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Head of Delaware Chancery Court stepping down

December 29, 2020 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — The chief judge on Delaware’s Court of Chancery has announced that he is resigning from his post early next year.

Chancellor Andre Bouchard sent a letter to Gov. John Carney on Monday announcing that he plans to retire from the bench effective April 30, roughly seven years after he was sworn into a 12-year term of office in 2014.

As chancellor, Bouchard has been chief judge on the Chancery Court, which is known for handling high-profile disputes involving some of the nation’s largest companies, many of which are incorporated in Delaware.

Bouchard did not specify any reasons for his retirement but officials said in a statement that he wants to spend more time with his family and pursue other interests.

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“It has been an honor of a lifetime to serve the citizens of Delaware as the steward of this special institution,” Bouchard wrote in his letter to Carney.

Carney thanked Bouchard for his service. Delaware Chief Justice Collins Seitz Jr. said Bouchard had lead the Court of Chancery with “humility, imagination, and grace.”

During his tenure, Bouchard lead an effort to expand the Court of Chancery for the first time in more than 28 years, with lawmakers agreeing to boost the number of judges from five to seven.

Bouchard also has been a frequent target of criticism from a group called Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware and from New York businessman Philip Shawe. The group was formed in 2016 after Bouchard ordered the sale of a translation services company called TransPerfect because Shawe and fellow co-founder Elizabeth Elting, his former fiancee, were hopelessly deadlocked over its management. Shawe opposed Elting’s request for a forced sale but wound up buying out her interest and controlling the company.

Among his various rulings in the case, Bouchard ordered Shawe to pay Elting $7.1 million in fees and expenses as sanctions for his “deplorable behavior.” In the sanctions ruling, Bouchard declared that Shawe had intentionally sought to destroy information, failed to safeguard evidence, and repeatedly lied under oath.

Last week, attorneys for Shawe and TransPerfect filed a federal lawsuit against Bouchard over billings by an attorney Bouchard appointed as a custodian to oversee the sale of TransPerfect. According to the lawsuit, Bouchard has ordered TransPerfect to pay more than $45 million in fees and expenses to the custodian, his law firm and other advisers while refusing to allow Shawe access to billing and fee details unless he agrees to “gag orders” preventing the information from being disclosed to the public.

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“Such secret and private proceedings deprive the public in Delaware and the nation of information about how the Court of Chancery operates and about its relationships with Delaware law firms ... thereby understandably undermining public confidence in the Delaware courts,” the complaint states.

Last year, members of the Delaware State Bar Association, including several former judges, took the unusual step of holding a news conference to defend Bouchard against attacks by Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware, which has said it is interested in promoting judicial transparency and accountability. Bar asssociation officials suggested that the group, which includes employees of TransPerfect, was simply a front for Shawe.