Posted: March 5, 2014
AND THEN THERE WERE TWO
By Celia Cohen
Spoiler alert -- Andy Bouchard looks like he has company in the pursuit of becoming chancellor.
The speculation in Delaware's legal circles has been rampant about an incontestable two-step that would elevate Leo Strine Jr. from chancellor to chief justice and slide in Bouchard behind him on the Court of Chancery.
The first step, of course, is complete. The second seemed more and more like a fait accompli.
Not only did Bouchard telegraph his interest by resigning as the chair of the Judicial Nominating Commission, which screens the candidates for judgeships, but it looked so wired, there was a widespread assumption nobody else would bother to apply. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy.
Cue the spoiler.
David McBride, a lawyer well-respected for his corporate law practice, is also said to be applying. This David McBride is not to be confused with the other David McBride, the state Senate's Democratic majority leader.
The applications for chancellor were due today to the Judicial Nominating Commission, where the new chair is Bill Chandler, who happens to be an ex-chancellor himself.
McBride's candidacy gives Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, a real choice and a real dilemma. It also spares the governor and the nominating commission the possible embarrassment of looking like co-conspirators with a fix being in for Strine and Bouchard.
It would never do, not for the storied Court of Chancery, which gives Delaware its prestige as the premier forum for corporate law and fills its purse by directly or indirectly accounting for about 40 percent of the state's budget.
Bouchard and McBride are both mainstays of the state's signature law practice and routinely listed among the country's best lawyers. They either could not be reached or declined to comment.
Bouchard is a partner at Bouchard Margules & Friedlander, a litigation boutique in Wilmington. State officials have gone to him as outside counsel in major cases, namely, the unsuccessful plan to allow sports betting and Chancery's current effort to offer arbitration in business disputes.
McBride is a partner at Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, one of the state's powerhouse firms. He has been part of a number of landmark cases in mergers-and-acquisitions law, perhaps best known among the corporate bar for representing the winning side in Revlon v. MacAndrews & Forbes Holding and Paramount Communications v. QVC Network.
Neither of them is exactly a stranger to the governor.
Bouchard was Markell's choice to chair the Judicial Nominating Commission. McBride's connection comes courtesy of his daughter Sarah, the most prominent voice in the state in the adoption of transgender rights. As a high school student then known as Tim, the younger McBride proved to be a political prodigy who was part of Markell's campaign for governor in 2008.
What should come as no surprise is that Bouchard and McBride have ties to the two law firms that somehow always seem to have someone in the running for major judicial openings. That would be Skadden, an international heavyweight where Bouchard worked before setting up his own practice, and Young Conaway, where McBride is.
In the last round for chief justice, it was largely regarded as a two-candidate choice between Strine, who once was at Skadden, and Jan Jurden, a judge who was a partner at Young Conaway before she was named to the Superior Court.
There they go again.