One of the most important venues for U.S. corporate disputes, Delaware’s Court of Chancery, will lose one of its five judges when Vice Chancellor John Noble retires in February.
Noble, 64, informed Delaware Governor Jack Markell in a letter that he will retire on Feb. 26. Noble began his second 12-year term in 2012. Markell will choose a replacement.
More than half of the U.S. publicly traded companies are chartered in Delaware, and corporate disputes often end up before one of the five judges on the Court of Chancery, which does not hold jury trials.
Noble’s recent cases included a shareholder lawsuit against News Corp. over a phone hacking scandal and an investor lawsuit challenging Freeport-McMoran Inc.’s acquisition of two energy companies.
Both of those cases resulted in settlements of more than $100 million.
A year ago Noble took the rare step of putting a corporate deal on hold. He suspended for 30 days C&J Energy Services Inc’s merger with a unit of Nabors Industries Ltd, and ordered C&J’s board to use that time to seek other potential buyers.
The governor’s nominee for the Noble’s spot on the bench must be approved by the state Senate.
Markell, a Democrat serving his second term as governor, has had unusual sway in shaping the Court of Chancery and the Delaware Supreme Court, which has the final say on the state’s corporate law.
Noble was the last remaining judge on the court who was not appointed by Markell. The governor has also appointed four of the five members of the state’s Supreme Court, who also serve 12-year terms, including its chief justice, Leo Strine, a former judge on the Court of Chancery.
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