August 28, 2019 Feature

An Interview with Leo Strine

The chief justice of Delaware’s Supreme Court discusses how equity has influenced the law in Delaware.

Ed Micheletti and Cliff Gardner

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Delaware has always been proud of its legal history—after all, its license plates commemorate that it was the first state to ratify the Constitution, which perhaps had something to do with the fact that its delegates only had a short trip back from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

In the late 1980s, Leo Strine, another legal product of Philadelphia (he went to the University of Pennsylvania Law School), made the short trip down I-95 to the First State—by way of a stopover in New Jersey, where he clerked for Chief Judge John F. Gerry of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey—to clerk for Judge Walter K. Stapleton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. After clerking, Strine worked as a corporate litigator at Skadden’s office in Wilmington, before leaving to serve as counsel to then Delaware Governor (and now U.S. Senator) Thomas Carper—whom Strine met while Strine was a student at the University of Delaware volunteering for Carper’s successful campaign for Congress.

In 1998, Strine was nominated to be a vice-chancellor on the Delaware Court of Chancery, which is perhaps best known outside Delaware for its decisions on corporate law. But the Court of Chancery is more than that—it is a court of equity, making the merger of law and equity the only merger that courts in Delaware haven’t seen. (Mississippi and Tennessee are the only other states with separate courts of equity.)

Strine became Delaware’s chancellor in 2011 and chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court in 2014. In July 2019, he announced his intention to retire in the fall. Chief Justice Strine and Ed Micheletti, the head of Skadden’s litigation practice in Delaware, assisted by his partner Cliff Gardner, met in Strine’s Wilmington chambers to discuss how equity has influenced the law in Delaware.

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