Posted: April 12, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Candidates for the vacant federal judgeship in Delaware have been summoned to the White House either Thursday or Friday for interviews, Delaware Grapevine has learned.

All four of the lawyers recommended by U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle have been asked to staff-level meetings in Washington to present their credentials for replacing Judge Kent A. Jordan, who was elevated in December from the U.S. District Court to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Castle's list, which did not rank the candidates, consisted of: U.S. Attorney Colm F. Connolly; Richard A. Forsten, a partner in the Wilmington office of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney; Thomas P. Preston, a partner in the Wilmington office of Blank Rome; and Andrea L. Rocanelli, chief disciplinary counsel for the Delaware Supreme Court.

Whoever is nominated by President George W. Bush must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the four-member court, based in Wilmington. The new judge will have a lifetime appointment with a current salary of $165,200 a year.

So far, this selection process has been all Republican, from the administration to Castle, the only Republican in the state's three-member congressional delegation, to the candidates. It was not necessarily supposed to be.

With the Democrats controlling the Senate, the White House took the extra step of soliciting recommendations from Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Thomas R. Carper, the state's Democratic senators. Traditionally presidents are guided in judicial appointments by a home-state senator from the same party as the administration, but under the circumstances, that role went to Castle.

The request to Biden and Carper was an acknowledgement of senatorial prerogative, and both initially seemed determined to capitalize on it -- particularly Biden, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over court appointments.

Intermediaries for Biden and Carper went prospecting among state judges, but there is no indication they found any takers willing to chance that this White House would accept a Democratic recommendation over Castle's.

The senators appear to have backed off without wanting to say they have. Biden's office would not comment, and Carper's office offered a tepid, one-sentence response by e-mail.

"The senators are considering several potential jurists and look forward to seeing a highly-qualified nominee confirmed and serving on the bench as soon as possible," it read.

It makes Connolly, Forsten, Preston and Rocanelli look like the judicial version of a Final Four.