Attorney Colm Connolly is well-known throughout the First State, from his famous prosecution of the Thomas Capano murder case to his work as Delaware’s United States Attorney for seven years. Now in private practice as the managing partner of the Wilmington office of Morgan Lewis, TSD caught up with Connolly for a TSD Q&A.
TOWN SQUARE DELAWARE: Let’s start with the Wheeler case. You represent the Wheeler family. One year later and authorities don’t seem to have any real leads toward solving this terrible crime. As a former US Attorney, you’ve seen a lot of interesting cases but this must be one of the strangest and confounding.
COLM CONNOLLY: The person or persons responsible for Jack Wheeler’s death remain a mystery, and my heart goes out to his wife, Kathy, and their family. Despite the best efforts of the Newark Police Department, we are no closer today to solving this crime than we were a year ago. It really is a sad and frustrating situation.
TSD: Is there anything you can tell us about the investigation that TSD readers may not know?
CC: At this point, we’ve decided not to disclose facts beyond what has already been shared with the media. It’s important that the police keep some facts out of the public eye so they can test the credibility of witnesses who may come forward in the future. Having spent 16 years in law enforcement as a federal prosecutor, I understand how critical the credibility of key witnesses can be to a prosecution. You want to make sure that your witnesses aren’t molding what they say to fit what they’ve read in the newspaper. Equally important, you don’t want to give a defense attorney the opportunity to suggest in cross-examination that the testimony of a witness was influenced by a newspaper story.
TSD: Following your service as US Attorney, you were nominated for the federal bench; then your nomination was held up in the US Senate. Do you have any lingering resentments about that and is there some kind of support group for other nominees like you that never got through?
CC: I don’t believe anyone is entitled to be a judge, so I don’t have any lingering resentments. I also knew that I might personally pay a price for the fact that during my tenure as U.S. Attorney, our office worked with the FBI to prosecute and convict a number of powerful and influential public officials. The fact that I received a unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association and yet was denied a hearing by the Senate tells you that the nomination process is often driven by politics not merit. That’s unfortunate, but I knew that was the reality going into the process, so I can’t say I was surprised by the outcome. The good news for me personally was that as my nomination died on the vine, new opportunities, including a partnership with my law firm, Morgan Lewis, were presented to me. I feel blessed to have such opportunities, and I’m focused on the road ahead, not the rearview mirror.
TSD: You were recruited by a prestigious Philadelphia/national firm and have recently opened up their Wilmington office. What is the nature of your practice?
CC: My practice focuses on commercial litigation. I’m currently handling a variety of cases, ranging from patent litigation to employment matters to contract disputes. I’ve also conducted a number of internal investigations for companies to help them uncover fraud, data breaches, and embezzlements, and I’ve counseled a number of clients on antitrust and financial regulatory issues. In this day of specialization, I feel fortunate that I have a general practice with a wide array of clients and cases.
TSD: Do you think you will ever get back into government or perhaps run for office? Are you currently active politically?
CC: I’m not active politically, and I go back and forth in my own mind as to whether I might one day get back into government or run for office. I’m very happy where I am professionally, and, with four kids, the oldest of whom is about to enter college, I am better able to support them financially with a private law practice. On the other hand, I loved public service and I always felt called to be a public servant. I’m trying to work out whether that calling was satisfied by my 16 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney or if I should return at some point to the public arena.
TSD: What are some of your favorite local haunts?
CC: If my wife and I have a free night (a rarity), we try to get to Culinaria. We love the food and atmosphere (and the short distance to our house!). We’re also big fans of Attilio’s, Cappriotti’s, and Jake’s Way Back Burgers. Outside of work, I spend most of my time at local athletic fields, as our weekends are filled with our kids’ sporting events.
TSD: What is something most people don’t know about Colm Connolly?
CC: I like the solitude and peacefulness of the outdoors, and spend any free time I can muster in the mountains of Vermont.