December 16, 2015
The Investiture of Tamika Montgomery-Reeves
Posted by Usha Rodrigues
 I told you where I'd be last Friday: proudly attending the investiture of Georgia Law alum Tamika Montgomery-Reeves.  Here's the report.
 
I had attended one investiture before in my life, of a federal judge. That one took place in a large venue-- I was in the top tier of seats, relatively far from the action--and was a joyous celebration of an impressive career. Having attended that ceremony, I thought I knew what to expect. 
 
I was wrong.  
 
Arriving at the Court of Chancery, I walked up to one of two busy but friendly officials and gave my name. She consulted a color coded seat map-- I was coded purple, a "friend."  My instructions: Sit on the right, in rows 3 or 4.  The first 2 rows were reserved for Tamika's family, who I think numbered at least 30, and many of whom had traveled from Georgia for the occasion.   
 
Rows 3 or 4?  
 
Readers, the ceremony was in a room 2/3 the size of the classroom in which I teach corporations.  Intimate about captures it. As I told my friend and former colleague Chuck O'Kelley, I had toyed with the idea of, if not live blogging, at least taking advantage of the anonymity of the audience to peck out some thoughts on my iPad as the ceremony unfolded. Oh, no, my friends.  There was no anonymity in the Chancery Court that day. On the contrary, the investiture ceremony felt intensely personal.   I snapped a few pics on my iPhone 4, but better quality shots are available here.  The ceremony was videotaped, and here are links to the first and second portions of the investiture.  Below are some of my personal highlights (with the time markers for the videos in parentheses).
 
Chancellor Bouchard presided.  When Tamika's 7-month-old son began crying during his opening remarks, he said without missing a beat, "Don't worry, Jackson, our litigants feel like that all the time..." (1:26 clip 1).  With those few words he did what all good speakers do when confronted with an audience of people from different walks of life, many of whom are dressed formally and unsure of what to expect--he made a joke (on the fly, no less) that set everyone at ease.  Chancellor Bouchard also got a little muddled on the order, and made a self-deprecating remark about messing things up (4:50). It was my  first time hearing him in court, and he was the epitome of graciousness. 
 
Pastor Toney Montgomery, Tamika's uncle, gave a powerful invocation (5:35).  Tamika's husband, Jeffrey A. Reeves, and her parents and parents-in-law gathered around her for her robing. Governor Markell offered remarks.    My friend Bill Chandler also made some remarks (18:10) and those of you that know him in person or by opinion know, they are well worth a listen. Bill reflected on Tamika's many fine qualities (21:00) and then offered her some advice as a judge (29:30 clip 1 and then the very beginning of clip 2).  You may disagree, but I heard his words as advice to the whole Chancery Court from a respected and beloved member of the Delaware judiciary about how to preserve and protect the special character of the Chancery Court.  Tamika's first words from the bench were also excellent and well worth a listen (4:55 clip).  She stressed the value of education and family support.  Most resonant for me personally was two anecdotes about Bill (13:50) and some reflections on the effect Chuck O'Kelley, then a professor at Georgia Law, had on her life and career (16:15).  Sometimes in the administrivia of my current life I lose sight of the profound impact a single professor can have on an individual. 
 
Two more thoughts.  First, at the reception afterwards the adjective I heard most often to describe the ceremony was moving. Governor Markell and the judicial nominating commission have been busy. The Chancery Court has turned over 100% in the past few years, and the Supreme Court as well.   Even people who had attended many recent investitures found Tamika's to be particularly moving. 

I'll end with this paragraph, versions of which I've typed and deleted at least twice.  Here goes: Chancellor Bouchard closed his remarks with these words: "Tamika is just the second woman and the first African American to serve on the Court, and some may say, "Well, it's about time!"  But I would like to think that we were just waiting, however patiently, for the right person, and that we found the right person, as many here today will attest." (4:00).  Chancellor Bouchard's words gave me pause because I, for one, do think Delaware took too long on this--that there must have been other women and minorities that would have made fine candidates for the Chancery Court before Tamika.  Still, I'm glad he said what he did. What he did in those few sentences was both acknowledge the historic importance of this particular investiture and then immediately turn the spotlight back onto Tamika as an extraordinary individual. Quite a grace note, when you come to think of it.

 

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