By Ken Mammarella
Originally formed by TransPerfect employees to oppose the judge-ordered dissolution of the company, the group plans to spend $500,000 to $1 million in the next six months to promote seven broad legal reforms:
• Establish an independent inspector general’s office.
• Ensure that appointed judges can’t serve on the reviewing Court of Judiciary.
• Ensure that all ties between custodians and judges are disclosed and consented to by all parties.
• Require custodians’ bills to be itemized and released.
• Always allow a camera in court.
• Require chancellors to be selected for cases by a “wheel spin.”
• Require financial disclosures by Delaware’s judges.
Chris Coffey, the group’s campaign manager and head of Tusk Strategies in New York, said its transforming into a “good-government” group and seeks to build a coalition with allied groups. “We’ll support them financially, if needed,” he added.
Some points of the platform speak directly to issues that irked TransPerfect employees. One is the $50,000 to $150,000 bill received each month from the court-appointed custodian, Skadden Arps, with itemization kept under seal. Another is that the judge in the case, Andre Bouchard, used to work for Skadden Arps.
“Delaware and Chancery Court have fallen further and further behind,” said Coffey. He said 46 states and the federal government use a wheel spin (or its digital equivalent), and that many states mandate disclosures about judges finances and ties between custodians and judges.
House Bill 261, introduced June 30 with primary sponsorship by Rep. Michael F. Smith, requires itemized bills from custodians. Any action awaits until the legislature returns next year.
The TransPerfect case was decided 21 months ago, although there was a mop-up hearing an hour after the campaign was announced in a rally outside the court building in Wilmington. The rally drew more than 100 TransPerfect employees, many wearing T-shirts saying “No juries, no justice.”
Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware counts 2,700 members, mostly employees and former employees of TransPerfect, a global translation services company headquartered in New York. In 2018, after TransPerfect CEO Phil Shawe bought control of the company in a court-mandated auction, it moved its state of incorporation to Nevada. Its earlier Delaware incorporation gave the Court of Chancery jurisdiction in the fight between co-founders Shawe and Elizabeth Elting, his former fiancee.
Current employees are funding the new campaign, Coffey said, just as they dominated donations for the $1 million spent marketing in 2016-17, when the case was in the Chancery Court.
“All we’re asking for is common-sense reform,” said group president Miranda Wessinger, once TransPerfect’s Atlanta-based global events director.
The group also hopes that the successor to Delaware Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr., who announced July 8 that he is retiring, will modernize the state’s judicial system.
A representative of the state court system declined comment on the group’s platform.