State senators confirm new members of Court of Chancery

DOVER — Delaware senators confirmed two new members of the Court of Chancery Wednesday, expanding the court to seven members.

Lawmakers passed a bill adding two vice chancellorships in June at the request of Chief Justice Leo Strine, and Gov. John Carney announced his nominations last month.

The Senate convened Wednesday in a special session that will likely be the last meeting of the 149th General Assembly, which ends with Nov. 6’s general election. After a straightforward committee hearing, senators approved the nominations of Morgan Zurn and Katie McCormick to the court, with no voters in opposition.

The Court of Chancery oversees disputes and questions involving some of the world’s largest companies. Delaware is home to more than 1 million legal entities, including two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies, and the Court of Chancery and its detailed case law is a major reason why.

“What’s different about our courts for the business community is we deliver real-world answers with world-class quality,” Chief Justice Strine said in a November budget hearing. “Remember for businesses, they’re not going to agree with everything you do. Nor are the stockholders. But you get a fair shake here.”

Ms. Zurn currently serves as one of two masters in chancery, a position where she presides over trials. Prior to being named a master in 2016, she was a deputy attorney general in the Delaware Department of Justice.

“I cannot think of any higher or better way to use my talents than to serve as vice chancellor on the Court of Chancery. It is the crown jewel of our state,” she said, noting the variety of legal matters the court handles.

Ms. McCormick is a partner at Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP, where she focuses on corporate, commercial and alternative entity litigation in the Court of Chancery.

The two are just the third and fourth women to serve on the court, something noted by Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, who said “history was made” Wednesday.

John Carney

Gov. Carney in a statement applauded Ms. McCormick as “an experienced Chancery lawyer, with knowledge both deep and broad that will make her an immediate asset to the court” and said Ms. Zurn has “intelligence, diligence, efficiency and integrity.”

The Court of Chancery last expanded in 1989, when one vice chancellor was added. It is currently led by Chancellor Andre Bouchard.

By law, it must be politically balanced, meaning it must have a nearly even split between Democrats and Republicans, although a lawsuit currently being heard in federal court is challenging that.

The current state budget includes funding for 10 more employees of the Court of Chancery than in the prior year.

“There’s a price to being successful,” Chief Justice Strine said last year. “If you have more customers, you have more customers because they like the product and services you’re delivering but if you don’t actually make the investment to give them the same quality of service that brought them there, you’re going to lose your customers.”

In addition to the new vice chancellors, senators Wednesday confirmed a new Superior Court resident judge for Sussex County, Superior Court judge and Court of Common Pleas judge and approved the reappointment of a Family Court judge. They also recognized four members of the chamber who are retiring.

 

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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