Del. High Court Detours from Opinion to Chastise Chief Chancery Judge Known for 'Legendary' Asides


Illustration of Leo Strine by Thomas Gianni.

Delaware’s high court took a few pages in an opinion issued this week to take the outspoken chief judge of the state’s Court of Chancery to task for using a ruling to express his “world views.”

The court said Chancellor Leo Strine should restrict his views to more appropriate platforms, including law review articles, keynote speeches and continuing legal education programs.

“We remind Delaware judges that the obligation to write judicial opinions on the issues presented is not a license to use those opinions as a platform from which to propagate their individual world views on issues not presented,” the Delaware Supreme Court wrote in its 34-page opinion regarding Gatz Properties, LLC v. AurigaCapital Corp.

The court, which upheld the lower court decision in the case, was nevertheless irked by Strine’s 10-page aside on whether limited-liability companies have default fiduciary duties, Reuters reports.

Pointing out that no litigant asked the Court of Chancery to address the default fiduciary duty issue as a matter of statutory law, the Delaware high court said Strine should have steered clear of the matter.

“In these circumstances we decline to express any view regarding whether default fiduciary duties apply as a matter of statutory construction,” the high court reasoned. “The Court of Chancery likewise should have so refrained.”

Reuters notes that Strine’s opinions interpreting Delaware’s corporate law are well known for their colorful comments and observations. The news agency adds that the judge’s “courtroom asides are legendary.”

Indeed, a profile featuring Strine in this month’s <a href=”http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/delaware_defender/title=”Delaware Defender: Leo Strine is fighting to uphold the state’s reputation as the venue for corporate America to get a fair shake”>ABA Journal describes his writing as, “erudite, encyclopedic and, more often than not, highly entertaining, laced with personal asides and allusions to pop culture.”

He once referenced Paris Hilton in a matter addressing the duties of corporate boards to shop their companies for the best price in the face of a takeover offers. And the story notes, Strine’s courtroom is “enlivened by his wit and in-your-face directness” and “makes for a good reality show.”

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