Gov. Jack Markell has nominated private attorney Karen L. Valihura to replace outgoing Justice Jack B. Jacobs on the Delaware Supreme Court.
Valihura, a corporate attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, beat out a crowded and diverse field of applicants and was one of four candidates the Judicial Nominating Commission submitted to Markell for consideration as the nominee. The candidates sent to the governor included Superior Court President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr.; Superior Court Judge Jan R. Jurden; and Widener University School of Law professor Lawrence Hamermesh.
“Karen Valihura is an attorney of uncommon skill, intelligence, and integrity who has earned a well-deserved reputation for excellence in her 25 years in private practice,” Markell said in a released statement. “As important, she has a long track record of service to the community. If she is confirmed by the Senate, I believe Karen will serve our state well as a member of Delaware’s highest court.”
Valihura is a unique appointment for Markell because she is both a Republican and private practice attorney. Since Markell was elected in 2012, he has had 16 judicial nominations, including Valihura. Of those nominations, only Delaware Court of Chancery Chancellor Andre G. Bouchard, Chancery Court Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster, Valihura, Superior Court Judge Eric Davis and Court of Common Pleas Judge Anne Hartnett Reigle worked in the private sector at the time of their nomination.
Sources had said early in the process that Markell was seeking to appoint a female. Only one female, current Justice Carolyn Berger, has ever served on the Supreme Court.
Markell was also said to favor Valihura’s corporate law background, especially since, if confirmed, she will replace Jacobs, who spent 18 years on the Chancery Court before going to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr., a former Chancery Court chancellor, is viewed as one of the foremost authorities on Delaware corporate law. Valihura, combined with Strine and Berger, who spent a decade on the Chancery Court, would give three of the five Supreme Court justices extensive corporate law experience.
A confirmation hearing is scheduled to occur sometime during the last week in June.
Read more in an upcoming edition of Delaware Law Weekly.