Carney makes Supreme Court picks

DOVER — Gov. John Carney announced Thursday he plans to nominate Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. to the post of chief justice and Vice Chancellor Tamika Montgomery-Reeves to fill his seat. The Senate is expected to consider both nominations in a special session Nov. 7.

Collins J. Seitz Jr.

Justice Seitz would be the ninth chief justice since the modern Supreme Court was established in 1951, while Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves would be the first black Delawarean and the third woman to sit on the state’s top court.

The opening stems from Chief Justice Leo Strine’s decision to step down at the end of October, which he publicly revealed in July.

“Justice Seitz is one of Delaware’s finest legal minds, and I’m pleased to send his nomination to the Delaware Senate,” Gov. Carney said in a statement.

“Delaware courts have a longstanding reputation across our country as objective, stable, and nonpartisan. Justice Seitz has the judgment, sense of fairness, and experience necessary to maintain and build on that reputation as our next chief justice.”

Both Justice Seitz and Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves were named to their respective courts in 2015, coming from private practice.

“Before her appointment to the Court of Chancery, Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves practiced corporate law in Wilmington and New York. She’s the right person to serve as the next associate justice on our Supreme Court,” Gov. Carney said.

Tamika Montgomery-Reeves

Delaware’s chief justice is more than just the head of the Supreme Court — the officeholder leads the entire judiciary branch, including presenting its budget request to the executive and legislative branches.

Justice Seitz, whose father was a federal judge, had been mentioned for months as a possible successor.

Nominated by then Gov. Jack Markell, Chief Justice Strine joined the court in early 2014 following 16 years on the Court of Chancery. After he announced his planned retirement, a few individuals called on the governor to nominate a person of color for the court.

“I would urge the Governor to consider the lack of racial and gender diversity when it comes to the historical makeup of the highest court in our state,” Sen. Darius Brown, D-Wilmington, said in a statement at the time. “While we now have our second female state Supreme Court justice, the First State is still awaiting its first African-American, Hispanic or Asian member of the Delaware Supreme Court.

“This impending vacancy provides us an opportunity to correct that record.”

Unlike the United States’ top court, the Delaware Supreme Court has five members and must be politically balanced, although a federal lawsuit is challenging the political affiliation aspect.

In a statement, Chief Justice Strine called Justice Seitz “someone who is a wonderful colleague, who cares deeply about making sure that our system of justice is fair to all, and writes with care, common sense and verve” and Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves “an experienced litigator who understands our corporate law and its importance, and knows first-hand the critical role of trial judges in the judicial process, and will serve our state with distinction.”

The governor’s selection of Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves means a spot on the Court of Chancery figures to be open soon, although it likely won’t be officially filled until next year.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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