Updated: Apr 24, 2020
By Richard Hobbs and Ryan New.
The Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware is widely recognized as the nation’s leading forum for determination of commercial disputes. The Vice Chancellors are all widely regarded as fair, impartial, and highly intelligent in their jurisdiction over corporate law matters.
The court is considered an “equity jurisdiction” and inherited its precedent from the English Court of Chancery. The origins of this court system date back to the time of the feudal system when separate courts existed to hear matters of law and matters of equity. A “Chancellor” was a judicial officer of the court of equity and if an aggrieved party did not have an adequate remedy available in the court of law, he would apply for relief from the Chancellor.
Delaware’s Court of Chancery was established with the Constitution of 1792, and it became one of the three constitutional courts of Delaware. Fast forward to today and corporations from all over the world apply for relief from the Delaware Court of Chancery. It is highly regarded as the nation's choice forum for decisions on corporate matters.
The state of Delaware is broken up into three counties: New Castle County (Wilmington, DE), Kent County (Dover, DE), and Sussex County (Georgetown, DE).
The Court of Chancery in Wilmington, DE is the state’s busiest court and is located at the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center. Some of the country’s top legal teams and litigators come to Wilmington, Delaware’s Court of Chancery and high-level executives, celebrities, and reporters can often be found roaming the courthouse halls.
As trial consultants, we get particularly excited when we are retained for a Chancery Trial. It is always amazing to see how quickly and efficiently the Vice Chancellors can disseminate large and complex amounts of information. It is equally impressive to see the legal teams that come into DE Chancery court. They are always highly prepared, highly skilled and expect nothing but the best in their presentation of evidence.
Important to know before you enter the courthouse:
The Leonard L. Williams Justice Center is very tight on security, particularly in regard to cell phones. If you are not an attorney with an active bar card, you will not be able to bring your cell phone and/or laptop into the courthouse.
If you are going to be attending a Chancery trial at this courthouse, be sure to get on the approved “tech list” for your matter. This can be done by sending a list of your trial team who has phones/laptops to the assigned courtroom clerk. Once DE Capitol Police has your name on the list, you will need to present a printed version of the list upon entrance to the courthouse.
Once you are inside the courthouse, the Court of Chancery does not allow any cell phones inside of the actual courtrooms. You will have to place your phone on silent and leave it in a designated breakout room.
What are the courtrooms like?
Below is an overhead recreation of one of The Court of Chancery courtrooms in Wilmington, Delaware. Note: Not all Chancery Courtrooms are high-tech, some require A/V equipment to be installed.
The Delaware Court of Chancery is located on the twelfth floor of the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center in Wilmington, DE. The twelfth floor is home to the four courtrooms that handle some of the most complex legal disputes in the country.
The high-tech courtrooms (as depicted in the picture above) have modern presentation systems and are equipped with top of the line HDMI and VGA Extron scalers. The judge, witness, court reporter, clerk, and all counsel tables have monitors to easily see what is being presented. There is a 60 inch television behind the witness and the lectern has a monitor for viewing, which makes it convenient for the presenting attorney. Whoever is at the lectern also has the ability to use the Elmo, if needed.
Projector Information: Important!
It is important to note that while the Court of Chancery does have a motorized projection screen that drops out of the ceiling, the Court does not have an actual projector to use. If you want to take advantage of the projection screen, you will need to provide your own projector.
Plaintiff counsel is on the left side of the room, and defense is on the right. Both sides have counsel tables in the front and back equipped with monitors and VGA/HDMI cables. Any person sitting at any of the four counsel tables has the capability to plug and play using the existing system.
The ceilings are very high and the courtrooms are large, but sound and acoustics are not an issue. The sound system has speakers in the walls and ceilings so everything can be heard very clearly.
For those working the hot-seat, all you will need is a 25 ft HDMI cord to tap into the Court's display system, a tech table, and a reference monitor (if you want).
Below is a breakdown of what courtrooms are considered "High-Tech" and "Standard". Be sure to check in with the clerk beforehand to see if the courtroom has tech, or will require an outside vendor to bring in A/V equipment.
Helpful Tip: The Court Reporters are outstanding in DE Chancery Court. Before trial begins, make sure to tell the Court that you would like RealTime for your side. RealTime allows the attorneys to see word for word what the court reporter is transcribing, and having access to RealTime can really help in the fast paced Chancery Courts. You can also get "daily's" provided by the court reporting staff if you want.
What do the Vice Chancellors prefer?
The Vice Chancellors (in our experience) are becoming more accustomed to the use of technology in their courtrooms. They not only allow it, but often will recommend it to legal teams who are coming in to Chancery Court for argument.
Considering that mostly all matters before the Chancery Court are complex and have voluminous records, the Vice Chancellors require both hard and digital copies of all exhibits. You will want to have Exhibit Binders, Witness Binders, and any demonstratives printed and distributed accordingly before trial. You will also need to place all of the data on secure USB drives which are then submitted to the Chancery Court.
Note: No Binders larger than 3 inches are accepted by the court!
More often than not, the Vice Chancellors will look at the screens during presentations. It can be a pain to flip to a specific page within a large binder, so they rely on the technology to see evidence.
Important Tip: Video Deposition Playback and Using Videos for Impeachment
The Vice Chancellors don't really like the use of videos for impeachment. Unless the body language is very poor, and the answer is truly contradictory in nature..the Vice Chancellors would rather a Page/Line reference to the impeaching testimony. Using the text for impeachments is much quicker, and allows the Vice Chancellor to read and process the information at their own pace.
For submission of witness testimony via recorded depositions, the Court prefers that a combined designation movie is made and submitted on a USB drive. This way, the Vice Chancellor can watch the video on their own time rather than waste precious court time. In certain situations, full videos will be allowed to play in Court.
For a better understanding of Chancery Court's preferences, feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org