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Now there are two reasons to consider William D. Johnston the quintessential Delaware lawyer. Starting next week, Johnston will serve a one-year term as the president of the Delaware State Bar Association, the point man for the legal profession and its 3,000 lawyers in the state. He is a corporate practitioner in a state famous for them, a senior partner at one of the Wilmington firms that anchors the legal establishment, and for good measure, he is the fifth attorney in the 42-year history of Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor to lead the Bar association. Johnston is also fresh off a win in the latest blockbuster at the Court of Chancery — the on-off-on meat-market merger between Tyson Foods Inc. and IBP Inc. It all shouts “Delaware lawyer.” Still, that reputation is nothing new for Johnston, who made his name in that regard long ago. Before he ever was on track to be the Bar association president, Johnston was part of legal lore, a model of civility amid vulgarity, composure against hectoring, like wingtips walking through steaming refuse. It happened because Johnston conducted what is probably the most celebrated deposition known to the Delaware bench and Bar. He is the lawyer in the much-noted “Addendum” to the state supreme court’s 1994 opinion in QVC v. Paramount, a coda that amounted to a prickly lecture on professionalism, civility and discovery abuse, delivered because of the treatment Johnston endured from a Texas lawyer named Joseph D. Jamail. The court made its point by quoting from a transcript in which Johnston deposed a Paramount director in November 1993 in Texas. About three hours into the deposition Jamail, the opposing counsel, took issue with one of Johnston’s questions and vented. JAMAIL: He’s not going to answer that. Certify it. I’m going to shut it down if you don’t go to your next question. JOHNSTON: No. Joe, Joe – JAMAIL: Don’t “Joe” me, a�h—. You can ask some questions, but get off of that. I’m tired of you. You could gag a maggot off a meat wagon. Now, we’ve helped you every way we can. JOHNSTON: Let’s just take it easy. JAMAIL: No, we’re not going to take it easy. Get done with this. JOHNSTON: We will go on to the next question. JAMAIL: Do it now. JOHNSTON: We will go on to the next question. We’re not trying to excite anyone. JAMAIL: Come on. Quit talking. Ask the question. Nobody wants to socialize with you. JOHNSTON: I’m not trying to socialize. We’ll go on to another question. … JAMAIL: You fee makers think you can come here and sit in somebody’s office, get your meter running, get your full day’s fee by asking stupid questions. JAMAIL UNPUNISHED The court did not have the means to punish Jamail, safely in Texas. Instead, it harrumphed as only it can, declaring in the addendum that it viewed his conduct with “gravity and revulsion” and all but daring him to come to Delaware “to show cause why such conduct should not be considered as a bar to any future appearance.” Jamail never showed. Meanwhile, Johnston emerged as a shining example, although thorough to a fault. The court wrote: “Although the questioning in the [Paramount director's] deposition could have proceeded more crisply, this was not a case where it was the questioner who abused the process.” As Johnston becomes the president of the Bar association, the membership will find him now as he was then — thorough, unruffled and determined to see to his responsibilities. Dennis L. Schrader, the outgoing president who practices at Wilson Halbrook & Bayard in Georgetown, predicts a good year under Johnston’s stewardship. “His heart’s in the right place, and he means for the Bar to be the best Bar it can,” Schrader said. Schrader himself is finishing up an unusually active term. He presided over the opening of the Bar Center, the new headquarters near the new Justice Center rising at Fourth and King streets. He worked to get 7 percent raises for the state judiciary and to ensure a voice for the Bar association in judicial nominations. He dealt with national issues concerning multidisciplinary practice and multijurisdictional practice. Schrader also will be remembered for finessing a local issue, putting to rest a proposal from William Prickett, another former Bar association president, to have lawyers wear robes when appearing before the state supreme court. All it took was a survey of the membership and the subsequent outpouring of incredulity. After all of that, Johnston has a new array of matters he expects to consider. Chief among them is his determination to ensure that the Bar association is relevant to its members by providing quality programs and by reaching out to all lawyers, regardless of type of practice, amount of experience, race, gender or geography. He also wants to hold the line on annual dues, which currently range from $80 for new lawyers to $195 for lawyers with more than 15 years in the profession. In a long-range plan to open up opportunities for minorities, Johnston is working with Leland Ware, the new Louis L. Redding professor for law and public policy at the University of Delaware. They are developing a program called “Louis L. Redding Junior Scholars,” in which judges and lawyers would serve as mentors for high school students interested in learning about the law. The program, like the professorship, is named for the state’s first African-American lawyer, the legendary civil rights attorney. Ware believes that more young minority lawyers, who tend to be attracted to the “bright lights” of cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, would locate in Delaware if they came to understand the advantages in terms of jobs and proximity to those other locales. “There are some golden opportunities. The lawyers who are already here know that,” Ware said. As for other initiatives, Johnston intends to advance the Bar’s contribution to the community, as well. He already has spent considerable time on creating resources to help self-represented litigants as the past chairman of the Bar association’s Pro Se Litigation Assistance Committee, and intends to make it a priority during his term. Likewise, he wants to recruit more lawyers to donate both time and money to pro bono work, long a tradition of the Delaware Bar. “It’s important to be involved to give something back to the profession and to the community,” Johnston said. Like other presidents, Johnston plans for the Bar association to take public positions on what he calls “liberty interests” when there is a consensus to do so. Recently he signed a letter with Schrader to the General Assembly in favor of a measure, H.B. 99, which would prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation. For Johnston, becoming the Bar association president was a natural. His interest in the organization dates from his earliest days as a lawyer, when he clerked from 1982 to 1983 for Delaware Chief Justice Daniel L. Herrmann and observed the traditions of the bench and Bar. WASHINGTON & LEE GRADUATE A graduate of Colgate University and Washington & Lee University Law School, Johnston went from clerking to Potter Anderson & Corroon in Wilmington, where even as a new associate he worked on a committee drafting the Delaware Appellate Handbook. It brought him in contact with senior members of the Bar like Chief Justice E. Norman Veasey, then with Richards Layton & Finger in Wilmington, and Bruce M. Stargatt, a name partner at Young Conaway. “I became very impressed with the efforts on the part of the courts and the Bar to work with one another on what I came to know was the administration of justice,” Johnston said. Johnston was practicing primarily in commercial law. When Young Conaway had an opening for a junior associate in corporate litigation in 1985, he jumped at the chance to work with Stargatt. He made partner in 1990. In addition to finding his practice niche, Johnston was at a firm with a long tradition of participation in the Bar association. Four other partners there have been president — James R. Morford, H. Albert Young, H. James Conaway Jr. and Stargatt — and Johnston became involved, too, paving his rise through its ranks. As the new president, Johnston has cemented his standing as half of one of Delaware’s legal power couples. He is married to Mary D. Johnston, the chief disciplinary counsel. If there is anything about Bill Johnston that is underestimated, it is his sense of humor. At least in public, he manages in lawyerly fashion to be well-reasoned and dry, while being funny. Johnston directed this unusual blend at Schrader during the annual Bench & Bar Conference earlier this month. It was Johnston’s task, as it is for all incoming presidents, to present the outgoing president with a ring. Johnston turned it into a locution that was partly true and partly shaggy-dog story. The true part began with Johnston explaining that Rina Marks, the Bar association’s cost-conscious executive director, figured out she could save money if she ordered presidential rings for both Schrader and Johnston at the same time. The rings were stored in a safe in the old headquarters at One Commerce Center. The headquarters was burglarized and the safe blown up, and in the rubble it appeared that the rings had been stolen, but eventually they were found and cleaned. Now came the time for embellishment. Johnston insisted that only his ring had turned up while Schrader’s was exploded to smithereens. Schrader, standing beside Johnston for this surprising presentation, was mute as Johnston poured small gold beads into his hand, declaring they were all that was left of the ring. Johnston wasn’t finished yet. He said he really didn’t want Schrader’s term to go unrecognized, particularly because of all the issues he wrestled with, so Johnston gave him a Hulk Hogan thumb wrestler puppet. Finally Johnston conceded Schrader’s ring had been located, after all, and although it took some special fund-raising, the Bar association was able to get the ring out of hock, and here it was. From Schrader’s perspective, this sort of tale-telling is a good sign as Johnston takes over. “You have to figure out how to put it in perspective,” Schrader said. “Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re just the Bar association president.”

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