Civil rights leaders, activists call on Gov. Carney to appoint Black judge to all-white Court of Chancery

DOVER, Del. – Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton paid a visit to Dover Tuesday morning. He and other activists called on Governor John Carney to carefully consider who he will appoint to the state’s Court of Chancery. This decision comes as Vice Chancellor Joseph R. Slights III prepares for retirement.

“No inclusive judiciary”

In Delaware Court of Chancery’s 230 year history, only one judge was Black: the Honorable Tamika R. Montgomery-Reeves, who served between 2015 and 2019. Currently, each judge in the Court is white. “With nobody in the court looking like us, understanding our experiences, understanding the challenges that we face, it is exclusion by the fact that you have no inclusive judiciary,” said Rev. Sharpton.

Pastor Blaine Hackett of St. John African Methodist Church says appointing a Black judge will set a precedent for diversity in the First State. He adds that precedent could help Delaware lead the way for other, similar courts across the nation. “Governor Carney can be the person to make that change, not just for our state, but for the nation. That’s one reason why we’re out here, to constantly be coming back out here, because somebody has to do it,” said Pastor Hackett.

Important Decision on Influential Court

Courts of Chancery are only found in a small handful of states across the nation. There, judges rule on high profile cases relating to business ethics and disputes. Those rulings can often times be extremely influential, not just in the state where the court is found, but across entire regions. “How do you make a decision when there’s no one on the court that even understands what a large population of the state goes through in business, in dealings, and in finances?” said Rev. Sharpton.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Black Delawareans make up more than 23% of the state’s population. Non-white Delawareans account for more than 40% of residents. Rev. Sharpton says it’s time that the Court reflects Delaware’s residents, not only in terms of race and ethnicity, but in lived experiences, as well.  “I think it is very important that we diversify that so we have a real basis of making fair opinions in the court level,” he said.

Finding Candidates

The upcoming decision marks the second time in as many years that Gov. Carney will be charged with making an appointment to the Court. Pastor Hackett says during that time, the call for a Black judge to be appointed has only amplified. Yet, he says, it seems to be falling on deaf ears.

“To say that no African-American is qualified, or wants the job – I find that hard to believe,” said Pastor Hackett. “There are a lot of African-Americans, and people of color, who would die for that position. I believe, they shouldn’t be that hard to find. It’s a small state, but there are some people that are very intelligent, and some great lawyers here.”

47ABC made multiple attempts to reach Gov. Carney’s office for comment on the activists’ stance on the upcoming appointment. None were successful.

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