April 29, 2011

Chandler Retirement Spurs Replacement Speculation

Here are the latest rumors from this article in the “Delaware Business Court Insider”:

The Delaware legal community is abuzz with speculation about a replacement for Chancellor William B. Chandler III, who announced his retirement earlier this week. Six possible candidates have emerged, with Samuel Glasscock III and Mary Johnston as the likely favorites, according to sources familiar with the situation. The other credible candidates include Joel Friedlander, Patricia Enerio, Kevin Brady and Elizabeth McGeever, all Wilmington litigators. However, Glasscock, the current Chancery Court master, and Johnston, a Superior Court judge, are seen as the favorites because of the fact that they are both Republicans with ties to Sussex County.

Delaware’s constitution mandates that the position must be filled by a Republican to maintain the state’s political balance requirement for the judiciary. The constitution has no geographic requirement, but it is a respected tradition that the governor usually selects someone from the same county. Glasscock confirmed his interest in Chandler’s seat, telling the DBCI, “Its flattering to be mentioned for this position and I am considering it, but it is still early.” A secretary at Johnston’s chambers said, “She does not speak to the press.”

Two names that have generated buzz, Enerio and McGeever, have denied interest. McGeever, a director at Prickett Jones & Elliott, said, “I am not pursuing this.” Meanwhile, Enerio, a partner at Proctor Heyman, said she was out of the running because she is a Democrat. “I have definitely considered it. I have the utmost respect for the chancellor’s office,” Enerio told the DBCI. “But I would have to switch political parties due to the political balance requirement. I don’t plan on switching parties. It would be an unimaginable honor, but, again, I don’t plan on switching parties.” Brady, a partner at Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz, has also been rumored.

Friedlander, a partner at Bouchard Margules & Friedlander, confirmed to the DBCI that he will submit an application for the position. Friedlander and Johnston were the finalists for the last Chancery Court opening in 2009, which ultimately went to Travis Laster. However, both Brady and Friedlander may face obstacles because they have no obvious ties to Sussex County. One lawyer familiar with the region emphasized that Sussex County is a tight-knit legal community. “It would be a mistake to pick someone who is solely associated with Wilmington. Even if a person volunteers to move down there for this position, it would be difficult,” the lawyer said.

Glasscock and Johnston would not face such impediments. Glasscock is already based in Georgetown because of his existing position with the Chancery Court. Meanwhile, Johnston is based in Wilmington, but also has a house in Bethany Beach. Andre Bouchard, a partner at Bouchard Margules & Friedlander, is chairman of the Judicial Nominee Committee, which has the job of providing a candidate list for Gov. Jack Markell. Bouchard confirmed that the official posting for the position will go out later this week with an application deadline of May 13. Although Bouchard declined to name possible applicants, he did say the committee is looking for someone “with first-rate intellect and [who] is knowledgeable and experienced in matters handled by the Chancery Court. We are looking for someone who displays the best attributes of the Delaware bar and the Delaware bench.”

Chandler’s replacement is expected to be named within the next 60 days. After an extensive interview process, the nominee committee is expected to send a short list to Markell, who has the responsibility to pick a replacement. The nomination would then proceed to the Delaware Senate for approval.

One likely scenario that has been rumored is the possibility of Vice Chancellor Leo Strine moving into the chancellor’s role. The new appointee would then move into Strine’s position. When Chandler’s retirement becomes effective, Strine will become the longest tenured member of the Chancery Court, serving since 1988.

Although Chandler’s replacement will not be known until mid-summer, he or she is likely to have several key attributes, including corporate litigation experience. “It is a fair bet that whoever is selected will be a seasoned corporate litigator,” added one lawyer. “Even if they are currently not in private practice, but have previous private practice corporate litigation experience.”

It is also expected that the lead candidate will have the calm judicial temperament as Chandler, who was often praised for fairness and intelligence. “There are plenty of qualified candidates out there,” said the lawyer. “The question is: Who is interested?”