Posted: July 2, 2004


Deleting the e-mail

Let the e-mail go forth. Henry duPont Ridgely is an oath-taking away from the Delaware Supreme Court.

Ridgely, the respected Superior Court president judge, was confirmed Thursday, the last day of the 2004 legislative session, in a unanimous cascade of 21 "yes" votes by the state Senate, where he worked as an attorney before going on the bench 20 years ago.

The confirmation, however, did not come until the senators took a little time to remind Ridgely who was the boss, or at least co-equal these days.

After Ridgely received the word from Gov. Ruth Ann Minner last month that she was nominating him for a seat on the state's highest court, he inadvertently stepped on senatorial toes by telling his Superior Court colleagues and staff about his appointment by e-mail before the governor's office had time to notify the Senate.

It led to grumbling that the Senate might not get to his nomination before the end of the session, leaving it to a special one-day session to be scheduled later in the year. Between Ridgely and the governor's office, the senators were soothed, and there never was a doubt he would be confirmed once the Senate got to it.

"I apologized for sending out the e-mail as early as I did. We're beyond that," Ridgely said after the roll call.

A swearing-in ceremony for Ridgely to join the five-member court is scheduled for Thursday, July 22, in the Kent County Courthouse. He will serve a 12-year term.

Once Ridgely leaves the top judgeship on the Superior Court, the governor will have 60 days to nominate a replacement. Judge Richard S. Gebelein, the senior judge in length of service, will take charge of the court until a new president judge comes in.

The political makeup of the Supreme Court will be restored to three Democrats, including Chief Justice Myron T. Steele, and two Republicans when Ridgely, a Republican, arrives.

While Minner and the Senate majority are Democrats, the state constitution requires the court to be balanced politically, so the vacancy that opened when E. Norman Veasey, a Republican, retired as chief justice had to go to another Republican.

Not so deep down inside, the senators showed how pleased they were that one of their own former attorneys was on his way to the state's top court. Ridgely got a long ovation from the senators after they confirmed him and a lot of kind words, especially from Senate President Pro Tem Thurman G. Adams Jr., who remembered how Ridgely helped him with legislation, even though they were from different sides of the aisle.

The mix-up over the e-mail obviously was forgotten. "That's history, and he is a good judge," Adams said. "Nobody gave him any criticism whatsoever."

Leaving on a silver platter

The state House of Representatives likes to think of itself as a family. Whether that family is more Ozzy Osbourne or Ozzie Nelson, it is family, so when members leave, it is time to distribute the silver.

Four engraved silver plates were presented Thursday to four departing representatives -- Republicans Timothy U. Boulden of Newark, David H. Ennis of Brandywine Hundred and G. Robert Quillen of Harrington and Democrat William I. Houghton of Swanwyck Gardens near New Castle.

Actually, there were only three plates. Something went wrong with the engraving for Ennis' platter, so Quillen had to lend his back for Ennis' presentation.

Ennis is running for state insurance commissioner. The others are leaving politics. Of all of them, Ennis might have been the one who needed to have his own platter the most. Ever since Ennis was elected in 1980, his appetite for snack food has been the stuff of legislative lore.

State Rep. John C. Atkins, a Millsboro Republican whose desk in the chamber was next to Ennis', recalled that his seatmate's junk-food cravings were evident even when Ennis was in the hospital for knee surgery. Atkins went to visit him.

"I never knew there could be Tastykakes and chocolate chip cookies through intravenous," Atkins said.