Gov. John Carney announced a group of judicial nominations Friday that included the first woman to head the Delaware Court of Chancery and a woman who would become the first black woman to serve on the Kent County Superior Court.
Carney also nominated a Wilmington lawyer whose practice focuses on corporate, commercial, and federal securities litigation take a place on the Chancery Court.
All of his picks must be confirmed by the Delaware Senate.
The governor chose Vice Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick to replace Chancellor Andre Bouchard, who is retiring. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to head the prestigious court.
McCormick was nominated for vice chancellor by Carney and approved in 208. Prior to that, she was a partner at Wilmington’s Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, focusing on commercial, corporate, and alternative entity litigation in the Court of Chancery.
“Vice Chancellor McCormick has the experience and good judgment necessary to serve as the next chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery, and make sure Delaware’s preeminent business court is well prepared for the future,” Carney said in a press release.”
McCormick’s slot will be filled by Lori W. Will as vice chancellor, if she is approved. Will now is a partner in Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati of Wilmington.
The appointments for the Chancery Court have seen six-figure lobbying by Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware, a conservative group that rose in the wake of the Transperfect case before the Chancery Court.
In that case, the Shawe family that owned the language translation company were angry over the court’s order that it must be sold, which it was to owner Phil Shawe. Since then, members of the Shawe family and the off-shoot Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware have worked against Carney’s election and been critical of the Chancery Court.
When Bouchard announced he was retiring, Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware began to lobby for Carney to appoint a person of color to the Chancery Court, which is now all-white since Vice Chancellor Tamika Montgomery-Reeves was nominated and approved for the Delaware Supreme Court, becoming the first Black person on it.
Chris Coffey of Pro-Business Delaware said in an emailed statement, “Adding two qualified women is a step in the right direction. However, there will still be 0 people of color on the Chancery Court in a state with almost 35% people of color.
“And the process is far too secretive. Relying on a secret nominating committee of secret corporate lawyers to send a secret list of nominees is tragically out of date and backwards. ”
Coffey said commended President Joe Biden on his efforts to diversify the Federal bench and said his organization will work with local pastors and the Rev. Al Sharpton to keep pushing for change in Delaware.
Phil Shawe said, in an emailed statement, “This is a definite step in the right direction, but a more diverse court, which you have long advocated for, is just one of many reforms needed at the Chancery Court and the entire Delaware judiciary.”
A Black member of the Delaware General Assembly hailed Carney’s nominations, saying they will “bring much needed racial and gender diversity to the Delaware Judiciary.”
Among the list, Carney nominated Reneta Green-Streett to serve as Superior Court judge in Kent County. If confirmed, Green-Streett will become the first Black woman to serve on Superior Court in Kent County. She now is a partner at Morris James focusing on representing plaintiffs in personal injury and workers’ compensation cases.
Sen. Darius Brown, D-Wilmington, said in a press release, “Her nomination follows the confirmations of Tamika Montgomery-Reeves as the first Black person on the Delaware Supreme Court, Monica Horton as the first Black woman on the Court of Common Pleas in New Castle County and Rae Mims as the first Black judge to sit on the Delaware Court of Common Pleas below the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.”
He called McCormick’s nomination as chancellor of the Court of Chancery “a historic first.”
“Together, these appointments demonstrate Governor Carney’s commitment to ensuring Delaware’s Judiciary is reflective of its people and their values,” Brown said in the press release, dropped on the heels of Carney’s email announcement. “He deserves tremendous credit for this historic progress, and I look forward to confirming these eight highly-qualified and well-vetted nominees later this month.”
Among other nominations:
- Judge Jeffrey Clark will be nominated as resident judge of Superior Court in Kent County and would replace Judge William Witham, who is retiring. Clark joined the court in 2015. Previously, he was a partner at Schmittinger & Rodriguez in Dover.
- Judge Carl Danberg will be nominated as chief judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and would replace Chief Judge Alex Smalls, who is retiring. Danberg joined the court in 2013. He previously served as attorney general of the State of Delaware, and dommissioner of the Delaware Department of Correction.
- Commissioner Katharine Mayer will be nominated as judge on the Court of Common Pleas. Since 2016, Mayer has served as a Superior Court commissioner. She had been a partner at McCarter & English, focused on bankruptcy and restructuring work, as well as product liability defense.
- Justice of the Peace Court Magistrate Emily Ferrell will be nominated to serve as commissioner on the Court of Common Pleas. Ferrell has served since 2015 as a Justice of the Peace. Previously, Ferrell served as staff counsel at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.
- Judge Anne Hartnett will be nominated for reappointment to the Court of Common Pleas in Kent County. Hartnett has served on the Court of Common Pleas since 2009. Previously, Hartnett was an attorney at Parkowski, Guerke & Swayze and a deputy attorney general.