When Governor Jack Markell had an opportunity to appoint a Chief Justice for Delaware, one of the names mentioned was Leo Strine. I assumed he would be Markell’s choice for a simple reason: Leo Strine was the worst possible choice.
The most flagrantly pro-big-business; the most flagrantly contemptuous of human citizens, of the potential candidates.
Known to me for his refusal to enforce Delaware’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute.
Strine is the most prominent promoter of a shameful scam in which businesses could buy justice in “arbitration” hearings as a substitute for the usual semi-legitimate Chancery Court proceedings. (The scam has been found unconstitutional by a Federal court, in a case brought by public-interest-oriented lawyer David Finger on behalf of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, and is under appeal by – guess who? – Strine.
Strine recently spoke against opening up Delaware’s infamous, secretive Family Court.
Strine was surely known to many senators as a bad actor: When then-Governor Tom Carper first nominated him to be a judge, the Senate refused to confirm him for months, until a deal was cut also putting a prominent senator’s son on the bench also.Delaware’s Courts have repeatedly been rated tops in the US by the mega-evil United States Chamber of Commerce for their pro-corporate, anti-human bias.
See this, from a few years ago:
“Dover – Governor Ruth Ann Minner responded Thursday to news that the First State’s legal system is the best in the nation, according to an annual survey released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Delaware received the #1 ranking for the fourth year in a row, scoring first in 9 out of 10 categories-from timeliness to judges’ competence-in a poll of more than 1,400 senior corporate attorneys.”
“This survey shows that Delaware has the best judges, the best juries, and the most fair and reasonable legal system,” Gov. Minner said. “Our courts treat all parties fairly while avoiding frivolous lawsuits. This is another one of many factors that make Delaware a great place to do business.”
Here’s a recent example of what the Delaware courts anti-human bias means in practice, and why the states courts are a national and international public nuisance:
“Losing a shareholder lawsuit to a company could soon become more expensive,” writes Liz Hoffman of The Wall Street Journal. Hoffman reports on the Delaware Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold, “a corporate bylaw that requires the losing party in litigation against the company to pay the winner’s legal fees.” Some lawyers, write Hoffman, are saying the ruling could open the door for Delaware companies to adopt, “‘loser pays’ bylaws of their own” to deter shareholder lawsuits. (Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2014)
In any case Strine was confirmed unanimously, surely one of the more dishonorable votes in the history of the Delaware Senate.
Why bring this up now? Most people, if they are awake and interested, probably know that the quality of Delaware’s courts has been in free-fall for a long time. That citizens seeking judicial remedies for bad environmental or land use decisions rarely get help from Delaware courts, which are openly proclaimed to be at the service of big-business. Many people know this as a national scandal, because so much business litigation takes place in Delaware courts. For some background see “Green
I bring it up now because Delaware’s top environmental official, Collin O’Mara, is leaving. O’Mara has been an amiable front man for Markell’s scams, has shown no particular depth, has presided over the continuing decline in the professionalism and integrity of the DNREC….there really is not much more to be said about him.
But, to replace O’Mara Markell has made another worst possible choice: David Small.
Small entered the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) years ago as a flack, and rose through the ranks to become chief political operative, lobbyist, and deal maker.
I’ve never known him to show depth of concern for any environmental issue. He’s the guy who year after year, after releases, spills, and scandals, would tell reporters “there was no harm to the environment.” It was like playing a recording. It was a recording.
For Small, it’s all politics and selling out regulatory actions to get money for DNREC.
Small set up a deal to exempt the Delaware City Refinery from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and then lied to the Delaware Senate about it. He has no known technical background or understanding. He worked steadily to make Delaware’s environmental public hearings, once well-respected, into bad jokes. He’s been a key player in dismantling the Delaware Coastal Zone Act, probably the only really significant piece of environmental legislation to originate in Delaware.
The Senators will likely be happy to confirm him unanimously because they know him well as DNREC’s amiable chief lobbyist. But, he’s a horrible choice.
I doubt that many Delaware “environmental” orgs will object as he’s certain to be confirmed and they won’t want to offend him.We are going to have a little contest: “What’s the grossest lie Dave Small ever told?”
Muller’s nomination: When the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was being negotiated in Delaware, Small, and mainstream enviros cut a deal to exempt the Delaware City Refinery, which had a sizeable power plant that should have been required to buy “allowances” like the other power plants in Delaware. Green Delaware worked on a bill to change this, but Small lied, saying enviro interests supported it. (Some, shamefully, did.)Dave Small, to my way of thinking, is the Leo Strine of environmental regulation.
Sent YOUR Dave Small stories to Green Delaware: Info@greendel.org. And tell your Senator not to confirm him.
Upcoming: Bill to apply freedom of information to University of Delaware needs more support (HB 331, Kowalko, Sokola). A bill to make contaminated site cleanups even more secretive needs opposition (SB 198, McBride).