Posted: June 13, 2008


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There is something about life as a law clerk that never leaves the system. Nothing seems more likely to make someone want to be a judge someday than working for one.

John Parkins took his time about it, but his moment has come. Thirty-five years after he clerked for a pair of Delaware chief justices, he is in line for a judgeship himself.

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner announced Friday she is nominating Parkins to replace retired Judge Susan Del Pesco on the Superior Court, a 19-member bench that hears both criminal and civil cases.

Parkins was one of three judicial appointments Minner is submitting to the state Senate in time to be considered for confirmation before the legislative session ends June 30. The others are Bernard Pepukayi, the governor's deputy legal counsel, as a Family Court commissioner, and Lynne Parker, a Wilmington lawyer, as a Superior Court commissioner.

Parkins, 61, of Newark, took a circuitous route to the bench with stops in both public and private practice, highlighted by his time as the chief of the state Justice Department's appeals division and his current work as a partner at Richards Layton & Finger, one of the state's premier law firms.

A graduate of the University of Delaware and Washington & Lee University law school, Parkins had his first experience of court routines in 1972 and 1973 as a clerk for Chief Justices Daniel Wolcott and Daniel Herrmann on the state Supreme Court.

"I decided at that time, someday I want to be a judge. I almost ran out of time, though," Parkins quipped in a telephone interview Friday.

Despite coming late to the bench, Parkins said he committed to Minner he would serve a full term if confirmed. Superior Court judges serve for 12 years at a current annual salary of $168,850.

Minner called Parkins ideal for the Superior Court because of his background in both criminal and civil law. "His strong character and years in the courtroom, both in private practice and as a deputy attorney general, will be tremendous assets to the bench," the governor said in statement.

Although Minner and the Senate majority are Democrats, the nominee had to be a Republican, which Parkins is, because of a constitutional requirement for political balance in the judiciary.

Parkins was chosen from a list of candidates recommended by the governor's Judicial Nominating Commission. Although officially the names are confidential, there is so much interest among the bench and bar they do not remain secret for long. The others under consideration were said to be: Andrea Rocanelli, the chief disciplinary counsel for the Supreme Court; Paul Wallace, a deputy attorney general; and Jan van Amerongen, a Wilmington lawyer.

This round of judicial appointments ought to be Minner's last as governor, but it may not be.

The Superior Court, which has a reputation as the country's best trial court, is overworked and could use two more judges. The state's budget crunch appeared to make it moot, but there is a possibility that some unclaimed funds, held by the Court of Chancery but due to be transferred to the state, could be available for the judgeships early next year.

Before Minner leaves office, she still might make dreams come true for another law clerk or two.