“I would like to write shorter opinions”: Judge Laster told Reuters Legal
- Q&A follows Laster’s renewal on October 13
- Judge says trials, big contracts define the role now
Last month, the Delaware Senate confirmed Reappointment of Vice-Chancellor J. Travis Laster at Delaware Chancery Court.
Reuters spoke to Laster about his first 12 years on the bench and the changes the court is undergoing as the judge begins his second term. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
REUTERS: In your confirmation hearing, the only senator to vote no cited your 2020 ruling that Delaware counties misjudged the value of properties, which school districts impose to raise money. What is your response to his concern that you are improperly influencing politics?
LASTER: I certainly respect the senator’s point of view and his right to vote his conscience. From my perspective, it wasn’t about people trying to change things or influence policy. It was just a situation where people would come to court saying, “The law says X. X is not done. It was a fairly clear legal question for a judge to decide.
REUTERS: What are the most significant decisions of your first 12 years in court?
LASTER: I hope the school funding file will have an impact. Public schools are an important aspect of the state for everyone.
The case I feel most comfortable in was about a lady named Gloria James, a payday loan company, and whether Ms James was tricked into signing an unreasonable contract. It was a case that shows the Court of Chancery doesn’t just deal with large merger cases involving billion dollar companies. We are also concerned about cases involving real people.
There are also cases in the business sector. One of the cases that I decided that received a lot of notice at the time was a case called Akorn Inc v Fresenius Kabi AG, which was the first time anyone felt that a significant adverse effect had occurred.
REUTERS: How have the types of cases you’ve seen changed over the years?
LASTER: Our cases now are often big contract disputes. Many of these major contractual disputes will go to trial. This places a heavy burden on the court, because hearing a trial and rendering a decision after the trial is a much more important task.
REUTERS: What are the developing areas of corporate law that people really should be watching?
LASTER: We are seeing, and will continue to see, derivative actions where shareholders say companies have been wronged because directors haven’t made good decisions about social issues, pollution issues, or climate issues.
Another topic that I think will come up a lot is the ability of sophisticated parties to really contractually adapt corporate relationships.
REUTERS: What are your goals for your next term?
LASTER: My main goal is to keep trying to do my best to decide the cases as I think they should come out. I would like to find ways to become more efficient in handling cases. I would like to write shorter opinions. This is something you can consider as one of my goals for the next 12 years.