DOVER, Del. (Reuters) - Famed attorney Alan Dershowitz and a rare protest outside Delaware’s Supreme Court fueled an unusually heated hearing on Wednesday, in a battle between the warring co-founders of TransPerfect Global Inc, a leading translation firm.
The hearing ended with Dershowitz shouting for more time to make his case, a request Chief Justice Leo Strine curtly and firmly denied as the four other justices filed out of the court.
The sharp exchange ended an hour-long hearing at which Philip Shawe’s legal team sought to make their case the lower Court of Chancery wrongly ordered TransPerfect sold to resolve a deadlock between Shawe and co-owner Elizabeth Elting.
The court will likely rule in about three months.
Chancellor Andre Bouchard found in 2015 that the company’s decision-making had ground to a halt as Shawe and Elting’s once-romantic relationship completely deteriorated since they formed the company in their college dorm in the 1990s.
Wednesday’s hearing was preceded by a protest outside the court by two dozen of TransPerfect’s 3,500 employees who held signs that urged “don’t let courts control our companies.”
Their spokesperson, Chris Coffey, said they would push for a bill to be introduced in Delaware’s legislature this week to curtail the power of the state’s judges to order a profitable company such as TransPerfect be put up for sale to break a deadlock.
Delaware courts interpret the state’s widely used corporate law, which governs most U.S. companies, yet rarely do boardroom battles or takeover disputes generate the kind of attention that the TransPerfect case has.
That is partly due to a media campaign opposing the forced sale and partly due to the behavior of Shawe and Elting, which lower court judge Andre Bouchard said was at times “bizarre” and “inexplicable.”
Strine quizzed Shawe’s lawyer on Wednesday on whether Shawe had stalked Elting, which Shawe’s lawyer denied. The rest of the hearing largely centered around questions from Strine regarding the application of the state’s corporate law. His toughest questions were aimed at Shawe’s team.
Dershowitz, who helped defend football star O.J. Simpson against murder charges, tangled with Strine on whether the ordered sale amounted to an unconstitutional taking of Shawe’s property.
“I was disappointed I was not given one minute to clarify the chief justice’s characterization of our position,” Dershowitz said after the hearing.
Asked if he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if Shawe lost, Dershowitz said “I assure you that we will.”
Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Alan Crosby