Nomination of first African American Delaware Supreme Court justice ‘step in right direction’

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The Delaware Supreme Court has never had a black, Latino or Asian member but Vice Chancellor Tamika Montgomery-Reeves could become its first next month. (State of Delaware)

The Delaware Supreme Court has never had a black, Latino or Asian member but Vice Chancellor Tamika Montgomery-Reeves could become its first next month. (State of Delaware)

History is being made in Delaware with the nomination of Delaware’s first black Supreme Court justice.

Advocates for a more diverse bench says Tamika Montgomery-Reeves’ appointment is a long time coming. Reeves also broke a judicial barrier in 2015 when she became the first black member of Delaware’s Chancery Court that rules on complex corporate and other financial disputes.

“It’s about time that our courts looked like the citizens that it represents,” said attorney Kiadii Harmon, who chairs the Multicultural Judges and Lawyers section of the Delaware State Bar Association. “That’s a step in the right direction and a move toward equality.”

Harmon and others in legal, legislative and civic circles have been urging Gov. John Carney to appoint a person of color to the state’s highest court. The calls sounded in July when Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr. said he would resign midway through his 12-year term. He’s leaving this month.

“I’m a father to a young woman of color,’’ Harmon said, “and now when I introduce my daughter to Justice Montgomery Reeves, or show her a picture of the justices on the Delaware Supreme Court, she’s going to see a person like her. It matters for children. It matters for our state.”

Delaware is one of 18 states that has never had an African American on its highest court, according to the nonprofit Blackpast.org.

“It’s past time,’’ said Retired University of Washington history professor Quintard Taylor, who heads the group. “When you make the comparison with New York, which has had a black person in that role since 1956, or Pennsylvania since the early 1970s. You can see why this is significant but it’s long overdue.”

Montgomery would take the spot of Associate Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr, whom Carney has nominated to replace Strine as chief justice.

Neither Montgomery-Reeves nor Seitz would speak with WHYY about their nominations, but both issued statements thanking the governor for the appointments.

Associate Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. was nominated by Gov. Carney to replace Leo E. Strine Jr. as chief justice. (State of Delaware.)

Carney would not agree to an interview about his historic move but said in a news release that Montgomery-Reeves is known as an authority on corporate governance and securities litigation with previous experience in New York and Delaware.

State Rep. Franklin Cooke predicts Montgomery-Reeves will sail through the Senate confirmation process during a Nov. 7 special session.

“She has a very good background and one that really sticks out for me is that she has done some pro bono work for the prisoners work project.”

Cooke added that “Delaware is behind a little bit when it comes to diversity.”

The current Delaware Supreme Court justices are, from left, Collins J. Seitz, Jr., Karen L. Valihura, Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr., James T. Vaughn, Jr. and Gary F. Traynor. (State of Delaware)

Montgomery Reeves would be one of two women on the five-member court and the third in its 68-year history.

Carney would not agree to an interview but said in a news release that Montgomery-Reeves is known as an authority on corporate governance and securities litigation with previous experience in New York and Delaware.

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