Posted: Sept. 6, 2013


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Myron Steele, who has served as Delaware's chief justice for nine years, has informed the governor he intends to retire on Nov. 30, three years before his term is up.

"That's a fact," Steele said, confirming his decision Friday afternoon in a brief interview.

Steele, who has previously served as a Supreme Court justice, a vice chancellor on the nationally renowned Court of Chancery and a Superior Court judge, has been on the bench for 25 years, a year longer than state judges need to qualify for their full pension.

"It's time. That's all. For many years I've been troubled by judges staying longer than they should," Steele said.

The timing means Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, can have a nomination ready to go for Senate confirmation when the General Assembly returns for its 2014 session in January, although it will leave the five-member Supreme Court shorthanded for December.

Steele said he tried to time his retirement to be the least burdensome as possible on the court -- "December is our slowest month" -- and also to ensure that Markell does not have to call the Senate back for a special session.

"I don't want the last thought of me to be that I ruined their holidays," Steele quipped.

Markell commended Steele in a statement, saying, "I want to thank Chief Justice Steele for his tireless efforts in building and maintaining a court system that is truly a national model. On behalf of all Delawareans, I thank him for his exemplary service to our state. His intelligence, keen judgment and passion will be missed."

Steele, a Democrat, was named the chief justice by Ruth Ann Minner, the governor who was a fellow Kent County Democrat.

To preserve the constitutional requirement for political balance on the court, Steele could be replaced by either another Democrat or a Republican, although it is most likely the next chief justice also will be a Democrat with the governor and the Senate majority being Democratic. Currently there are three Democratic and two Republican justices.

Early names being mentioned as a replacement are Leo Strine Jr., the chancellor on the Court of Chancery, and Jan Jurden, a Superior Court judge, both Democrats.

Still, there is likely to be a scramble for the ranking judgeship in the state.