Courting Business

The state’s Complex Commercial Litigation Division keeps Delaware at the fore of business law.


Published:

Jan Jurden, president judge of Delaware's Superior Court.

Jim Coarse

It’s hard to find someone in the business world who is interested in slowing things down. Technology has made the globe smaller. Decisions and transactions move faster. Something that closed last week is ancient history.

The courts haven’t always held such an outlook on their business. Expeditious outcomes are not the norm. Motions are filed. Continuances are granted. Sometimes, one side simply stalls to prevent the inevitable or to induce a settlement. Weeks turn to months. Months to years. Years to more years.

Some time ago, Jan Jurden, president judge of Superior Court, presided over a case in which both sides were eager for swift adjudication.

“The attorneys wanted a rocket docket,” she says. “They wanted a trial in eight months’ time. The two sides were really holding up transactions for the case.”

Jurden understood that a long trial could stagnate each party’s business interests, so she consented to an expedited schedule and rendered a decision quickly without sacrificing carefully considered justice. It was a perfect example of how Delaware’s 5-year old Complex Commercial Litigation Division is able to pivot rapidly and provide litigants with verdicts that allow business to keep moving.

“In that particular case, I was trying to be responsive to sides that wanted a resolution,” Jurden says. “An ancillary benefit [of the CCLD] is the ability to move quickly, even if a case is complex.”

The CCLD is the newest argument in Delaware’s case for being the nation’s most business-friendly court system. Litigants seeking legal relief in instances where more than $1 million is at stake can have their cases heard in the CCLD— by judges with considerable expertise in business matters—instead of bogging down crowded civil court schedules. The CCLD provides clarity quickly and in a cost-efficient manner. It joins Delaware’s renowned Court of Chancery as an outlet where corporate clients can get the rulings they need while continuing to do business.

“What we have done is make Delaware the most business-friendly state in the United States,” says Superior Court Judge Mary Johnston, one of the four judges on the CCLD panel. “Companies can feel comfortable incorporating in Delaware because they know they can get fair adjudication of matters.”

Since 1792, when the Court of Chancery began settling business cases here, Delaware has been a leader in the corporate legal world. Thanks to its experience and ability to handle complex matters brought by companies incorporated in the state, Chancery has led other states to create business-specific dockets of their own. Though those courts have their strong points—despite being criticized by some as blatant attempts to boost revenues by being friendly toward business—they do not have the body of work Chancery does. With the CCLD, companies looking for verdicts in monetary disputes can depend on the same high level of judicial performance.

“Our judges get a judge’s version of an MBA,” says Jim Patton, a bankruptcy law specialist and chairman of Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor. “Their perception and understanding of the business environment allows them to make decisions that are not just legally sound, but are also grounded in how businesses operate.”

There is something of a misconception about that. Some believe that, because businesses incorporate so frequently in Delaware (about 60 percent of the Fortune 500 has done so), rulings favor the corporations, the better to keep them happy and keep them in the state.

That’s not the case. Though the taxes paid by businesses are vital to the state budget, the strength of the courts is their understanding of complicated statutes and their willingness to work quickly so that transactions are not delayed.

“It’s a culture,” says Larry Hamermesh, a professor of corporate and business law at Delaware Law School for 21 years who spent 18 years practicing at Wilmington’s Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell. “When someone is being considered for an appointment to the Court of Chancery or [CCLD], there is an expectation that the court will be getting a judge who is committed to devoting time and effort to being extremely well prepared, to writing strong opinions, to bringing credibility and to becoming a specialist.”

The credibility Hamermesh speaks of defines Delaware’s business courts. There are winners and losers in all cases, and though few businesses enjoy being on the wrong side of a verdict, they feel confident that the state’s courts are reasonable and accurate. “There needs to be some predictability,” Johnston says. “Attorneys must be able to advise their corporate clients on how to set up contracts, based on courts’ previous verdicts.”

Predictability is key to the CCLD’s value in the Delaware court system. Though it isn’t unique, due to similar vehicles in other states, it is another reason for businesses to remain incorporated in Delaware, and that’s important. Corporate taxes are an important revenue stream, but there is also an ancillary economy that depends on the corporate presence, in the way firms in Michigan support the auto industry. “It’s a big part of the economy,” says Fred Cottrell, a partner at Richards, Layton & Finger, a specialist in intellectual property law who also appears on behalf of clients in the CCLD.

