Law notes update: UD General Counsel; Surgery for Chancellor; Dell legal payment criticized by Citizens

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UD names General Counsel

Downin

Angela Downin has been named vice president and general counsel at the University of Delaware.

She succeeds Laure Bachich Ergin who had held the post since 2015.

Downin most recently served as director of the Transactional Law Services Group at the University of Minnesota.

As chief legal officer, the vice president and general counsel is responsible for the management and supervision of all legal affairs for the University.  Downin will serve as principal legal adviser to the president and senior staff, as well as the Board of Trustees, on all litigation, regulatory and contract matters.

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The Office of the Vice President and General Counsel — which was created in 2009 and employs a small team of attorneys and paralegal professionals — handles the full range of legal issues for the university.

Chancellor takes time off for spinal surgery

McCormick

 Chancellor Kathaleen St. J. McCormick has taken time off for surgery on her spine. The Court of Chancery anticipates the Chancellor returning to her duties by the end of September 2023. Court operations are not expected to be greatly affected by her absence, a Chancery release stated.

“I want to thank all my judicial colleagues and the court staff while I take time to address medical issues and I know the court will be in good hands until my return,” she said. 

In general, all matters that the Chancellor took under advisement prior to her leave will be resolved on a slightly extended timeline. Cases that are lacking urgency will remain on the Chancellor’s docket and will be monitored by the Chancellor’s colleagues.

Pressing matters will be reassigned to other judicial officers as the need arises. All parties involved in cases that are reassigned will be notified by the court. 

McCormick was first appointed to the Court of Chancery as a Vice Chancellor in November 2018 and was elevated to the position of Chancellor in May 2021, becoming the first woman to lead the court of equity with roots in the British legal system in its 231-year history. 

The court has added vice chancellors in more recent years to handle a growing number of complex corporate disputes.

McCormick has been in the national spotlight, thanks to cases like the effort by Tesla CEO Elon Musk to back out of a $44 billion agreement to buy Twitter. McCormick ruled that Musk had to honor the terms of the agreement.

Master title changed to magistrate in Chancery Court

The title of Master in Chancery is no more.

The title, which has existed in Delaware since the 1980s, carries negative connotations for Delawareans due to the use of the word “master” and its connection to slavery. 

The title has been changed to Magistrate in Chancery, as a suitable alternative and one that reflects the broader of the role of the position, which recommends rulings that are sent to the member of the court handling the case.

Earlier, Gov. John Carney signed legislation that changed the title.

The Court of Chancery will begin enforcing this change in title on August 15 with practitioners are encouraged to review their standard forms to ensure that they are using the correct title. 

Citizens for Judicial Fairness has harsh words for lawyer payments in Dell case

Citizens for Judicial Fairnessreleased the following statement following a  $267 million fee awarded by the Delaware Chancery Court to plaintiffs’ lawyers in the recent $1 billion Dell settlement.

“The gravy train just keeps on rolling for Delaware’s legal elite thanks to the Chancery Court’s obsequiousness to the corporate lawyers who will pay their salaries as soon as they leave the bench. In the latest case, Vice Chancellor Laster awarded the firms Labaton Sucharow; Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan; Andrews & Springer; Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd; and Friedman Oster & Tejtel a combined $267 million for their work on a $1 billion Dell settlement.

“Of course, this merely continues the court’s longstanding practices of raiding the coffers of the businesses it should ostensibly protect to line the pockets of Delaware’s elite corporate lawyers. We condemn this system of patronage and will continue to shine a light whenever and wherever it emerges.”

The Chancery Court decision cited guidelines for long-running cases similar to the Dell settlement. The decision also took note of the size of the Dell settlement.

The case came out of a buyout of the company by founder Michael Dell that took it private.

Citizens for Judicial Fairness was first formed under the name Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware during a dispute over the sale of New York-based TransPerfect.

While co-founder Philip Shawe was cleared to buy out the 50% share from his former fiancée several years ago, TransPerfect has objected to continuing legal expenses paid to  a custodian that handled the sale and who faced continued litigation.

The name of the organization was later changed to Citizens for Judicial Fairness as its focused shifted the lack of Black representation on Chancery Chancery Court.

This month, the Delaware Court of Chancery ruled that  the bulk of custodian’s  fees charged to TransPerfect were valid, citing the continung litigation.

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