Friday, October 11, 2019
When I begin teaching my Business students about corporations, I always start with a little information about Delaware. I tell them that Delaware has less than 0.3% of the U.S. population, it's physically the second smallest state in the country, and it has more registered businesses than people, among other facts.
Which is why I very much enjoyed reading Omari Simmons's paper, Chancery’s Greatest Decision: Historical Insights on Civil Rights and the Future of Shareholder Activism, which gave me a new appreciation for Delaware and its history. I was entirely unaware that one of the cases involved in the Supreme Court's famous Brown v. Board of Education decision was a ruling from Delaware Chancery. The paper gives a fascinating background of racial relations in the state and the events that led to Chancellor Seitz's ruling that Delaware's racially-segregated school system impermissibly discriminated against African-Americans. I'd had no idea of Delaware's involvement in the civil rights movement and I was delighted to learn of it. Here is the abstract:
This essay offers a historical account of the Delaware Court of Chancery’s greatest case, Belton v. Gebhart, a seminal civil rights decision. The circumstances surrounding the Belton case illuminate the limits and potential of shareholder activism to bolster civil rights in the modern context. They vividly illustrate how advancing civil rights requires a range of tactics that leverage public, private, and philanthropic resources. Shareholder activism works best as part of a multipronged activist strategy, not as a substitute for other types of activism. Examining a historical civil rights example is instructive for thinking about how shareholder activism might advance the modern civil rights agenda. Recognizing the complex challenges associated with advancing civil rights, this essay raises key questions about the nascent environmental, social, and governance (ESG) framework with which scholars, practitioners, and other observers must contend.
I guess the only thing I'll add is that, due to Chief Justice Strine's retirement, Governor Carney will be called upon to pick a successor, and many legal groups are urging that he consider a woman or person of color, given Delaware's heavily male, heavily white bench. I have no idea who the candidates are or the various considerations that will go into Governor Carney's decision; all I can say is that Delaware's judiciary is of unique national importance, and it would be gratifying to see it better reflect our country as a whole.