DOVER, Del. (AP) - The state Senate on Wednesday unanimously confirmed Leo Strine Jr., the head of Delaware’s Court of Chancery, to be the state’s new chief justice.
Following his confirmation, Strine will be sworn in within the next 30 day as the eighth chief justice of Delaware’s Supreme Court.
The post became vacant upon the recent retirement of Chief Justice Myron Steele, and Gov. Jack Markell nominated Strine.
“I will do everything in my power to repay the confidence that the governor and the Senate have shown me,” Strine told lawmakers after the vote.
Strine has served since 1998 on the Chancery Court, a nationally known venue for resolving disputes involving some of the world’s largest companies, many of them incorporated in Delaware. He has led that court since 2011.
Before becoming a judge, Strine worked as a corporate litigator and served as chief counsel to former Gov. Tom Carper.
In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Executive Committee immediately preceding the Senate vote, Strine said Delaware needs to preserve its reputation as a venue for the formation of business entities. He said the court system also must remain a leader in resolving business disputes.
At the same time, every court in Delaware plays a critical role in administering justice, often with limited resources, he said.
“I think my background positions me well to understand some of the challenges of my colleagues in other courts,” Strine said, calling the challenge of limited court resources “a daunting one.”
The tone of Strine’s confirmation hearing was extremely cordial, with the only potentially discordant question coming from Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson, R-Milford.
“Do you think your personality is suited for this court?” Simpson asked.
“Yes,” came the immediate response from Strine, who developed a reputation in the Court of Chancery for edgy humor and strident language from the bench.
Strine added that he has a track record of “being able to work cooperatively with folks who have positions of stature.”
Asked what he sees as the direction of the Supreme Court, Strine said he wants to do “a lot of listening” to other justices, judges in other courts and other key constituencies, including the attorney general’s office and the public defender’s office.
“You don’t want to be presumptuous about how this process works,” he said.
Strine did say court officials must continue to use technology to address “serious caseload problems.”
He also suggested that state officials should look at ways to ease pressures on the court system and prison system, perhaps by decriminalizing certain low-level offenses that might better be addressed through increased fines.
“I’m all for protecting the undersized flounder,” said Strine, who nevertheless suggested that the court system needs to “concentrate on what’s important.”
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