Flanked by prominent lawyers as well as former judges and justices, Delaware State Bar Association President William Brady continued the organization’s pushback against a long-running effort that claims Chancery Court is corrupt.
At the press conference on Tuesday, Brady said the organization could not stand by an ignore what it views as falsehoods made by Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware and TransPerfect owner Philip Shawe against the state judiciary and Chancellor Andre Bouchard.
That led the manager of the Citizens campaign to offer to debate Brady on the issue.
Brady noted that Bouchard cannot defend itself, due to ethics and judiciary rules.
None of the other two dozen Bar members at the press conference spoke at the press conference. Outside the Bar Association office, copies of a letter attacking the Bar Association’s stance were distributed to passersby.
Shawe prevailed in a Chancery Court case over the sale of the company. Shawe and former finance Elizabeth Elting ended up deadlocked over control of the company, with each controlling half the stock.
Brady said that contrary to Citizens’ claim that the Bar Association was “circling the wagons.” the normally low-profile organization had no choice to fight back against a campaign he claims is bankrolled by Shawe.
Chancery Court approved the recommended of a custodian who was appointed to work out the sale of the company. Despite frequent attacks from Shawe over legal and other costs, the custodian made the recommendation to sell the company to Shawe. The decision was upheld by the State Supreme Court.
Citizens reported that it is spending half a million dollars in its advertising efforts aimed at changing public opinion regarding Chancery, the state’s business court.
Ads portray Bouchard and Chancery Court as part of a “boys club” that lives the good life and lacks diversity. Photos of luxury automobiles and wine are featured in the advertisements that have aired here and elsewhere.
Brady says the group has gone so far as to attack members of Bouchard’s family.
According to Brady, the court record shows that Shawe engaged in “egregious misconduct” during the battle for the company, with Elting being awarded $7 million in legal fees.
The Bar Association president said he had no direct knowledge of the accuracy of the estimated $250 million in legal costs arising from the case. He added that it is likely that much of that cost was the result of Shawe’s actions.
Brady was asked if the bar planned further actions, including gaining the endorsement of business groups in its efforts or launching its own advertising. The Bar Association president did not rule out further moves to counter Citizens’ campaign
Chancery Court did gain an endorsement last month when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce again ranked No. 1 in its corporate legal climate. Delaware had fallen to No. 11, a talking point in Citizens’ campaign.
Brady also accused Citizens’ as falsely claiming that its effort is a “grassroots campaign” backed by concerned Delaware residents and businesses. He said that once the true intentions of Citizens and Shawe are known, the effort will be “seen for the fraud it is.”
Brady had first gone after Citizens in an Email message to members of the Bar. That letter portrayed efforts by the group for judicial reforms as a smokescreen for a campaign against Bouchard and the judiciary.
The group is seeking legislation that would use a lottery for Chancery cases and cameras in the courtroom among other things.
Chris Coffey, campaign manager for Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware, issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
“As we expected, the Delaware State Bar Association completely ignored our calls for transparency and accountability and instead, hosted an invite-only, closed-door press conference where the audience was hand-picked to hear their protectionist message. What we didn’t expect was for DSBA President William P. Brady to insult the intelligence of more than 2,000 Delaware residents who have recently signed on to support the Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware’s platform for needed change in the judiciary.
“Delaware residents understand what the words ‘transparency’, ‘accountability’ and ‘diversity’ mean. The DSBA clearly does not. Our members understand that when Chancery judges can choose their own cases, there is opportunity for conflicts of interest. We understand that when there are not cameras in courtrooms that there is a greater chance of corruption. And we understand that when courts don’t reflect the constituents that come before them, there is distrust and the potential for disparities in the delivery of justice. Today President Brady proved just how out of touch he is with the residents of Delaware and we, again, invite the DSBA to address our calls for transparency, accountability and diversity in the Delaware state judiciary.
“We challenge Brady to debate the issues, only using facts, anywhere anytime. Will he meet that challenge? I won’t hold my breath.”
Click on the headline link below for a story on the letter from Brady and a response from Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware.