In the annals of the federal district court in our country, there could hardly be more than one judge who took their seat on that august bench more than a full ten years after first being nominated.
This unusual, circuitous journey — which for Colm Connolly started in the US Attorney’s office and involved two presidents and a nine-year interregnum as a law firm partner — was much remarked upon at the new judge’s investiture ceremony on Friday. That decade-long distinction was a point of interest as well as the fact, pointed out by Connolly’s former boss, then deputy and now fellow district court judge Richard Andrews, that Connolly is also the first Colm (pronounced “column”) to be seated on the federal bench.
Connolly’s path to US Senate confirmation began in 2008 when he was nominated by President George W. Bush in the waning days of that administration. Politics and delays intervened and Connolly’s nomination was never advanced by the Senate. President Obama, a Democrat, was elected and Connolly headed back to private practice.
Fast forward ten years — Connolly himself cited the exact days and hours — and Republican President Donald Trump recommended Connolly to the US Senate again for the Delaware district court, but this time a supportive duo of Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons were there to help grease his path to joining a busy, influential court that was overworked and under-resourced.
Carper and Coons were both on hand Monday, joined by an all-star local legal lineup that included state and federal judges, prosecutors, public defenders and politicians, and both had high praise for Connolly and his patience.
The senators and other colleagues and family members all spoke to Connolly’s integrity, fortitude and skill as a litigator. They sung praises for his legal acumen, work ethic and sense of history and commitment to public service and in one case – US Attorney David Weiss, a longtime friend and colleague – ribbed Judge Connolly for his brief stint as a Hollywood advisor and would-be pal of actor Mark Harmon, who played murderer Thomas Capano in a made-for-TV movie about the tragic murder of Anne Marie Fahey, which Connolly famously, and successfully prosecuted.
Connolly is only the 27th judge to serve the court with jurisdiction over the entire state of Delaware, a court established in 1789 that today has major influence over national business and patent cases.
The court is led by chief judge Leonard Stark, who noted that Connolly had once gifted him with a book, one seven years later that he still has not read but that spoke aptly to the spirit of the day and Connolly’s long slog to donning the black robes: “Endurance.”
Photography by Ruthie Kleinman