Fixing the System
In leading an independent review of breakdowns in the wake of the Earl Bradley case, Linda Ammons drew upon her vast life experiences.
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The investigation was a chance for Ammons to revisit her interest in criminal and administrative law. “It provided me with an opportunity to use some skills that I hadn’t used in a long time,” she says. She drew on her experience as a student to think critically about facts. She reached back to her experience as a reporter to question carefully and listen thoughtfully. She drew on her experience in government to navigate state agencies and deal with crime victims. Ammons consulted with people as far as California, spoke to state administrators, legislators, and hundreds of victims and their family members.
“The end result is something of great importance,” she says. “It will save the literal and emotional life of a child. The previous system in place was set up for failure. It wasn’t that people were being purposeful in ignoring things, but they just weren’t careful enough, and the system wasn’t designed to catch certain things.”
Many of Ammons’ recommendations have already become law. Vivian Rapposelli, secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, notes the impact of Ammons’ review.
“We’ve seen some increase in reporting to our child abuse report line, and the coordination between state agencies has significantly improved,” Rapposelli says. “Under the governor’s direction and the guidance of Dean Ammons’ report, an interagency steering committee continues to work to ensure that, beyond the actions taken during the previous legislative session, state agencies are continuing to examine policies and processes to make sure that every aspect of her recommendations are considered and, where appropriate, acted upon.”
Though the subject matter and context were difficult, Ammons views the experience as positive.
“I understand the perspective of wanting someone who could be neutral about all of the issues and players,” she says. “I have had empathy for these victims, but I was asked to be objective, so I couldn’t allow myself to be overwhelmed with the sadness.”
That’s prudent policy for someone who may soon become a judge. Ammons was nominated to the federal bench in August. She’s reluctant to speak about it until she’s confirmed.
“Linda Ammons’ work on the report made a real difference, but she should not be defined solely by those months of service,” Markell says. “She’s helping shape Delaware and the region’s legal future each day with her strong leadership at Widener Law.”
But she admits she never envisioned her life taking such a path.
“Never say never,” she says. “I work on one task at a time, one day at a time. I do things because I enjoy them. At this stage of my life, if I don’t enjoy it, I don’t do it.”