UD grad named U.S. Court of Appeals judge
Photo courtesy of United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit April 25, 2022
Leonard Stark promoted to Federal Circuit bench after serving in Delaware
It’s no easy feat to get on Leonard P. Stark’s calendar. But that’s no surprise, given that his peers in the legal profession routinely use words like “assiduous” and “indefatigable” to describe him. In his most recent position, as Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, Stark carried one of the heaviest caseloads of any federal judge. The bulk of his cases focused on patents and securities.
Late in 2021, President Joe Biden tapped Stark — a fellow alumnus of the University of Delaware — to be the next member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. The Federal Circuit hears appeals in patent cases from Delaware courts, as well as courts across the nation. His nomination passed the U.S. Senate in February by a 61-35 vote, and he was officially sworn in March 17, in a private ceremony in Washington, D.C.
While Stark’s work life has now become even busier, his personal life has been hectic lately, too. He and his wife, Beth (née Brofee), also a UD graduate, are excited to get to know D.C. better.
Stark earned not one, not two, but three degrees (plus a minor) from UD in the time it takes most to earn one degree. But Stark brushes off praise at his academic accomplishments and instead turns the conversation to the ways that UD faculty and staff supported his academic journey.
“Everyone was always so welcoming,” Stark said. “No matter what crazy academic ambitions I came up with, the consistent response was always: ‘How can we help you?’”
In four years as a UD Honors student, he completed an honors bachelor of arts degree in political science, a bachelor of science degree with distinction in economics, a minor in women’s studies and a master of arts degree in European medieval and early modern history. During his senior year, Stark became the seventh UD alumnus to win a Rhodes Scholarship, which took him to Oxford University in England for two years, where he received his doctorate in politics. He then graduated from Yale Law School in 1996.
Stark said that UD was an environment where he thrived, under mentors including Joseph A. Pika, the James R. Soles Emeritus Professor of Political Science; James J. Magee, the Judge Hugh M. Morris Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Relations; and Lawrence Duggan, a professor of history, all of whom Stark stays in touch with today. He also talked about the “legendary mentor” Jim Soles, who was a UD Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus until his passing in 2010.
“I was able to do undergraduate research at UD, and hone my writing, as I have always loved to write,” Stark said. His discourse skills were sharpened much earlier, at dinner table debates with his father, a New York corporate lawyer. “He won every debate,” Stark said with a laugh. He sounded wistful as he noted that his father passed away before he could see his son become appointed as a federal judge in 2007.
“My dad was a huge fan of UD, and my mom still is today,” Stark said. Upon his graduation, his parents, Linda and Walter Stark, established the Lewis Lewin Stark Scholarship Fund for incoming honors students. The fund is named in honor of Stark’s grandparents.
Beyond his praise for UD’s academic excellence, Stark found personal happiness.
“I met my wife, Beth, on the first day of class and we married when I was in law school,” he said.
Beth Stark is an accomplished garden designer who manages UD’s Goodstay Gardens on the University’s Wilmington campus, and she works with private clients. At Goodstay, she is the sole garden staffer, assisted by a cadre of volunteers from the Friends of Goodstay Gardens. When she’s persistent enough, she gets her husband to take a break from his relentless work pace and enjoy a stroll in the gardens. “They really are beautiful gardens,” Stark said, “and my goal is to actually get out and enjoy them more, despite my new position.”
Goodstay Gardens is located on the UD Wilmington campus at 2700 Pennsylvania Avenue. The gardens are located behind Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and adjacent to the Goodstay Center Mansion. The gardens are free and open to the public from dawn to dusk, year-round. Visit the garden website to learn more.