Business group launches campaign to see Black Chancery judge

Betsy Price Government, Headlines

a man standing in front of a building

This screen grab is from the Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware television ad.

 

A $350,000 television ad campaign featuring Martin Luther King III, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Newark Pastor Pastor Blaine Hackett will call for a Black judge to be appointed to Delaware’s Chancery Court.

The ad campaign, by Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware, will be part of a $500,000 effort that will include print and digital ads that says there’s a movement building for justice, and that includes appointing Black judges.

The business group is referring to a vacancy on the Chancery Court left when Vice Chancellor Joseph R. Slights’ retired recently.

If Gov. John Carney does appoint a Black judge, that person will not be the first Black Chancery judge.

Judge Tamika Montgomery-Reeves, who is Black, served on the court for four years before moving to the Delaware Supreme Court in 2019. She is the only Black person to have served on the court in its 320-year history.

A press release from the group said that the ad is part of an advocacy push that also will include protests led by civil rights leaders and judicial watchdog groups in the coming weeks.

Efforts were unsuccessful Wednesday to reach court or Carney spokesman for immediate comment.

Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware and its interest in Delaware courts rose in the wake of the Transperfect case before the Delaware 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. The nonprofit was formed partly to draw attention to the forced sale of Transperfect, it admits.

Since then, members of the Shawe family and the Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware have worked against Gov. John Carney’s election and been critical of Delaware courts in general and the  Chancery Court specifically.

The organization, which says it has 5,000 members, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying for changes, including more diversity on the courts, and protesting the $3.9 million in fees that Custodian Robert Pincus’ and Skadden Arps — a vast American international law firm —  charged during the Transperfect court battle.

The slick new TV ad script, featuring soaring music, shows King, Sharpton and Blaine Hackett taking turns saying: “There is a movement building. A movement born from our fathers, that transcends time. A movement for diversity, for God-given rights, and for justice. From Georgia, to New York, to the first state, Delaware. In 230 years, there’s been just one Black justice on the Court of Chancery. Right now, there are none. It’s time to join our voices to say – we need diverse courts now!”

“The overwhelmingly Democratic, and supposedly liberal state of Delaware faces staggering and unacceptably low levels of diversity in its judicial ranks,” Sharpton said in a press release. “Of the First State’s highest courts, fewer than 15% of the justices are Black, despite Black people making up a disproportionate percentage of the state’s prison population.”

Sharpton is not being paid for this effort, said a spokesman for the business group.

King said in a press release from the business group that Carney should follow President Joe Biden’s footsteps in diversifying the judiciary, and that King was happy to participate in the protests.

“We know that leadership at the top does not just filter down naturally,” King said. “The transcendent change we wish to realize will take an extraordinary effort to accomplish, an effort that every American should fight to make, from city halls to statehouses to the Supreme Court.”

 

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