Tamika Montgomery-Reeves Fact Sheet

August 24, 2022

On July 11, 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Justice Tamika R. Montgomery-Reeves to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to the seat being vacated by Judge Thomas Ambro, who is taking senior status. Justice Montgomery-Reeves has served as a Delaware state court judge since 2015 and was the first Black woman to serve on both the Delaware Supreme Court and Delaware Court of Chancery. Before joining the bench, she gained expertise in corporate law as an associate and partner in private practice.  

Background 

Justice Montgomery-Reeves was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1981. Growing up, her grandmother emphasized the importance of knowing one’s rights and being able to not only protect yourself but others, which inspired Justice Montgomery-Reeves to pursue a career in law. She earned her B.A., magna cum laude, from the University of Mississippi in 2003, and her J.D., cum laude, from the University of Georgia School of Law in 2006. At Georgia Law, she was a recipient of the Woodruff Law Scholarship and an editor on the Journal of Intellectual Property. Although Justice Montgomery-Reeves originally wanted to be a criminal defense attorney, after taking her first corporations class she decided to fully immerse herself in corporate law and the Delaware legal community.  

Legal Experience 

After law school, Justice Montgomery-Reeves clerked on the Delaware Court of Chancery for Chancellor William B. Chandler III, one of the nation’s foremost experts on corporate law. The Court of Chancery has a national reputation in the business community and deals with largely corporate issues, trusts, estates, land purchase disputes, and other fiduciary matters. As a clerk, Justice Montgomery-Reeves observed top corporate litigators and expanded her knowledge of Delaware law. 

Following her clerkship, Justice Montgomery-Reeves worked as a corporate litigator in two national law firms where her typical clients included companies and officers, directors, employees, and other fiduciaries of those companies. From 2007 to 2011, she was an associate at Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP in New York City. There, she practiced securities and corporate governance law and represented clients in government investigations, federal securities litigation, stockholder litigation, and complex commercial litigation.  

In 2011, Justice Montgomery-Reeves returned to Delaware permanently to join the litigation department of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC. As an associate and partner at the firm from 2011 to 2015, she focused on corporate governance, navigation of corporate fiduciary duties, stockholder class action litigation, derivative litigation, and complex commercial litigation. Among the notable cases she handled, Justice Montgomery-Reeves was part of a team that represented Chevron Corporation in a 2013 case in which the Court of Chancery held that a forum selection provision exclusively selecting Delaware courts was facially valid.  

Judicial Experience 

Justice Montgomery-Reeves has been a trailblazer at multiple levels of the Delaware judiciary. On October 28, 2015, she became the first Black vice chancellor and second woman to serve on the Delaware Court of Chancery in its 223-year-history, after being appointed by Governor Jack Markell. On January 3, 2020, Justice Montgomery-Reeves made history once again as the first Black justice and third woman to sit on the Delaware Supreme Court, following her appointment by Governor John Carney.  

As a judge on the Delaware Court of Chancery and Delaware Supreme Court for nearly seven years, Justice Montgomery-Reeves has participated in thousands of decisions and authored more than 300 opinions. Additionally, she has presided over approximately 25 trials involving a variety of civil and criminal law issues. The following cases are demonstrative of her record as a fair and even-handed jurist. 

Commercial Law 

Justice Montgomery-Reeves has presided over many commercial disputes, including cases involving mergers and acquisitions or sales of corporations. For example, in In re Volcano Corporation Shareholder Litigation, she held that directors of Volcano Corporation did not violate fiduciary duties to stockholders in closing a deal to sell the company in an all-cash merger. Then-Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves reasoned that because a majority of the company’s disinterested, uncoerced, and fully informed stockholders approved the merger, the business judgment rule standard of review applied. Under this rule, she concluded the transaction was protected from a challenge on any ground other than waste, which the plaintiffs failed to allege. Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves dismissed the dispute, and the Delaware Supreme Court unanimously affirmed. 

