Posted: Dec. 7, 2005


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

In 11 years in politics as the Republican attorney general, M. Jane Brady had a reputation that she was so tough, she would prosecute Santa Claus.

In a last look back, she will do it next week. Brady will make the case against Kris Kringle in performances of the courtroom scene of "Miracle on 34th Street," which the court system is presenting for children.

Brady expects to lose. If Scrooge and the Grinch, with reputations even more ruthless than hers, could not beat Christmas, how can she? If Scrooge and the Grinch could be transformed, why not Brady?

The transformation began Wednesday, Delaware Day, the date Brady chose to take her oath as a Superior Court judge during a ceremony in the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington and leave her political life behind.

There was not a word spoken about the Jane Brady who went into a campaign like a street fighter, the one who pummeled Joseph R. Biden Jr. about character when she unsuccessfully ran against the Democratic senator in 1990.

There was not a mention of the Jane Brady who went like a bulldozer after E. Norman Veasey, then the chief justice, in a public dispute two years ago over the the application of the death penalty, as though he were a political opponent to defeat.

That Jane Brady, the scourge of Santa Claus, was gone. The one presented during the ceremony by the speakers -- retired Professor James R. Soles, incoming Attorney General Carl C. Danberg and Supreme Court Justice Randy J. Holland -- was as refined as the new Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady."

This was "My Fair Brady" -- compassionate, hard-working, and reverent toward the law.

"You have to admit she is fair. She treats everyone alike. That is the highest recommendation that an individual can have that goes to the bench," said Soles, who has known Brady since he taught her political science at the University of Delaware more than 30 years ago.

This Jane Brady was a model pathfinder, the first woman in the state to be elected attorney general. This Jane Brady started KINfolk to provide laptops to hospitalized children. This Jane Brady got elected as an advocate for victims of violence and abuse.

This Jane Brady was so well-regarded that hundreds of people overflowed the courtroom to wish her well at the swearing-in.

Still, for anyone paying close attention, the old Jane Brady still had a little life in her.

In a break from custom, the Delaware State Bar Association president was not part of the investiture. Perhaps it was only coincidence that this same bar association's Judicial Appointments Committee rated Brady as "not recommended" for the Superior Court -- considered to be a protest against the political deal that got her there.

In exchange for the judgeship, Brady avoided what was expected to be a precarious race for a fourth term next year in this increasingly Democratic state, and Gov. Ruth Ann Minner got to name a fellow Democrat to serve out Brady's term, as well as to clear the field for Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, the senator's son who is the Democrats' 2006 candidate, so far without Republican opposition.

Another element mostly missing from the ceremony was Republican speakers. After a political career marked by an on-again-off-again relationship with party leaders, Brady did not even tell them she was applying for the bench. Her judgeship came courtesy of the Democratic governor and Democratic-run Senate, and the investiture was largely Democratic, too.

Soles and Danberg, who has been Brady's chief deputy since last year, are Democrats. Danberg even comes from a family of Biden loyalists and already has said he will back Beau Biden for attorney general.

Holland is a Republican, but he is from Sussex County, as is Brady, and anybody who knows anything about Delaware politics knows there really are three parties -- Democrats, Republicans and Sussex County. They take care of their own down there.

It fell to Danberg to plead the case most eloquently for the new Jane Brady. He praised her work ethic -- "I venture to guess she will be better prepared than any attorney who comes before her, and woe to that attorney" -- and he could not say enough about her sense of fairness.

Danberg choked up as he talked about it. As it had happened, he worked on Joe Biden's 1990 campaign in a visible sort of way, showing up with a microphone to record Brady's announcement speech in all three counties. She lost, he started working for the state Justice Department, and then came the 1994 election for attorney general.

"My new boss was M. Jane Brady. I prepared my resume," Danberg said.

When Brady met with him, he expected to be fired. Instead, they chatted, until Danberg finally said, "Are you sure you know who I am?" She replied, "Stop. Work hard, give me the same loyalty you gave to Sen. Biden, and we will have no problem."

Danberg will take his oath as attorney general on Thursday. In one of her first official acts, the new Jane Brady will be the judge who swears him in.