March 21 (Bloomberg) -- Delaware’s governor named Andre Bouchard, a lawyer who has represented both companies and investors in corporate disputes, to lead the state’s chancery court, the highest-profile business court in the U.S.
Governor Jack Markell yesterday nominated the 53-year-old Wilmington attorney to replace Leo Strine, the chancery court’s chief judge for two years before he was promoted to head the state’s Supreme Court. The Delaware Senate must approve Bouchard’s appointment as leader of the five-judge court.
“Andy Bouchard has demonstrated a remarkable ability to dissect complex legal issues and vigorously represent his clients,” Markell, a Democrat, said in a statement. “He is well recognized for his professionalism and ability to think quickly on his feet.”
Delaware, the corporate home to more than half of the U.S.’s publicly traded companies and 63 percent of Fortune 500 firms, had more than 1 million legal entities incorporated in the 900,000-resident state by 2012, officials said. The chancery court has become the prime forum for resolving those companies’ corporate disputes. Chancery court decisions go directly to the state Supreme Court for review.
“I am grateful and deeply honored to be nominated by Governor Markell,” Bouchard said in a statement. “Having practiced in the court of chancery for the past 28 years, I have seen firsthand the quality of its judges and staff, and what makes this court the preeminent forum in the U.S. for resolving corporate and commercial disputes.”
Bouchard is best known for representing the state in several prominent cases, including a challenge to a law allowing chancery judges to preside over secret arbitrations and Markell’s push to allow Delaware to set up full sports gambling to compete with Las Vegas.
He has also represented companies such as Walt Disney Co. in chancery disputes. Bouchard helped fend off investor claims in 2005 that Disney officials wasted $140 million in company funds by paying ex-President Michael Ovitz’s severance package.
Unlike many colleagues in Delaware’s corporate defense bar, Bouchard has represented stockholders suing companies over deals, including investors in hotel-chain Prime Hospitality Group Corp. who objected to a $790 million buyout in 2007 by Blackstone Group. Bouchard was able to help negotiate a $25 million settlement of shareholders’ claims that they didn’t get enough money in the acquisition.
Bouchard became managing partner of Bouchard, Margules & Friedlander PA after working for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP for 10 years. He was born in Joliette, Quebec, received a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1986.
Bouchard followed Stephen Lamb, a Skadden partner who left the firm’s Delaware office in 1995 to set up his own shop. Lamb later served as a chancery judge from 1997 to 2009. He’s now a partner in the Delaware office of New York’s Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.
“I’ve known Andy for years and I’m confident he will make an outstanding chancellor,” Lamb said yesterday in a telephone interview.
Bouchard has served as one of Markell’s main outside lawyers, taking on tough assignments for him.
Last year, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia rejected Bouchard’s arguments in defense of Delaware’s law allowing chancery judges to serve as arbitrators in corporate disputes. Even though the proceedings would be held in publicly funded courthouses, they wouldn’t be open to the public.
The U.S. Supreme Court is set decide next week whether it will hear the state’s appeal of the ruling on secret arbitrations.
Bouchard also was one of the lead lawyers in the state’s effort to defend a 2008 law that would have let Delaware offer Las Vegas-style sports gambling. Delaware was one of only four states that had some form of sports betting before Congress passed a law banning the expansion of that kind of wagering in 1992.
A federal appeals court in 2009 rejected Delaware’s plan to introduce single-game sports betting, saying it violated U.S. law. Bouchard, representing the state, told the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that allowing such betting wouldn’t affect sports leagues.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the state’s appeal of the decision in May 2010, meaning Delaware could permit only one type of sports wagering: so-called parlay betting involving the outcomes of at least three National Football League games.
Bouchard last year also successfully represented Beazley, a London-based insurer, in a dispute over a proposed payout by Oracle Corp. to company Chairman Larry Ellison.
In September, he represented Bloomberg News in arguing that AT&T Inc. acted improperly by keeping secret terms of an agreement with Qatar’s Al Jazeera television channel as part of a chancery lawsuit. An appeal of the judge’s ruling that terms must be made public is pending with the state Supreme Court.
“He’s very smart, very balanced, very thoughtful and very bright -- a good choice,” Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, said in a phone interview.
The secret arbitrations case is Delaware Coalition for Open Government Inc. v. Strine, 12-3859, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Philadelphia).
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