Lawyer known for suing state plans run for attorney general

Thomas Neuberger

DOVER — A lawyer currently representing correctional officers suing the state over the February inmate uprising at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center is planning to run for attorney general.

Tom Neuberger has made a name for himself with numerous lawsuits against state and local governments. His firm’s website brags Mr. Neuberger “has a long history of exposing government misconduct and suing the state of Delaware on behalf of dedicated public employees.”

The lawsuit against the state, including several current and former state executive-branch officials, seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as letters of apology, for five correctional officers and the estate of Steven Floyd, an officer allegedly murdered by inmates during the uprising of Feb. 1 and 2.

Oral arguments in that case are scheduled to begin Nov. 20.

While it may seem contradictory for someone suing the state to seek the Delaware Department of Justice’s top position, Mr. Neuberger rejected the notion of a conflict of interest.

“I don’t see any issues there,” he said. He added he would recuse himself from anything involving the lawsuit if elected.

A Republican, Mr. Neuberger is the second person to declare for the AG’s seat. Attorney General Matt Denn announced in August he would not seek a second term, leading to a flurry of speculation from many circles about who may run.

Tim Mullaney Sr., a former DOJ chief of staff, announced last week he will seek the Democratic nomination. Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, and former Delaware Attorney General Charles Oberly, a Democrat, are also considering campaigns.

Rep. Lynn said he expects to make up his mind in about a week, while Mr. Oberly said he should have a decision by the end of November.

Mr. Neuberger is seeking to become Delaware’s first Republican attorney general since 2005. This would be his second bid for public office, after an unsuccessful run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986.

He intends to begin releasing policy papers on a variety of subjects to gauge public opinion soon. Front and center on his list of topics is capital punishment.

Delaware has been without a death penalty since August 2016, when the state Supreme Court ruled part of the statute was unconstitutional and struck the entire law down.

Legislation that would restore capital punishment for convicted murderers passed the House earlier this year and is awaiting a vote in the Senate. Lawmakers return in January, and any vote on the bill is expected to be close.

“I’m going to be doing everything in my power between now and January to try to get that death penalty bill passed by the Senate,” Mr. Neuberger said.
He believes capital punishment is needed to deter potential murderers, especially in prisons.

“If there’s no death penalty, what’s going to happen” to the 16 inmates charged with the murder of Lt. Floyd, he asked, noting four are already serving life sentences.

Also high on his list is retraining police with a focus on de-escalating dangerous situations.

Mr. Neuberger represented the family of Jeremy McDole, a man in a wheelchair shot and killed by Wilmington police in 2015. As part of the $1.5 million settlement, Wilmington agreed to examine its use-of-force tactics and police training.

If elected, Mr. Neuberger said, he hopes to adopt regulations surrounding de-escalation used by Seattle.

He aims to strengthen workplace anti-discrimination laws as well to ensure incidents of sexual and racial harassment are punished. Many cases are thrown out by judges because of the high standards required to prove discrimination, he said.

“Delaware needs to take the bull by the horns, change the test and let’s get these cases to the jury,” Mr. Neuberger said.

Democrats hold a strong numbers advantage in the state, but Mr. Neuberger expressed confidence about his chances to win next year’s election.

“I think I have pretty high name recognition in the state. I don’t know whether it’s positive or negative,” he said with a laugh, alluding to the government officials who are inclined to view him unfavorably.

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

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