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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Changes in the Delaware Chancery Bench

Due to its role in litigation, it’s  interesting to watch the changes in the Delaware judiciary. The latest likely appointees, and some history, are discussed in a February 2, 2016 WSJ law blog post. In view of the interesting history and the paywall, I’ve pasted the full entry below. Note: some Chancellors have backgrounds you might not expect.

Feb 2nd 2016, 15:58, by Liz Hoffman

“A well-known plaintiffs’ lawyer and a former state judge are vying for a seat on the Delaware Chancery Court, the chief arbiter of disputes involving most of America’s biggest companies.

A state panel tasked with filling court vacancies has submitted two names to the governor’s office, according to people familiar with the matter: Joel Friedlander and Joseph Slights III. Gov. Jack Markell is expected to choose one of them to replace Vice Chancellor John Noble, who retires later this month. The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The five-member Chancery Court hears cases involving mergers, proxy fights, and corporate and commercial disputes. It is widely considered the most influential business court in the country, setting the rules for executives, directors and the lawyers and bankers who advise them.

Mr. Friedlander, a litigator, is best-known for representing shareholders in big class actions. In 2014, he won more than $75 million in a buzzed-about case against RBC Capital Markets LLC over the bank’s M&A advice. Last year, he secured a $275 million judgment in a derivative suit stemming from the sale of a stake in Activision BlizzardIncATVI -1.77%.

If nominated, Mr. Friedlander would join his former law partner, Andre Bouchard, who was named chief judge of the chancery court in 2014.

Mr. Slights served 12 years on the Delaware Superior Court before retiring in 2012 and joining local firm Morris James LLP. While on the court, he headed a specialized business section.

Mr. Markell, a Democrat, has had a large say in shaping the Delaware bench. With Mr. Noble’s departure, Mr. Markell will have appointed all five sitting chancery court judges as well as four of the five sitting justices on the Delaware Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Leo Strine. The state’s courts are required to be balanced between the two parties.”

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