeves, who would not only be breaking through the gender line but a racial barrier to get on the court.
Montgomery-Reeves would be the first African-American, male or female, to make it to the court and only the second woman, following Carolyn Berger, who spent 10 years as a vice chancellor before she was elevated in 1994 to be a Supreme Court justice, now retired.
All it has taken is 223 years, since the Court of Chancery was created in 1792.
Montgomery-Reeves will be up for confirmation on Wednesday, Oct. 28, during a special session of the state Senate in Legislative Hall in Dover.
So will four others, nominated for judgeships, and just to emphasize the pivotal nature of the moment, three of them are women -- Mary Johnston, reappointed a Superior Court judge, Arlene Coppadge, reappointed a Family Court judge, and Jennifer Ranji, the children's services secretary appointed a Family Court judge -- leaving Alan Davis, reappointed as chief magistrate, as the only man.
This is not George Read's judiciary.
Montgomery-Reeves currently practices corporate law at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, where the senior partner is Bill Chandler, a revered ex-chancellor for whom she clerked when he ran Chancery, even if it so happens she is a Democrat and he is a Republican.
Montgomery-Reeves would replace Don Parsons, who is leaving after completing a single 12-year term as vice chancellor.
Legislative Hall should be ready. Not only has it been undergoing a ferocious cleaning with some reconstruction here and there since it sustained serious smoke damage from a fire on Oct. 7, but state senators from both sides of the aisle are talking as though they recognize the Chancery makeover has been a long time coming.
"It's an historic nomination," said Patti Blevins, the Democratic president pro tem, adding, "I'm really pleased it's someone with a corporate background, and I don't think you could have a better mentor than Bill Chandler."
There was more of the same from Gary Simpson, the Republican minority leader, who said, "It's good to see a person of color and a woman for the court, and I hope she's of the same mind as Chancellor Chandler. It was probably good experience working under him."
It is a new day for the court. Nobody should be surprised it would take clearing Legislative Hall of some smoke-filled rooms first.
# # #
There are many ways to watch a presidential debate.
Staffers on Capitol Hill, for example, have been known to gather and make everyone swallow an adult beverage, maybe every time a Democratic candidate says "the One Percent" or a Republican candidate says "Benghazi."
The Delaware Republicans are planning a watch party for Tuesday, Nov. 10, when their presidential candidates debate in Milwaukee. They want people to come to the Greenville Country Club, where their $150 tickets (discounted to $95 in advance) will get them a cocktail reception, buffet dinner and valet parking, as well as cigars outside on a heated patio.
The invitation says it is coming from "Delaware's new and revitalized Republican Party."
Because nothing says "Delaware's new and revitalized Republican Party" like a country club in Greenville and cigars.