On January 13, 2012, the Delaware Court of Chancery released Guidelines to Help Lawyers Practicing in the Court of Chancery. The guidelines, which were jointly developed by the Court of Chancery and the Rules Committee, provide help to practitioners with topics ranging from contacting chambers and expert reports to scheduling practices in expedited and summary proceedings. The guidelines also contain sample forms such as scheduling and expert discovery stipulations. These guidelines, while non-binding, were designed to “reduce conflicts among counsel and parties over non-merit issues and allow them to more efficiently and less contentiously handle their disputes in [the Court of Chancery]”.
Of note, for those practicing attorneys bringing a case in the Court of Chancery and relying upon Delaware Counsel solely for filing purposes, the Court emphatically stated:
- The concept of “local counsel” whose role is limited to administrative or ministerial matters has no place in the Court of Chancery. The Delaware lawyers who appear in a case are responsible to the Court for the case and its presentation.
- If a Delaware lawyer signs a pleading, submits a brief, or signs a discovery request or response, it is the Delaware lawyer who is taking the positions set forth therein and making the representations to the Court. It does not matter whether the paper was initially or substantially drafted by a firm serving as “Of Counsel.”
- The members of the Court recognize that Delaware counsel and forwarding counsel frequently allocate responsibility for work and that, in some cases, the allocation will be heavily weighted to forwarding counsel. The members of the Court recognize that forwarding counsel may have primary responsibility for a matter from the client’s perspective. This does not alter the Delaware lawyer’s responsibility for the positions taken and the presentation of the case.
- Non-Delaware counsel shall not directly make filings or initiate contact with the Court, absent extraordinary circumstances. Such contact must be conducted by Delaware counsel.
- It is not acceptable for a Delaware lawyer to submit a letter from forwarding counsel under a cover letter saying, in substance, “Here is a letter from my forwarding counsel.”
This admonition should be specifically heeded because the Court has previously made it clear that it will look to Delaware Counsel to stand behind the pleadings that he or she has signed and submitted to the Court. See State Line Ventures, LLC v. RBS Citizens, N.A., C.A. No. 4705 – VCL, (Del. Ch. Dec. 2, 2009).