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Delaware senators confirm first African American state Supreme Court justice

Sarah Mueller
Delaware Public Media
Tamika Montgomery-Reeves speaks at her hearing for a position on the Delaware Supreme Court.

The state Senate has approved the first African American justice to the Delaware Supreme Court.

Associate Justice Collins Seitz is now Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, replacing Leo Strine who retired last month.

Tamika Montgomery-Reeves is elevated from Vice Chancellor of the Court of Chancery to replace him on the high court. She will be the first person of color to serve on that court.

Gov. John Carney said he didn’t appoint Montgomery-Reeves because of her race. But adds having diversity on the court is a long time coming.

“They make decisions most often in groups of three or five and she’ll bring something to those decisions that no one else has before," he said. "And I think that’s really important.”

Seitz said he’s delighted that Montgomery-Reeves is replacing him as an associate justice. He also notes the Chancery Court has a heavy workload and he hopes Carney and state lawmakers will move quickly to fill that vacancy.

State lawmakers praised Delaware’s system of appointing judges, rather than electing them. Seitz said it’s disheartening that judges in other states have to campaign on sending people to prison.

“Can you imagine," he said. "Judges are supposed to be fair and impartial and if they have to run on their criminal record, on how many people they’ve sentenced. It’s just to me, the only word I can use is abhorrent to what a judge is supposed to be about.”

Credit State of Delaware
Delaware Chief Justice Collins Seitz Jr.

Seitz adds First State judges don’t need to fear outside criticism. Delaware’s judiciary has faced some recently.

One group, Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware, is attacking the courts because it’s upset with a 2015 Chancery court decision involving the sale of TransPerfect, a language translation company. The group is funded by TransPerfect employees.

Seitz plans to continue Strine’s push for new Family courthouses in Sussex and Kent Counties. He said he feels optimistic he will get funding for them in the upcoming legislative session.

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