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Biden taps Justice Montgomery-Reeves for fed court

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DOVER – President Joe Biden nominated Delaware Supreme Court Justice Tamika Montgomery-Reeves on Wednesday for a vacancy on the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Tamika Montgomery-Reeves | PHOTO COURTESY OF DE COURTS

Montgomery-Reeves, who ascended to the state’s highest court in 2019 after serving for four years on the influential Court of Chancery, would fill the seat left by Judge D. Brooks Smith, who entered senior status in December after turning 65.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Montgomery-Reeves would fill some big shoes, as Smith is the former chief judge of the circuit and the only judge in the history of the Third Circuit to have served as both a chief district judge and chief of the Court of Appeals.

In a statement accompanying the nomination, Biden called Montgomery-Reeves “extraordinarily qualified, experienced, and devoted to the rule of law and our Constitution.”

The appointment of Montgomery-Reeves as justice was a milestone for Delaware, which had never had a Black Supreme Court justice. She was also the first Black vice chancellor in that court’s history when she was confirmed in November 2015.

While she has only served on the Supreme Court for a short time, she joined Chief Justice Collin J. Seitz Jr. on the steering committee of a group that completed a strategic plan for increasing diversity in Delaware’s judiciary and legal community.

Montgomery-Reeves was nominated and confirmed in 2015 to serve on the Court of Chancery. Before joining the judiciary, she practiced at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Wilmington, where she focused on corporate governance and business litigation. Montgomery-Reeves also practiced at Weil Gotshal & Manges in New York, where she focused on corporate governance and securities litigation. She graduated from the University of Mississippi and the University of Georgia School of Law, where she continues to serve as a guest professor, according to its website.

Tamika Montgomery-Reeves takes the oath of office at Delaware State University during her historic public investiture in 2020. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DSU

She will assuredly have at least two votes in her favor in her confirmation hearing, as Delaware Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons touted the nomination Wednesday evening in a statement.

“Justice Montgomery-Reeves is a trailblazer and an outstanding legal mind, and she will be an excellent judge on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Justice Montgomery-Reeves has served on two of Delaware’s highly-regarded courts — the Delaware Court of Chancery and the Delaware Supreme Court — making her well-qualified for this appointment,” the senators said. “She has the heart of a public servant, and has earned a reputation as a consensus builder on the bench. We applaud President Biden’s following through on his commitment to nominate a diverse group of judges to serve on our federal courts, including Justice Montgomery-Reeves, and we look forward to a swift hearing and confirmation process.”

The Biden administration has mostly been effective in marshaling its chosen judicial candidates through the Senate confirmation process, winning approvals for the most lower court judges in the first year of a presidency since the Kennedy administration. That includes former Delaware U.S. District Judge Leonard Stark, who was confirmed by the Senate in February to a seat on the patent-focused U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Biden has also tapped Gregory B. Williams, a partner at the Wilmington office of national firm Fox Rothschild LLP and a former president of the state bar association, to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

Should Montgomery-Reeves be confirmed to the Philadelphia-based federal court, however, it would assuredly reignite the debate over diversity on Delaware’s courts, as its highest-ranking minority judge would be leaving. The First State has recently seen increasing protests on the matter by celebrity civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton, local activists and the Citizens for Judicial Fairness, a group formerly known as Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware that was formed by employees of TransPerfect, a company with a long, bitter history in the Chancery system.

Gov. John Carney would be presented with an opportunity to make another long-term appointment to Delaware’s highest court. Since backing Montgomery-Reeves to the high court, Carney has not nominated a minority candidate to either the Supreme Court or Court of Chancery despite the increasing criticism.

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