The Delaware Court of Chancery Faces Change


Because of Delaware’s reputation as a haven for corporations, the Delaware Court of Chancery together with the State Supreme Court have developed a worldwide reputation as a respected source of legal decisions.   For this reason, businesses carefully watch when judicial change is coming, as the turnover could affect corporate cases for many years to come.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Myron Steele announced his retirement, effective November 30, becoming the first change in nine years on the Court. Because of its established case law and consistency of its courts, most of U.S. businesses are incorporated in Delaware, and almost 40 percent of Delaware’s revenue is tied to this. Judges have different styles and views on important technical issues, so although the fundamental nature of Delaware corporate law probably will not change, the selection will be very carefully watched.

There is great speculation as to who will be nominated by Gov. Jack Markell, but frontrunners are Delaware Court of Chancery Leo Strine, and Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden, although all of the present justices as well as other presiding judges or corporate law senior partners are in the running.

Both Leo Strine and Jan Jurden are well qualified, coming through the ranks over the years, Strine has been characterized as aggressively brilliant, while Jurden is known as being logistically grounded.

Governor Markell has a tough decision ahead, and if Leo Strine gets the position, his position as Chancellor will also need to be filled.

Governor Markell had high praise for outgoing Chief Justice Myron Steele, saying, “He has been a tireless and forceful advocate for our state’s judiciary and indeed, for the entire state of Delaware.  It is no secret that Delaware’s judiciary is the finest in the nation.  I want to thank chief Justice Steele for his tireless efforts in building and maintaining a court system that is truly a national model.”

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