Early Career and Influences
Judge Gregory Sleet's legal journey began in Philadelphia, where he served as an assistant public defender.
"I started out as an assistant public defender in Philadelphia,” Judge Sleet recalls. “It was there I learned how to try cases, an experience that has informed everything I've done as a lawyer."
After that, the Delaware Department of Justice recognized his talent, inviting him to join as a senior trial lawyer. In this role, he managed cases in which the state of Delaware was being sued. Soon after, he found himself in the corporate arena, eventually joining Hercules' legal department doing antitrust, licensing and contract work, as well as some high-stakes litigation as in-house counsel.
Public Service and Leadership
Judge Sleet then ventured into public service, spurred on by one of his mentors, James Gilliam Jr. His journey led him to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Delaware, serving as a presidentially appointed United States attorney. His leadership was further recognized when then-Sen. Joe Biden nominated him for a district court vacancy, although Judge Sleet was initially hesitant.
“I wasn’t interested in being a judge. My next stop, I had plans [to go] back into the private sector,” Judge Sleet admits.
Judge Sleet sought the guidance of his advisors and mentors, among them his parents.
"Both times, it was important to me and to those advising me that this is something that you should probably do, especially being the first of your race to occupy these important jobs."
This was a significant motivation for Judge Sleet, who ultimately accepted the position, becoming the first African American to serve on that court in Delaware's history. He remained on the bench for 20 years, seven of which he served as chief judge.
In 2018, after a long and distinguished career in law, Judge Sleet decided to retire from the bench. Today, he continues his work in the field as an arbitrator, mediator and neutral evaluator at JAMS.
Personal Influences and Outlook
Beyond his professional achievements, Judge Sleet's worldview was significantly influenced by his father, Moneta Sleet Jr., a longtime photojournalist for the Johnson Publishing Company, which was widely known for its Ebony and Jet magazines. His father's work included photographing and documenting the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"My father was privileged to be invited into Dr. King's home to photograph them for history and to accompany him from the days of Selma right on up through his death."
His father’s most famous piece is the Pulitzer Prize-winning picture he took at Dr. King’s funeral of Coretta Scott King and one of her daughters, Bernice King, mourning in her lap inside the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Judge Sleet credits his parents, along with Dr. King and his family, for instilling in him a profound sense of respect for showing resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity.
Be Prepared for Change
"If I had to come up with a title for my life story, it would be 'Be Prepared for Change.'"
His life and career, punctuated by significant transitions and groundbreaking achievements, led Judge Sleet to appreciate the importance of adaptability. Though there have been times of trepidation in his career, he learned to embrace uncertainty and leverage it as a stepping stone toward success and growth.
His career stands as a testament to his adaptability and unwavering dedication to law and justice.
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