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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May 2018

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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
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Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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More information

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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
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Telephone: 800-448-3883
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Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8283
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Cost: free

Where:
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Cost: free

Where:
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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
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Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
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Cost: Free

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820 N. French St.
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View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8283
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

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View map »


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Website »

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Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
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Cost: FREE

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200 South Madison Street
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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820 N. French St.
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View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8283
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Mary Pritchard is an award winning pastel artist from Chestertown, Maryland. Following a career in education administration at the University of Delaware, Mary returned to painting full-time....

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
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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
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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
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
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The 11th annual Artisans Fair, featuring unique handcrafted art objects, will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 26, at Lord Baltimore Elementary School on Route 26 in Ocean View, DE. ...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lord Baltimore Elementary School
Route 26
Ocean View, DE  19970
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Sponsor: South Coastal DE AARP Chapter
Telephone: 302-732-6336
Contact Name: Ida Crist
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GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
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THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
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A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
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Science Saturday – River Rangers River Rangers learn how to gauge the health of our local waterways by observing the variety of critters living in it. Visitors of all ages are invited to...

Cost: Activities are included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
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