Despite the advantages for corporations in the Delaware courts, there are moments when people fear a ruling or legislative action could cool the climate and lead businesses to look elsewhere for homes. Rulings with the potential to do that are usually balanced by legislative action, and vice versa. Bill Johnston, an attorney with Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, points to Delaware’s careful consideration in the 1980s of anti-takeover statutes adopted by other states. “We wanted to be looked at as being balanced,” he says. A more recent example is the Delaware Supreme Court ruling in May 2014 that the loser in a corporate litigation case would have to pay “all fees, costs and expenses of every kind.” It was not a popular ruling. A year later, the General Assembly voted to prohibit that ruling from taking hold in Delaware.

“Everybody is always afraid that something will happen that forces corporations out of Delaware,” says Connor Bifferato, a litigation attorney whose father (Vincent A. Bifferato) was a Superior Court judge for 34 years. “As long as the courts continue to be as learned and fair as they are, everything will be fine.

“Corporations have to deal with legal situations in one place or another. Why not do it where they have been treated fairly over the years?” 

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February 2018

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

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The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
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Cost: 10

Where:
Greater Philadelphia Expo Center
100 Station Ave
Oaks, PA  19456
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Sponsor: MarketPlace Events
Contact Name:

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Cost: Varies

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Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
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Cost: $10

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

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Cost: $10-$15

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-1172
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Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

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Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
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Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
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"What the water said…Flowers, Places, & Faces," an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Hugh Phibbs, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 2-23, 2018. A free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: Call for cost.

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-629-6611 x2288
Contact Name: Nanticoke's Diabetes Education Department
Website »

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Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
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More information

Show More...
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"What the water said…Flowers, Places, & Faces," an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Hugh Phibbs, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 2-23, 2018. A free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
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View map »


Website »

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Cost: FREE

Where:
Faith Victory Christian Center
301 Commonwealth Avenue
Claymont, DE  19703
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Sponsor: Faith Victory Christian Center
Telephone: 302.354.6726
Contact Name: Alvin Walker
Website »

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Cost: $20 members; $30 non-members

Where:
Delaware Center for Horticulture
1810 N. Dupont Street
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Sponsor: Delaware Center for Horticulture
Telephone: (302) 658-6262
Contact Name: Ruth Arias
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Cost: Free

Where:
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark
420 Willa Road
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: UUFN
Telephone: 302.368.2984
Contact Name: Richard Field
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"What the water said…Flowers, Places, & Faces," an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Hugh Phibbs, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 2-23, 2018. A free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Where:
STAR Health Sciences Complex
540 S. College Ave
Newark, DE  19713
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Explore connections between people and plants in these four inspiring presentations. Special thanks to Whole Foods Market for sponsoring this  year’s refreshments. Individual lecture pricing:...

Cost: $20 members; $30 non-members

Where:
Delaware Center for Horticulture
1810 N. Dupont Street
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Sponsor: Delaware Center for Horticulture
Telephone: (302) 658-6262
Contact Name: Mackenzie Knight-Fochs
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Tickets are $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students. Tickets are available at the door. Cash or check only.

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

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Show More...
Show Less...

"What the water said…Flowers, Places, & Faces," an exhibition of watercolor paintings by Hugh Phibbs, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from February 2-23, 2018. A free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The area’s largest sale of gently used books has been scheduled by the Wilmington branch of the American Association of University Women. The 49th annual Dollars for Scholars Used Book Sale, to...

Cost: free

Where:
Concord Mall
4737 Concord Pike
North Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: American Association of University Women
Telephone: 302-428-0939

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
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View map »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

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Show More...
Show Less...

A winter warm up of colorful, vibrant paintings. Marlene Dubin - bold mixed media abstracts; Elaine Lisle - regional landscapes in oil; Mary Ann Weselyk – whimsical animals and still life...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The area’s largest sale of gently used books has been scheduled by the Wilmington branch of the American Association of University Women. The 49th annual Dollars for Scholars Used Book Sale, to...

Cost: free

Where:
Concord Mall
4737 Concord Pike
North Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: American Association of University Women
Telephone: 302-428-0939

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Ronald Barron was principal trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1975 until 2008. He joined the orchestra in 1970 after being a member of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and also...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free; donations accepted

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

By Simon Stephens (playwright of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") Directed by Matt Pfeiffer REGIONAL PREMIERE! Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

For this Saturday’s activity, visitors will have fun with fluid dynamics and hydraulics - Pascal would be proud! Visitors of all ages are invited to discover solutions to science and engineering...

Cost: Free with admission; Adults: $14, Children 6-14: $5, Children 5 and under: Free

Where:
Hagley Museum and Library
200 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Website »

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Cost: *VIP $125.00; *Silver Mirror Ball $50.00

Where:
Dover Downs Hotel
, 1131 North Dupont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition
Telephone: 302-778-1102
Contact Name: Eliza Mohler
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Cost: 0 - $20

Where:
Newark United Methodist Church
69 E. Main St.
Newark, DE  19711
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