Delaware Public Media

Legal groups call for diversity on state Supreme Court as Governor mulls Chief Justice nomination

Oct 8, 2019

Several legal groups are urging Gov. Carney to consider diversity as he picks a nominee for Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court.

 


Current Chief Justice Leo Strine, Jr. announced in July he plans to retire Oct. 30. Carney will nominate his successor from candidates who applied to the Judicial Nominating Commission. The nominee must be approved by the state Senate. 

Delaware’s highest court has never had a single justice of color and has had just two female justices. 

The Multicultural Lawyers & Judges section of the Delaware State Bar Association, the Hispanic Bar Association, the South Asian Bar Association and the Delaware Barristers Association sent a letter to Carney late last month arguing the benefits of a bench that better reflects the state population.

It says a diverse bench is “important for maintaining public trust and confidence in the judiciary and our elected officials.”

“In and of itself, diversity is a good thing,” said Kiadii Harmon, chair of the Multicultural Lawyers & Judges section of the DSBA and an author of the letter. “We will get better outcomes if we have more diverse inputs. That’s what we’re going for — we’re trying to make things better for the most people possible.”

According to a report published by the Brennan Center for Justice this summer, Delaware was one of 24 states with all-white Supreme Courts as of May 2019. Among those states, Delaware has the third largest percentage of people of color in its population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Delaware's population was roughly 62 percent white as of last year.

“Delaware's a very diverse place,” said Harmon. “If you believe in representative government, you think that your government should represent the population that it governs. And in order for that to be the case, we would need to see some people of color on the Delaware Supreme Court.”

State Senate Judiciary Committee chair Darius Brown raised similar points in July. He called the upcoming vacancy an “opportunity.”

Harmon says there are many attorneys and judges of color qualified to sit on the Delaware Supreme Court. “That’s the whole point— you don’t lose anything. All you do is gain. The court gains perspective, which helps it to serve the public better.”

Asked about the letter, spokesperson for the Governor's office Jonathan Starkey said Carney “takes judicial nominations very seriously and will carefully consider recommendations from the Judicial Nominating Commission.”

The state Senate is set to consider Carney’s nominee in a special session Nov. 7.