Posted: Aug. 10, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Colm F. Connolly, the federal prosecutor who has pursued some of the highest-profile criminal cases in Delaware, appears to be on his way to a nomination for the open judgeship on the U.S. District Court, the Delaware Grapevine has learned.

The White House tentatively has settled on Connolly from a field of four candidates and is prepared to send his name to the U.S. Senate for confirmation once he passes a background check, an investigation that should be routine because he already went through one to become the U.S. attorney for Delaware in 2001.

The preliminary nod puts Connolly on course to join a four-member bench that has been short-handed since Judge Kent A. Jordan moved to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in December.

As a federal judge, Connolly, 42, of Wilmington, would have a lifetime appointment with a salary that is currently $165,200 a year. He was out of the office Friday and unavailable for comment.

Connolly emerged as the choice as U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle pressed the White House for a decision after months of inactivity. As the only Republican in the state's three-member congressional delegation, Castle took the lead on finding candidates to fill the vacancy, an assignment that typically belongs to home-state senators of the president's party.

Connolly would add to a court already weighted with federal prosecutors, continuing to make the point that the U.S. Attorney's Office remains a prime stepping stone to the federal bench.

Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet and Judge Joseph J. Farnan Jr. were U.S. attorneys before they received their judicial appointments. Judge Sue L. Robinson was an assistant U.S. attorney, as was Leonard P. Stark, the new magistrate judge. Only Mary Pat Thynge, the other magistrate judge, came to the court from private practice.

The other candidates under consideration were known to be: Richard A. Forsten, a partner at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney; Thomas P. Preston, a partner at Blank Rome; and Andrea L. Rocanelli, chief disciplinary counsel for the state Supreme Court. All four are Republicans.

Connolly was the most recognizable among them. He received national attention in the late 1990s for prosecuting Thomas J. Capano, the well-connected lawyer convicted in a riveting murder case for killing Anne Marie Fahey, the scheduler for U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper when he was the Democratic governor. More recently Connolly pursued corruption cases in New Castle County, although they ended with downgraded pleas.