In United Food & Commercial Workers Union v. Zuckerberg, the Facebook board of directors voted in favor of stock reclassification that would allow Mark Zuckerberg to sell most of his stock while maintaining control of the company. Subsequently, numerous stockholders filed lawsuits alleging the board violated fiduciary duties by negotiating and approving a one-sided deal. Before trial, Facebook withdrew the stock reclassification and mooted the lawsuits; however, one stockholder — the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and Participating Food Industry Employers Tri-State Pension Fund — filed a derivative complaint seeking compensation for the money Facebook spent defending itself in the prior class action. The stockholder did not make a litigation demand, as required by Delaware law, instead arguing the demand was futile because the board’s conduct was not a valid exercise of its business judgment and that a majority of the directors lacked independence from Mr. Zuckerberg. The Court of Chancery granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, and the stockholder appealed. Writing for the Delaware Supreme Court en banc, Justice Montgomery-Reeves affirmed the judgment, holding that exculpated care claims do not excuse a litigation demand because they do not expose directors to a substantial likelihood of liability. Additionally, she concluded the stockholder’s complaint failed to show that a majority of the board was beholden to Mr. Zuckerberg.  

Constitutional Law 

Justice Montgomery-Reeves has also navigated complex constitutional law issues during her time on the bench. In Doe v. Coupe, three individuals who were previously convicted and incarcerated for sex crimes challenged the constitutionality of a Delaware statute that required them to wear GPS monitors on their ankles as a condition of their parole or probation. The plaintiffs argued the law violated the Delaware Constitution, in addition to the Fourth Amendment and Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Applying relevant precedent, Vice Chancellor Montgomery-Reeves determined that the government’s interest in reducing sex offender recidivism and chosen means for advancing that interest — i.e., GPS monitoring — outweighed the minor infringement into plaintiffs’ diminished privacy. Therefore, she held that the statute was constitutional; the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed.  

In another case, an enforcement officer from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) pulled over a truck carrying municipal waste and determined that the truck’s owner and operator did not have a valid permit. The DNREC later found that two affiliates also violated various state requirements related to solid waste and assessed civil penalties to all three entities. After a series of appeals, the Delaware Superior Court held that the DNREC’s permit condition was unconstitutionally vague. On review, Justice Montgomery-Reeves conducted the relevant “void for vagueness” analysis and reversed, finding that a reasonable person would recognize the obligation to ensure that all transporters had valid permits.  

Criminal Law 

Since joining the Delaware Supreme Court, Justice Montgomery-Reeves has presided over cases involving complex criminal law issues. For example, in Purnell v. State, Mr. Purnell’s court-appointed attorney sought to withdraw because he previously represented another suspect in the same murder investigation, however the trial judge did not allow it. The attorney subsequently failed to investigate evidentiary leads implicating his former client and failed to present then-known or obvious evidence and arguments that would have inculpated his former client. This poor defense led to Mr. Purnell’s conviction, which was upheld twice by the Delaware Supreme Court. Years later, Mr. Purnell filed a postconviction motion for relief arguing, among other grounds, actual innocence based on evidence unavailable to him at trial, conflicted trial counsel, and ineffective trial counsel. The Superior Court dismissed the motion, and Mr. Purnell appealed to the Delaware Supreme Court. Justice Montgomery-Reeves joined a majority of the Court in reversing the conviction and remanding for a new trial. The Court found that Mr. Purnell had spent more than 14 years in prison based on “a manifestly unfair trial and conviction” and had satisfied his burden of showing actual innocence. Ultimately, the state dropped the charges and Mr. Purnell was set free.   

Pro Bono Work and Accolades 

As a practicing attorney, Justice Montgomery-Reeves regularly represented individuals on a pro bono basis, including preparing petitions under the Violence Against Women Act. She also engaged in a civil lawsuit aimed at improving conditions in New York state prisons on behalf of the Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project. Ultimately, the suit was successful in getting more cameras installed in the facilities and enacting other changes aimed at reducing abuse perpetrated by prison officials. Justice Montgomery-Reeves earned the Legal Aid Society Award for Pro Bono Service in 2009, 2010, and 2011 for her work.  

Justice Montgomery-Reeves is an involved member of her Delaware community. From 2015 to 2019, she served on the Board of Directors of Mother Teresa House, Inc., which provides affordable housing and supportive services for low-income individuals with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, since 2017 she has served on the Board of the Delaware Community Foundation, a nonprofit that partners with donors to expand opportunity, advance equity, and improve the lives of all people in Delaware. Justice Montgomery-Reeves has received many accolades for her community work, including the Woman of Power and Purpose Award from the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware in 2020.