U.S. Supreme Court asked to review
Delaware's 'secret trials' case
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[January 22, 2014]
By Tom Hals
(Reuters) — Delaware asked the U.S.
Supreme Court on Tuesday to review a lower court decision that stopped
the state's nationally important business court from overseeing private
arbitrations, a process critics compared to secret trials.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld in October a
ruling that found the five judges on Delaware's Court of Chancery
had violated the U.S. Constitution by overseeing private
arbitrations in their courtrooms.
All court filings and even the existence of the cases was secret.
"Because of the importance of this issue, and the job-creating
potential for Delaware and the nation of finding innovative
solutions to temper the growing costs and delays of resolving
business disputes, a definitive answer is being sought from the
Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of the Delaware
statute," said a statement from Andrew Pincus, a Mayer Brown
attorney hired by Delaware.
The 2-1 decision by the Philadelphia appeals court upheld a 2012
U.S. District Court ruling that found the arbitration amounted to a
civil trial, which must be conducted in public.
The arbitration process was seen by Delaware attorneys as a key to
boosting the attractiveness of the Court of Chancery. It was also
considered economically important to the state, as at least one
company in an arbitration dispute had to be incorporated in
Fees associated with incorporating businesses accounts for as much
as 40 percent of Delaware's general budget.
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The U.S. Supreme Court only grants a tiny number of requests to
review a lower court ruling. If the request is denied, the lower
court ruling stands.
The case was brought by a group that promotes government
transparency against the chief of the Court of Chancery, Leo Strine.
Governor Jack Markell nominated Strine earlier this month to become
the chief justice of Delaware's Supreme Court. A confirmation
hearing is scheduled for later this month.
The petition is Leo E. Strine Jr v Delaware Coalition for Open
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware;
editing by Lisa
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