The composition of the Delaware Supreme Court and the Chancery Court have undergone some significant turnover recently.
Since 2013, 4 out of 5 seats on the supreme court have changed along with a new chief justice. In 2013, the composition was Myron Steele, Carolyn Berger, Jack Jacobs, Henry Ridgely, and Randy Holland. Now, the composition is Randy Holland, Leo Strine, Karen Valihura, James Vaughn, and Collins Seitz. (Leo Strine was appointed from the chancery court to become the chief justice.)
Since 2013, 3 out of 5 seats on the chancery court have changed. In 2013, the composition was Leo Strine, Donald Parsons, John Noble, Travis Laster, and Sam Glasscock. Now, the composition is Travis Laster, Sam Glasscock, Tamika Montgomery-Reeves, Andre Bouchard, and Joseph Slights (nominated to replace John Noble who is retiring).
Prior to these changes, there was less movement in the composition. For a 10-year period from 2004 to 2013, the composition of the Delaware supreme court remained static with Myron Steele, Carolyn Berger, Jack Jacobs, Henry Ridgely, and Randy Holland. In the same period, the chancery court had Leo Strine, Donald Parsons, and John Noble.
What does this mean for Delaware corporate law? Hard to say. Prediction is a risky business if one cares about accuracy. If the degree of changes occurred at the U.S. Supreme Court, there may be dramatic shifts in outcomes and doctrines (see the commentary and political intrigue over Justice Scalia’s seat, and Judge Posner’s characterization of SCOTUS as a politicized institution). But the analogy probably doesn’t apply to the Delaware courts. Obviously, Delaware selects its judges carefully with an eye toward enhancing its corporate law franchise; in 2014, the state generated over $900 million in state revenue from entity taxes and fees. Uncertainty is a bane in the business community, and Delaware’s customer is the business community. With this said, Delaware corporate law also relies on the common law tradition of judge-made laws, and the common law evolves with changing socio-economic conditions presenting new social problems. And, we now have new judges. Does the composition of a court matter? Of course, it does. Highly qualified corporate lawyers/jurists aren’t widgets.
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