Posted: Feb. 19, 2003
A COURTHOUSE FIRST THE WAY IT
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
Calvin L. Scott Jr. looked as though he had
won the quickest promotion in the history of the Delaware judiciary.
As soon as he had taken the oath Wednesday
afternoon to become a Superior Court judge, Scott took his place on
the bench behind the nameplate for the Supreme Court's chief
justice. The truth, however, was that all of the nameplates for
Scott's swearing-in ceremony were mixed up.
Scott sat behind the one for Chief Justice E.
Norman Veasey. Superior Court President Judge Henry duPont Ridgely
had the one for Superior Court Judge Richard R. Cooch, the resident
judge for New Castle County. Cooch had Ridgely's, and Veasey had no
nameplate at all.
Scott's investiture was the first to be held
in the new New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington since it
opened in September. Clearly, like the building itself, with its
lamented security, heating and hot water problems, the ceremony had
its share of glitches.
Because of the President's Day snowstorm,
there was even a question of whether Scott's robing would go forward
as planned. It did -- but with a diminished attendance.
"Not even the blizzard of 2003 will deter us
from getting him on board as quickly as possibly," Ridgely quipped.
There were 260 seats available in Courtroom
8-B, a spacious chamber designated for special events, but only
about 90 people were there, including Scott's new Superior Court
colleagues, draped in their black robes with the red sashes they
wear for ceremonial events.
Many of the new judge's family and friends
were snowed out. So was Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, the first-term
Democrat who appointed Scott. Attorney General M. Jane Brady, the
third-term Republican who was there, said the weather also kept away
a number of the Justice Department lawyers who worked with Scott
before his elevation to the bench.
Among the missing were Chief Deputy Attorney
General Ferris W. Wharton and Deputy Attorney General Paul R.
Wallace, both of whom also were in the running for the judgeship. A
fourth candidate, Chief Disciplinary Counsel Mary D. Johnston,
didn't attend, either, but her husband William D. Johnston, the
immediate past president of the Delaware State Bar Association, was
Scott, 47, of Newark, was selected to replace
Superior Court Judge Carl Goldstein, who retired. Scott, like
Goldstein, is a Republican to preserve the court's political
balance, which is required by the state constitution. He will serve
a 12-year term, which currently pays $140,200 a year, on the
19-judge court with both criminal and civil jurisdiction.
Whatever the glitches, the ceremony itself was
a warm and gracious welcome for Scott to the bench. It included a
symbolic passing of the torch from Joshua W. Martin III, known these
days as the president of Verizon Delaware Inc.
In 1982, however, Martin was the first
African-American to become a Superior Court judge and served there
until 1989. Today the court has three black judges, including Scott.
Like the switched nameplates, there also were
switched roles from Martin's own swearing-in. He noted that Veasey
also had participated in that one in his capacity as the state bar
"What a wonderful human being Calvin Scott
is," Martin said. "Today we have every reason to believe the bench
Another speaker was Patricia C. Hannigan, an
assistant U.S. attorney who is the bar association president.
Because of Scott's rise to the bench, she will have some extra work
to do. Scott was serving as the bar association's vice
president-at-large, slated to become the president-elect in July and
the president in July 2004. Someone else must be found to take
Scott's place in the lineup.
Hannigan predicted success for Scott on the
bench -- "Lawyers and litigants who appear before him will know they
have been heard" -- and offered him a sort of judicial benediction
taken from Gilbert and Sullivan:
May each decree as statute rank/And never
be reversed en banc!
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