Posted: April 24, 2014


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

With a little high-powered summitry involving the leadership of all three branches of state government, the Senate will be spared a special session, which it definitely did not want, amid the crush of the campaign season.

The Senate looked as though it was going to be called back to Dover to confirm a new Supreme Court justice, and it was going to be Jack Jacobs' fault.

Jacobs, who has sat on Delaware's highest court since 2003, decided he would retire as of the Fourth of July.

While the date has a certain patriotic ring to it, or else it sounds like it might have been Jacobs' own declaration of independence from the bench, politically it was no Yankee Doodle Dandy.

The reason is Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, is constitutionally required to appoint someone new within 60 days. This would make it by early September, some two months or so after the regular legislative session ended on June 30.

It meant there was no getting around a special session for the Senate just before Primary Day on Sept. 9. Bad timing.

This is Delaware. People talk to one another. Jacobs found himself engaged in a tripartite round of discussions involving Leo Strine Jr., the chief justice, for the judicial branch, Andy Lippstone, the counsel to the governor, for the executive branch, and Patti Blevins, the Senate's Democratic president pro tem, for the legislative branch.

Jacobs reconsidered. He set a new retirement date of June 25 to give the governor and the senators time to confirm a new justice before the General Assembly goes home.

"The original effective date was July 4. That would have required the governor to call a special session, which is something to be avoided if possible. Justice Jacobs agreed to move his retirement effective June 25," Lippstone said.

"It was a characteristically classy move on his part."

It also meant time was already wasting. By Wednesday, the Judicial Nominating Commission, which screens judicial candidates, was calling for applications to be submitted by May 21.

This is one of those occasions when the nominee may be either a Democrat or a Republican. The state constitution requires the Supreme Court to be as politically balanced as possible, and when Jacobs, a Democrat, exits the five-member bench, it will be left with two Democrats (Strine and Carolyn Berger) and two Republicans (Randy Holland and Henry Ridgely), so it could go either way.

Meanwhile, if the next justice is drawn from a lower court, it would create a new vacant judgeship that has to be filled within 60 days.

There still might have to be a special session, but really, one crisis at a time.

# # #

The politically rich are getting richer. A new round of congressional campaign finance reports shows Chris Coons, the Democratic senator, sitting on an impressive $3.1 million and John Carney, the Democratic congressman, banking a respectable $772,000 for the 2014 election.

These totals, as of March 31, are up from their last quarterly reports, as of Dec. 31, when Coons had $2.9 million and Carney had $725,000.

All this, and no Republican candidates filed against them. What a contrast.

For the Democrats, it is show-me-the-money! For the Republicans, it is show-me-the-candidates!