Court of Chancery Issues New Guidance for Practitioners

January 19, 2012
By Scott Holt on January 19, 2012 11:55 AM |

 

The Delaware Court of Chancery has issued new guidelines to assist those practicing before the Court. This guidance may be particularly helpful to attorneys unfamiliar with the level of civility expected of the Delaware Bar. The guidelines also include advice on “best practices” that will be informative for seasoned attorneys who have not mastered the nuances of Chancery Court practice:

· All cellphones and PDAs are strictly prohibited in the courtroom, even if silenced. Failure to comply with this rule may result in confiscation of the device and/or sanctions.

· Plans for the use of technology during a hearing or trial should be made approximately one week before the proceeding.

· Where Delaware attorneys are acting as local counsel, letters to the Court from lead counsel should not be forwarded to the Court under a cover letter saying, in substance, “Here is a letter from my co-counsel.”

· Letters to the Court should be short. If a letter exceeds 5 pages, double-spaced, counsel should consider whether a motion is more appropriate. Submissions of up to 15 pages may be filed as speaking motions. Submissions longer than 15 pages should be submitted as motions with supporting briefs.

· Minor changes to scheduling orders that do not affect the date of the last brief or the hearing do not require a stipulation. An agreement reached by letter or email will carry the same import as a formal stipulation.

· Parties should include in their standard interrogatories a request that the other party(ies) identify prospective trial witnesses. If a party fails to include such an interrogatory, the Court will not look favorably on complaints of unfairness when counsel is unable to depose all trial witnesses before the close of discovery.

· Answers should repeat the allegations of the Complaint and then set forth the response below, mirroring the practice used in discovery responses.

· The Court takes issue with parties (1) aggressively denying basic facts without a good faith basis to do so, and (2) reciting a laundry list of affirmative defenses without consideration of the applicability of each defense to the case.

· Rule 12(b)(6) and 12(c) motions should be accompanied by two bound copies of the Complaint and its exhibits to facilitate review of the motion.

· Parties should confer to reduce the number of motions where cross-motions are filed. A series of four motions (opening and answering) is preferred to a series of six motions (opening, answering, and reply).

· The Court requests that key non-Delaware decisions be included in the Compendium of Unreported Cases, even if the decisions are published and available on Westlaw or Lexis. Note, however, that large and unwieldy compendia are not appreciated, and counsel should feel free to leave out insignificant cases, such as those cited for basic principles of law.

A series of sample documents reflecting the Court’s recommended practices are also available from the Court’s website.