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Delaware Supreme Court Justice Announces Retirement, To Be Replaced By Democrats

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Delaware Supreme Court Justice James T. Vaughn Jr. has announced that he will be retiring from the state Supreme Court. The retirement takes effect next year and will create two vacancies on the court that will give Democrat Gov. John Carney at least his third appointment to the state Supreme Court, the Delaware Business Times reported.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve since 1998 as a Superior Court judge and Supreme Court Justice. I will always appreciate the memories of working with my colleagues on the bench and with court staff in our efforts to maintain the rule of law in this state. I leave with a sense of satisfaction that I have done my best to discharge the duties of the judicial offices I have held,” the Justice said.

Carney has already nominated Gary Traynor to the Supreme Court to replace Justice Randy Holland in 2017. He then elevated Justice Collins J. Seitz Jr. to the chief justice seat after the resignation of Leo Strine Jr. and nominated then-Vice Chancellor Tamika Montgomery Reeves to the high court to fill Seitz’s seat in 2019.

But Montgomery Reeves has been nominated by President Joe Biden to ascend to a seat on the federal circuit court. Her nomination is still awaiting a vote by the U.S. Senate, but was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and has the support of both Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, meaning she is likely to be approved. If so, it would open another Carney appointment to the Supreme Court.

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It comes after Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer passed away at 74. The longtime liberal justice reportedly died suddenly at his home near Pittsburgh.

The unexpected death makes the Pennsylvania governor’s race in November that much more important. The governor will name his replacement.

“This is a tremendous loss for the Court and all of Pennsylvania,” the newly appointed Chief Justice Debra Todd, who is the longest-serving justice on the court, said in a statement.

“Pennsylvania has lost a jurist who served the Court and the citizens of the Commonwealth with distinction,” she continued. “Chief Justice Baer was an influential and intellectual jurist whose unwavering focus was on administering fair and balanced justice.”

“He was a tireless champion for children, devoted to protecting and providing for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens,” the statement read.

“Baer was first elected to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2003 and was sworn in as chief justice in 2021 after a lengthy legal career. The justice was set to retire at the end of the year at the age of 75, which is the court’s mandatory retirement age,” Fox News reported.

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“The Pittsburgh native reportedly graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1971 before obtaining his law degree from Duquesne University School of Law in 1975. Baer also served as deputy attorney general for Pennsylvania from 1975 to 1980,” the outlet added.

“His distinguished service and commitment to justice and fairness spanned his decades on the bench – first as a family court judge in Allegheny County and eventually as an administrative judge in family court before being elected to serve on the Supreme Court,” Todd said. “On behalf of the Court, we offer our deepest condolences to Chief Justice Baer’s family, friends, and colleagues.”

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The passing of Baer means Pennsylvania Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf will fill the vacancy left in the state’s highest court.

“I’m saddened to learn that Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer has passed away. He was a respected and esteemed jurist with decades of service to our courts and our commonwealth. I am grateful for his contributions and leadership in the Supreme Court,” Wolf said on Twitter.

Chief Justice Emeritus Thomas Saylor said Baer was a “consummate gentleman” and a “dear friend.”

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“He was very conscious when he took over as chief justice of continuing to foster a spirit of collegiality among the justices,” Saylor said. “And to make sure that — notwithstanding any type of division on a particular case — at the end of the day, it was to remain a very collegial and respectful court. I think that will also be part of his legacy.”

“Three weeks ago, I was in Pittsburgh and went with him to the West Virginia football game,” Saylor said. “It was a grand evening. I am very blessed that I had that time with him recently.”

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