Chancery Describes Comportment Standards for Litigants

Durham v. Grapetree, LLC, C.A. No. 7325-VCG (Del. Ch. May 16, 2014).

Notable Aspects of this Ruling:  This post-trial Letter Opinion involving the interpretation of an LLC Agreement based on the course of dealing among the parties, is most notable for its extensive description of the standards of conduct expected of litigants in Delaware, and the types of behavior that the Court of Chancery will not condone, even where, as in this case, one of the parties is appearing pro se.

In what the court describes in its opening sentence as “dolorous and protracted litigation” among siblings, the disputes involved reimbursement by one member of the LLC for expenses incurred in connection with maintaining property owned by the LLC.  The LLC managed two resort villas which the five siblings who constituted the members of the LLC, inherited from their father, and whom the court described as “condemned to attempt to cooperate in management of those properties . . .”

The parts of the decision that likely will have the most widespread practical application in future cases, include the following rules of comportment for litigants:

The Court does not condone, accept, or permit the use of profanity, acrimony, derisive gibes, or sarcasm with respect to any communication related to any matter, proceedings, writing, meeting, etc.  See footnote 32 (for case authorities supporting this position).

The Court added that the communications from the pro se litigant to opposing counsel contain:

the sort of inappropriate and unscrupulous attacks not tolerated by this Court, which, like all Delaware courts, expects civility among parties, even when such parties are pro se or self-represented.  See footnotes 33 and 34 (internal quotation marks omitted).

One of the cases cited in the footnote emphasized that:

This Court does not condone ad hominem attacks.”  See also footnote 35 (which cites to cases condemning the use of insulting language to describe opposing counsel in that case and admonishing against outbursts and instances of hyperbole that was disrespectful to the litigants and to the Court).