Former Delaware Chancellor William Allen, 75


Former Chancellor Chancellor William T. Allen has died. He was 75.

Allen was appointed as Chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery by Governor Mike Castle in 1985. He served until 1997 when he returned to his alma mater, New York University, to teach law and re-entered private practice at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

“Our nation lost one of the finest jurists of the last 50  years yesterday,” said Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine, Jr. “Chancellor Allen set a standard of excellence that made Delaware stand out in the eyes of all sophisticated observers. Bill Allen, the person, set a standard as a husband, father, friend, and caring professor to which we should all aspire. For me personally, he was a mentor, a source of wisdom, and an inspiration. Everyone in Delaware owes him a debt of gratitude for what he did for our state, and our Judiciary’s hearts are with his wife and children, as they endure the loss of this special man.”


According to a statement, Allen became Chancellor in 1985, at a time when the takeover boom of the 1980s was in full swing and the Delaware Court of Chancery was the subject of national scrutiny.

According to the statement, Allen “became known for decisions with a  “lucid and lively writing style and incisive analysis. For that reason, Chancellor Allen was considered to be one of the finest corporate law judges of the era and, even more broadly, as one of the finest judges.”

Former Governor Mike Castle, who nominated Allen to the bench, said the chancellor’s work “enhanced Delaware’s very well-earned reputation in the world of corporate law.”

Allen wrote hundreds of opinions related to corporate law during his time on the bench.

Among the most notable were his iconic rulings in two corporate law cases. In Caremark, the Chancellor addressed the duty of corporate directors to monitor corporate legal compliance and called on corporate boards to recognize the duty of Delaware corporations to obey the law and act ethically toward society and the corporation’s stakeholders. And in the Blasius case, Chancellor Allen articulated a stringent standard of judicial review to make sure that corporate elections are conducted with scrupulous fairness and integrity, a release from the state court system stated

Before his appointment to the Court of Chancery,  Allen was in private practice at the Wilmington firm  Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell.

“Bill was a valued contemporary of mine while at Morris Nichols,” said Gil Sparks, Morris Nichols of counsel.  “As a jurist, he was tremendous.  Bill was a judge at a time when the case law surrounding takeovers was rapidly developing.  He was a shining beacon in bringing the intellectual structure that would apply in those cases.  As a litigant, I always knew that Bill was not only considering how the law would apply to the case at hand, but also the broader jurisprudence.”

After leaving the Court of Chancery, he served at the Jack H. Nusbaum Professor of Law & Business at New York University where he was also the founding director of the NYU Pollack Center for Law & Business — a center designed to be a bridge between the law school and the business school at NYU.

Allen also returned to private practice, serving Of Counsel, in the Corporate Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York.

Allen received his undergraduate degree from New York University in 1969 and his J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 1972. 

Although  Allen was known for his opinions in corporate law, he never lost touch with the fact that the law affects people and said the business court should not spin off guardianships and other matters involving individuals and families, the judiciary release noted.