Del. Senate confirms Laster’s reappointment to Chancery Court

Signage is seen on the exterior of the Sussex County Court of Chancery in Georgetown, Delaware. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Senate confirms Vice Chancellor Laster's reappointment 20-1
  • Laster's 12-year term was set to end earlier this month

(Reuters) - The Delaware Senate voted Wednesday to confirm Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster for reappointment to the state’s chancery court, which often hears some of the country's most important corporate disputes.

The Democrat-controlled Senate voted 20-1 to approve Laster’s reappointment, as the judge marked the end of his first 12-year term earlier this month. Delaware Governor John Carney had announced on Oct. 1 that he was nominating Travis for reappointment.

Since joining the Delaware Chancery Court in October 2009, Laster has been at the helm of many rulings that have reshaped the court’s application of the state’s corporate law. As recently as September, the Delaware Supreme Court upheld Laster's three-part test for demand futility that has already made it harder for shareholders to pursue derivative suits.

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Laster was also at the forefront of the court’s pushback against settlements that broadly released defendants from class action claims, while only resulting in additional disclosures and an award of attorney’s fees for the plaintiffs.

Republican Senator Colin Bonini was the only no vote at Laster's confirmation hearing. Bonini, who attended the confirmation hearing virtually, switched his vote at the end of the roll call.

Laster, who was present in the Senate's chamber along with Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick, said he was honored to have been reappointed.

He also gave Carney and the senators a nod for how they resolved a lawsuit accusing the state of underfunding public schools that served low-income students, English language learners and students with disabilities. Laster refused to dismiss the suit in 2018 and said in a post-trial ruling that Delaware counties had improperly assessed property values, which school districts tax to raise funding. After the trial, the state reached a settlement that included reforming the school funding system.

"The solution to that case could only come from the leadership of the governor and the folks in this room," Laster said during Wednesday's confirmation hearing.

In a statement, Bonini cited Laster's decision in the school funding case as the reason for his no vote.

The case set a "terrible precedent" by causing the state to significantly raise property taxes, Bonini said, adding that similar decisions could "open the flood gates for special interests to bypass the political process."

Read more:

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Sierra Jackson reports on legal matters in major mergers and acquisitions, including deal work, litigation and regulatory changes.