Delaware District Court Hampered by Vacancies
By Hsiang-Ching Tseng | March 8, 2022 12:02 pm

For the past three years, the U.S. District Court in Delaware has been down one judge out of four and the court will lose another judge in July, The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., reported Sunday.

The judicial vacancy was created in December 2006 when Judge Kent Jordan left to take a position on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. The impending vacancy is due to Judge Joseph J. Farnan Jr.’s decision, announced earlier this year, that he will step down this summer.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) submitted three candidates to fill the judicial vacancy almost a year ago, along with three names for the U.S. Attorney slot for Delaware, but the Obama administration has not yet announced a nominee for either position, according to The News Journal.

“Justice is not being done,” Wilmington attorney Thomas S. Neuberger told the newspaper. “Justice delayed is justice denied. Despite the heroic efforts of the remaining judges, plaintiffs and defendants are left languishing. It is a disaster here.”

According to the newspaper, Chief District Judge Gregory M. Sleet reached out to federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania more than a year and a half ago seeking help for his court to deal with its case load.

Former U.S. Attorney Colm F. Connolly had been the Bush administration’s pick to fill Jordan’s vacancy, but his nomination stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee and died when President Obama was elected in November 2008.

“The process is broken,” Connolly said. “It is one more example of how out of touch our elected officials are in Washington.”

Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) said the wait is “too long, and with Judge Farnan’s retirement, this court will face further unnecessary burden.” Castle added that the previous nominees have been well qualified “and there is no good reason for this process to continue to experience such lengthy delay.”

President Obama “has moved swiftly to fill vacancies considered to be judicial emergencies, and the pace of nominations overall has significantly increased in the new year,” White House spokeswoman Moira Mack stated in an e-mailed response to the newspaper.

A spokeswoman for Vice President Joseph Biden, who is from Delaware, also said the Justice Department is currently vetting candidates for the judgeship.

Connolly’s former first assistant, David Weiss, continues to run the U.S. Attorney’s office as it awaits a nominee from the White House.

If there has been no action on filling the court vacancy by July, Weiss said, ”there is no doubt that would be devastating.”

“However,” he added, “I’m very hopeful that will not be the case.”

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