Preeminence of Delaware Courts
In the 1980s, Delaware enacted key legislation that made it extremely attractive to locate operations in Delaware. As a result, many giants in the banking, chemical, pharmaceutical, healthcare, automotive and other industries have moved to or expanded operations in Delaware.
In addition to the many businesses that are physically located here, more than half a million companies are incorporated in Delaware including more than 50% of all U.S. publicly-traded companies and 58% of the Fortune 500. Businesses choose Delaware because of its modern and flexible corporate laws, highly-respected Delaware Courts and a business-friendly state government.
Delaware's Judicial System Rankings
For the ninth year in a row, Delaware ranked as the number one court system overall in the study entitled "Lawsuit Climate 2012: Ranking the States" conducted by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The study ranked Delaware first in the following nine categories:
- overall treatment of tort and contract litigation
- class actions and mass consolidation suits
- punitive damages
- timeliness of summary judgment or dismissal
- scientific and technical evidence
- non-economic damages
- judges impartiality
- judges competence
Delaware’s Court of Chancery, which handles a vast majority of the state’s major business cases and sits without juries, has long been recognized for its leadership and expertise. "The [Delaware] Court of Chancery has handed down thousands of opinions interpreting virtually every provision of Delaware's corporate law statute. No other state court can make such a claim. The economies of scale created by the high volume of corporate litigation in Delaware contribute to an efficient and expert court system and bar."
-- from a Speech by Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the United States Supreme Court, September 1992, at the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Court of Chancery, Dover, Delaware.
Since its founding in 1930, Morris Nichols has played a major role in the development of Delaware’s corporate law. Among the many highlights was the leadership provided by named partner S. Samuel Arsht in the 1960s resulting in a complete revision of the Delaware General Corporation Law, the firm’s successful representation in 1985 of Unocal Corp. in its takeover battle with Mesa Petroleum Co. resulting in the definitive case concerning the duties of directors in takeover defense, and the leadership role played by Morris Nichols partner A. Gilchrist Sparks, III in the later development of Delaware’s innovative director protection and takeover statutes. That tradition continues today, as the firm’s attorneys engaged in both the corporate counseling and corporate litigation practices, through their scholarly writing, their representation of clients in corporate matters in the Delaware courts, and their participation as members of key state and national committees continue to play an important role in the shaping of Delaware’s vibrant national corporation law.
Intellectual Property Law
Delaware courts have been prominent in the development of IP law since early in the 20th century. Blessed with exceptional judges, Delaware is the preeminent state for IP litigation. Morris Nichols has been at the forefront of that development and actively involved in numerous well-known cases. As a result, our firm has likewise achieved preeminence in IP litigation in Delaware and nationwide.
For nearly a century, the Delaware federal district court has heard important patent cases and rendered precedent-setting decisions familiar to all experienced patent litigators. In the 1920s, Judge Morris -- then the sole federal judge for Delaware -- decided many of the country's important patent cases, brought in Delaware because of the favorable federal venue statute. Judge Morris left the bench to found our firm and for many years was regarded as one of the few, top patent litigators in this country. In the '60s and '70s, Chief Judge Wright gained an excellent reputation, bringing to bear his careful and thorough approach to patent cases, such as a long-running dispute among the chemical industry giants over important polymers. His shoes were later filled by other Delaware judges renowned as the top patent trial judges of the country, including former district court judges Stapleton and McKelvie. The current bench continues this standard of excellence, with each of its judges sitting upon numerous patent trials year-in and year-out.
Similarly, the Delaware Court of Chancery, with its exclusive equity jurisdiction for the Delaware state courts and national corporate reputation, has been at the forefront of trade secret litigation.
Since the filing of the Continental Airlines case in December 1990, Delaware has developed into one of the preeminent venues for "mega" chapter 11 cases. Delaware has become a venue of choice because of the bankruptcy court's ability to address quickly and efficiently the many issues that arise in the mega cases. Delaware bankruptcy judges are nationally known for their ability to handle the complicated issues in mega cases, and Delaware has developed a set of local rules tailored to handle them.
From the beginning as co-counsel to Continental, Morris Nichols has been one of the lead firms in the evolution of the bankruptcy practice in Delaware. As the Delaware bankruptcy practice has evolved, Morris Nichols' bankruptcy practice has become preeminent, with Morris Nichols' lawyers acting as both lead and local counsel in cases filed in Delaware. Robert Dehney, a former clerk in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York and formerly with Willkie, Farr & Gallagher in New York City, and William Sudell, an experienced senior partner, have spearheaded the growth and success of the bankruptcy group.