Gov. Carney, don't compromise Delaware's justice system. We need Black justices | Opinion
An open letter to Delaware Gov. John Carney
Dear Governor Carney:
Since the 1967 appointment of Thurgood Marshall, who became the first Black justice to serve on the United States Supreme Court, to the 2022 swearing-in of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson — the first Black woman to serve on our highest court — our nation has made significant, though long overdue, strides in advancing diversity and inclusion in our judicial system.
Everywhere except Delaware, that is. Because despite the important strides President Joe Biden has made in diversifying the federal courts in the first two years of his administration, that effort has yet to be matched at the state level — and there is perhaps no more egregious example than in Delaware. While the justice system at large still has a long way to go, Biden’s work in diversifying the courts has been historic, setting a nationwide standard for governors across the country to follow as we continue that critical work — and we write this letter to urge you to live up to the president’s example.
Biden’s appointment of Delaware State Supreme Court Justice Tamika Montgomery-Reeves of Delaware for a vacancy on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals poses a significant threat to the integrity of the Delaware justice system, as her departure – when she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate — would mean that the First State’s two highest courts would be without a single justice of color. Her confirmation took a major step forward last week as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance her nomination to a full Senate vote.
Earlier coverage from 2020:Al Sharpton calls out state judiciary for not being diverse enough
The elevation of Justice Montgomery-Reeves, while an important advancement, leaves her seat vacant on the Delaware Supreme Court in the state you are charged with governing. To date, you have yet to name a replacement for Montgomery-Reeves’ seat, which would result in an all-white Delaware Supreme Court in a state where 25% of residents are Black. Moreover, there are a number of qualified and honorable Black justices and legal professionals in Delaware who would make fine Supreme Court justices — it is incumbent on you to elevate them.
Representation in government is integral to our nation's fabric and must be addressed with urgency. Real action, not lip service, is required. Sadly, you have thus far failed in this regard, leaving us with nothing but complete doubt in your commitment to judicial diversity.
Diversifying institutions creates stronger and more innovative entities. Of three state Supreme Court justices you have nominated, two have been white men; of four Chancery Court justices, all have been white; and of nine justices you have appointed to the state Superior Court, seven are white. Knowing these statistics, it is plain to see that your judicial appointments in recent years have failed to live up to democratic ideals of representation, and at this point, given the myriad voices that have joined together urging you to change course, it is difficult to see your record as anything other than intentional.
Put simply, your judicial selections have led to an ineffective and unrepresentative judiciary that cannot adequately address the concerns of marginalized groups. There is no excuse not to care for progress, as these issues affect all of us in Delaware.
Furthermore, your nominations to the Delaware Chancery Court — which like the Supreme Court, is also void of any justices of color — are even more damning. Following impassioned calls from countless Delawareans to fill a vacancy on that body, a leader that reflects the people, you instead chose Nathan Cook, a white man and another in a long line of "old boys club" members, to fill the position of Vice Chancellor Slights.
With the impending promotion of Montgomery-Reeves from Delaware’s most prominent court to the federal bench, there is an opportunity to begin to right the wrongs of the long-standing inequities in Delaware's courts. There is an opportunity for you to join us in this fight, to use your voice and influence to make sure our court’s represent the people they serve more appropriately. You have the opportunity to ensure that every individual that faces the Delaware Supreme Court is entering a system with less inherent bias. You have the opportunity to change lives with just your voice, through an appointment that considers the numerous qualified people of color in Delaware’s lower courts and legal industry. We will communicate that diverse, equitable, fair and just representation is the key to restoring trust in ournation's judicial system.— Keandra McDole, Wilmington— The Rev. Al Sharpton— Pastor Blaine Hackett, pastor, St. John AM Church, Newark
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Delaware justice system needs diversity John Carney Joe Biden