Delaware Court of Chancery Recites Standards Applicable to Non-Delaware Attorneys Admitted Pro Hac Vice

The Sequoia Presidential Yacht Group LLC v. FE Partners LLC, C.A. No. 8270-VCG (Del. Ch. July 5, 2013).

Issue Addressed: In this short letter opinion, the Delaware Court of Chancery reiterated the standard of conduct that will be applied to non-Delaware attorneys who apply for admission pro hac vice to practice in Delaware courts The procedural posture in which the issue was addressed was in connection with an opposing party’s effort to revoke the pro hac vice admission of a New York attorney based on allegations of misconduct, which the New York attorney denied, and which did not directly relate to issues in the case, which in any event was nearly settled and did not require much, if any, further involvement by the New York attorney involved. Nonetheless, the court did refer the case to the agencies in both Delaware and New York that investigate allegations of attorney misconduct. The court was discreet enough not to mention the New York’s attorney’s name and I will follow the court’s gracious example.

Court’s Analysis

Although this ruling is short enough that it should be read in its entirety, a money quote demonstrates how serious the court is about maintaining high standards for the attorneys that appear before the Delaware Court of Chancery, and how welcoming Delaware courts are to the many non-Delaware lawyers that appear before them, but (unlike federal courts) Delaware courts only intervene when the misconduct reaches a threshold that interferes with the fair conduct of the proceedings. Otherwise, the matter typically will be referred to the arm of the Delaware Supreme Court that deals with enforcement of legal ethics. The money quote follows:

No state benefits more from admissions to its Bar pro hac vice than Delaware, and no judges benefit more from that system of admissions than the members of this Court.  Having said that, the opportunity to practice before this bar, even on a temporary basis, is a privilege.  Like Delaware attorneys, attorneys from other states are expected to abide by high standards of professional conduct.1  Nonetheless, for the following reasons I am content to stay my decision here.  This Court’s jurisdiction to police attorney behavior only extends to conduct which may prejudice the “fair and efficient administration of justice.”2 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

Parenthetically, the judicial author of this decision also reached a similar conclusion on a similar issue in an unrelated case highlighted on these pages, styled as Manning v. Vellardita. 

Postscript: Astute readers will note that this ruling was issued on the Friday after the July 4th holiday when many private and public offices were closed, but the hardworking members of the Delaware judiciary were open for business and issued quite a number of decisions while others were enjoying a long holiday weekend.