Although on paper Delaware Court of Chancery chancellor nominee Andre G. Bouchard may have a great deal more in common with his predecessor, current Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr., many in the Delaware corporate law community choose to compare him to one of the Chancery Court’s longest-tenured leaders, former Chancellor William B. Chandler III.
Both Bouchard and Strine worked together as associates at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom after graduating from Ivy League law schools. Bouchard attended Harvard Law School, while Strine is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania Law School. In addition, Bouchard, 53, and Strine, 49, are of the same generation.
Another similarity between the two men is their commitment to public service. Strine was counsel to former Gov. Tom Carper before serving Delaware as a vice chancellor and, later, chancellor on the Chancery Court.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jack Markell had previously appointed Bouchard as chairman of the Delaware Human Relations Commission; as vice chair of the Delaware Health Information Network; and as a member of the Governor’s Council on Equal Employment Opportunity, the Sentencing Accountability Commission and the Criminal Justice Council.
Yet several members of the Delaware corporate law community were quick to draw comparisons to Chandler in the immediate wake of Bouchard’s nomination last week.
“Bouchard is an excellent choice,” said Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware. “He’s an individual who is judicious in his temperament and how he approaches things. I see him in the mold of a Bill Chandler in terms of temperament. He’s very bright and very balanced.”
Lawrence A. Hamermesh, a corporate law professor at Widener University School of Law, agreed with Elson about the Chandler comparisons.
“My experience with him is that he is very intellectually flexible,” Hamermesh said. “He is able to see both sides of the story and, in terms of judicial temperament, I see him as a Bill Chandler type.”
“I am very pleased with the selection and glad he was willing to do it,” Hamermesh continued.
Elson said the similarities between Chandler and Bouchard are striking in terms of their personalities and how they approach legal issues.
“He’s very bright, balanced and low-key in a most judicious manner,” Elson said.
Strine has a reputation for having one of the brightest corporate law minds in the country, but is also known for his big personality and sense of humor. Hamermesh said the differences between Strine and Chandler could be highlighted when they appear together at legal conferences such as the Tulane Corporate Law Institute.
“Bouchard may be a little less visible than the former chancellor and a little more of a softer tone,” Hamermesh said. “But Strine and Bouchard are going to be in different orbits. If the chief justice goes to Tulane, he is still going to be a big attraction. He’s quite influential and insightful. The new chancellor will also be a big draw.”
Delaware’s General Assembly still needs to confirm Bouchard as the Chancery Court’s 21st chancellor, but he is expected to face no opposition during the hearing. If confirmed, Bouchard will be the first chancellor since William T. Allen in 1985 to lead the court without first serving as a vice chancellor.
Norman M. Monhait, a shareholder at Rosenthal, Monhait and Goddess and chair of the Delaware State Bar Association’s corporate law section, said the lack of judicial experience will not impact Bouchard’s ability to lead the Chancery Court.
“Andy is highly talented, deeply experienced and will be an excellent addition to the Chancery Court’s bench,” Monhait said. “He will help maintain the Chancery Court’s position as the premier forum for business litigation.”
“I think he’s been around the block enough that his learning curve is not going to be steep,” he said.
Bouchard will face some challenges in his expected new role. For example, other jurisdictions are competing with Delaware for corporate litigation and the income boost generated from such cases. Legal analysts said that under Bouchard’s leadership, the court will be able to maintain its reputation for deciding corporate law.
“I think what the court should do under Andy is to continue what it is already doing, provide efficient, prompt and thoughtful decisions on the matters brought before them,” Monhait said.
Hamermesh said Delaware’s increased competition is a complex issue that will create challenges for the next chancellor.
“It’s a hard dilemma to deal with,” he said. “I think it depends on the fate of forum selection provisions and how the chancellor and vice chancellors handle issues of dismissal and fee awards and the appointment of lead counsel.”
Markell said in a released statement that he is confident that Bouchard will build on Delaware’s reputation for judicial excellence.
“In nearly 30 years practicing law in Delaware, Andy Bouchard has demonstrated a remarkable ability to dissect complex legal issues and vigorously represent his clients. He is well recognized for his professionalism and ability to think quickly on his feet in the courtroom,” the governor said. “His experience establishing and growing his own small business as founder of his law firm, as well as his long career before the Court of Chancery, will give him a special appreciation for the work of the court and the many and varied litigants who would appear before him in his new role.”
Bouchard thanked Markell for the nomination in a statement released by the governor’s office.
“I am grateful and deeply honored to be nominated by Gov. Markell for the position of chancellor. Having practiced in the Court of Chancery for the past 28 years, I have seen firsthand the quality of its judges and staff, and what makes this court the preeminent forum in the United States for resolving corporate and commercial disputes. It is a privilege to be nominated to serve as chancellor, and I look forward to the opportunity to serve the citizens of Delaware in this capacity if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed by the Senate,” he said.