New Delaware Supreme Court nominee Strine speaks! (Well, sort of)

January 8, 2014

On Wednesday, Delaware Governor Jack Markell nominated Chancellor Leo Strine of Chancery Court to become chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court. Assuming Strine’s nomination is approved, Chancery Court is going to be a much less colorful place. Strine is a legal mastermind – with an unpredictable and outspoken judicial demeanor. Occasionally, his off-tangent courtroom riffs have landed him in trouble. In 2012, for instance, Strine said he regretted comments he made during a hearing involving fashion entrepreneur Tory Burch in which he asked her attorney if Burch is Jewish and compared her dispute with her former husband to a “drunken WASP-fest.” Strine was also gently chided last year by his future colleagues on the Delaware Supreme Court for using judicial opinions to express his “world views.”

My Reuters colleague Tom Hals has been covering Strine in court for years. Unfortunately, the chancellor has repeatedly declined to sit down for a formal interview with Reuters. So to celebrate his nomination, we’ve constructed an imaginary Q&A. Well, partly imaginary. We’ve made up the questions, but all of Strine’s “answers” are verbatim quotes – albeit out of context – from his courtroom comments or opinions.

Reuters: You’re well known for your work as a judge. But tell us a bit about you as a person.

Strine: I’m a guy who likes a good party.

Reuters: And something of a pop music aficionado as well?

Strine: You don’t realize, although I may strike you as amazingly undisciplined in some ways, I am incredibly disciplined in others.

Reuters: I actually thought you were the disciplined type, to be honest. But you also have less-guarded moments, like that episode in that Burch hearing. Do you care to discuss your own faith? Do you take strength from your religious upbringing?

Strine: It’s good to have been raised Catholic because there are some mysteries of faith.

Reuters: Really? What did you pray for as a boy?

Strine: That maybe (my) parents were going to sleep in; but nope. 9 a.m. Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption, you’re going, get dressed, hurry.

Reuters: What are some of your accomplishments outside the court?

Strine: I spent seven years as a travel soccer coach.

Reuters: I was thinking more of your time as an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Strine: When I was an associate at Skadden, I was proud of that. I have a high regard for my former law firm.

Reuters: There was that episode when you were on the governor’s staff in the 1990s when Skadden was alleged to wield too much power in the state. Do you worry those questions might crop up again if you are chief justice?

Strine: If I cold called a partner in the New York office, he wouldn’t know who the freak I was.

Reuters: I sort of doubt that. But let’s move on. When you joined the bench, how did your life change?

Strine: I’m eating less rib eye steak, which is good for cows.

Reuters: I’m told that’s also good for your health. Have you tried giving up meat? Should others follow your example?

Strine: Frankly, then, it would be like horrible food smells, because vegans would try to have things taste like meat and that’s synthetically awful and, frankly, morally weird to me that you want something to taste like an animal but you don’t want to actually eat the animal. So you would have all these vegan restaurants in that case and that can be weird.

Reuters: Wow, do you have equally strong feelings about other sorts of food?

Strine: Like any American in front of a bowl of Frito’s. No matter how much you don’t want to eat it, and you know it’s not good for you, if it’s sitting in front of you for a half-hour, you’re going to eat the Frito’s. You may even eat a Dorito, which is a decidedly lower caliber junk food. And you walk around not only with the intestinal, digestive, longstanding waistline problems, but with this powdery substance of a color not existing in nature on your fingers just displaying your lack of willpower and courage.

Reuters: I see you given that some thought. Tell me, if you did ever grant me a formal interview in your office, what would I see there?

Strine: My assistant and I, we have a swear jar where we have to put money in if we start getting frustrated and swearing too much. So it costs us money.

Reuters: What do you find frustrating?

Strine: There are few things less fun than having everyone who appears before you want the same result and you being the sole reason they don’t get it. But that comes with the territory.

Reuters: Do you think that once you join the Supreme Court you’ll change the views you held on the Court of Chancery?

Strine: An absurd scenario, at best fit for a discussion by a Red Bull-fueled group of nerdy second-year law school corporate law junkies, who find themselves dateless (big surprise) on yet another Saturday night.

Reuters: See, this wasn’t so bad. Maybe we can do it in person sometime. I’m a harmless reporter.

Strine: An unusually diligent Reuters stringer, I suppose.

Reuters: Not a stringer, but I’ll accept the diligent part. Thanks again.

(This On The Case post was written by Tom Hals.)

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