Influential Corporate Law Judge To Step Down

By Eve Tahmincioglu
July 8, 2019

Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo Strine to leave this fall.

Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo Strine plans to step down from his post, halfway through his 12-year term.

Strine is considered one of the nation’s most influential corporate law judges since he heads the high court in Delaware, a state where two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies are incorporated and whose corporate laws are considered the de facto law of the land.  

Chief Justice Strine was appointed to his current position in February 2014 by former Delaware governor Jack Markell and confirmed by the Delaware Senate, succeeding Chief Justice Myron T. Steele, who had served in the position from 2004-2013.

Strine sent a letter to Delaware governor John Carney Monday announcing his plans to retire, saying he would be willing to stay on through October if needed.

“This decision is bittersweet,” he wrote; but he provided few specifics about his decision.

As for why he plans to leave before his term is up and what his plans are when he retires, “The chief justice just decided it was time," says court spokesman Sean O'Sullivan. "He has not decided on what he will be doing next. His letter is his only statement at this time.”

In a press release Carney stated that “I’ve known Chief Justice Strine since we worked together in the office of then-governor Tom Carper, and I’ve known him to be one of Delaware’s top legal minds, and a real public servant on behalf of the people of our state.”

Strine has been outspoken about his thoughts on corporate governance and the role of corporate directors, especially when it comes to balancing profits and social purpose.

In a recent Directors & Boards interview he said:

“Companies have become more subject to the immediate pressures of the market. The easiest ways to respond to that are to put downward pressure on the pay of working people. And it does also put pressure on companies to perhaps take shortcuts on compliance in a way that's unhealthy. And I don't think ultimately it serves investors because it's probably not a sustainable way to make increased wealth over time for a society. And so if we can rebalance things a little bit where we give companies some breathing room, hold them accountable, but recognize that they've got to make money in the old fashioned way and by selling good products or delivering quality services and that there isn't a gimmicky way to get around that, then I think we'll be all for the better.”

To see the full article and to view an in-depth video interview with Strine go here.

Strine's influence may outlast his tenure.

“There has been no jurist with more of an impact on corporate law in the last twenty years than Chief Justice Strine,” says Ropes & Gray litigation and enforcement partner David Hennes. “It is a blow to corporate practitioners to see him leave the bench.”