Posted: Aug. 8, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

A federal judge serves for a lifetime. It is not supposed to take that long to appoint one, but the months that the U.S. District Court in Delaware has been short one judge are dragging on as though it could.

It has been eight months since the court had a full bench of four judges. It has been four months since four judicial candidates went to Washington to be interviewed by officials of the Bush administration for the vacancy, only to be left hanging without a word since.

The White House has become a Black Hole.

The court itself is coping. "We're OK. The active judges are filling in quite nicely on matters that are time sensitive. We haven't gotten to the point where the end-stage of justice has been negatively affected. I don't want to get there," Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet said.

The court actually expects some relief with the arrival of Leonard P. Stark, a second magistrate judge, who started Monday. Magistrate judges are chosen by the court itself without requiring the approval of the White House and U.S. Senate.

Patience is being tested elsewhere, however -- particularly for U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle, the point man in the state's three-member congressional delegation to have the opening filled.

"I want to get them a judge," Castle said.

Castle should not have to be in this position. Presidents customarily rely on home-state senators of their own party for recommendations in appointing judges, but it fell to Castle in this case because he is George W. Bush's sole fellow Republican in the delegation with U.S. Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Thomas R. Carper both being Democrats.

It was Castle who forwarded along a list of four candidates, all Republicans, to replace Judge Kent A. Jordan, who was elevated last December from the district court to the appellate court. Although Castle did not make the names public, they are known to be: U.S. Attorney Colm F. Connolly; 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.

It is Castle who is trying to find out what the delay is. He says he does not know the cause and asked his staff earlier this week to prod the White House. He also says he is open to a request to provide additional candidates -- anything to get a nomination -- if the White House only will ask.

"They've got to make a decision. If they want more names or whatever, they need to tell us. I'll do whatever I have to do," Castle said.

"They've got to go down some road here. I find this a little bit exasperating."