Delaware Governor John Carney (D) has nominated Associate Justice Collins Seitz Jr. to replace Leo Strine as the next chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court. Carney also nominated Tamika Montgomery-Reeves to serve as a new associate justice, replacing Seitz.
Chief Justice Strine announced in July 2019 that he would retire in the fall upon the nomination, confirmation, and swearing in of his successor.
Seitz joined the Delaware Supreme Court as an associate justice in 2015. He was appointed by Gov. Jack Markell (D). Seitz received a B.A. from the University of Delaware in 1980 and a J.D. from the Villanova University School of Law.
Montgomery-Reeves is a vice chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery. She was nominated by Gov. Markell in 2015. Montgomery-Reeves received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi and a J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law.
Selection of state supreme court justices in Delaware occurs through gubernatorial appointment with state Senate confirmation. A judicial nominating commission submits a list of names to the governor, who then selects an appointee. The Delaware State Senate must also confirm the appointment. The state Senate is holding a special session on November 7, 2019, to consider the nominations. Approved nominees serve for 12 years, at which point they must apply to the commission for reappointment.
The Delaware Judicial Nominating Commission was established in 1977. It is made up of 11 members—10 governor-appointed members (including at least four lawyers and at least three non-lawyers) and one member appointed by the president of the Delaware State Bar Association with the governor’s approval. The governor designates the commission’s chairperson.
Founded in 1951, the Delaware Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has five judgeships. As of October 2019, all five judges on the court were appointed by Democratic governors.
In 2019, there have been 19 supreme court vacancies across 13 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Retirements caused 14 of the vacancies. Two former justices took jobs in the private sector. One vacancy occurred when a justice was elevated to chief justice of the court, and two others occurred when the justices were elevated to federal judicial positions.