Senate confirms Block & Leviton’s Cook to Chancery
WILMINGTON – The State Senate unanimously confirmed Block & Leviton managing partner Nathan Cook to the open seat on the influential Court of Chancery on Wednesday evening.
Cook succeeds Vice Chancellor Joseph Slights III, who recently retired after about six years on the bench, citing his 18 years serving in the state’s judiciary and a desire to spend more time with family.
It is Carney’s fourth Chancery appointment during his two terms, and notably reignited a growing debate over the diversity of the all-important, business-focused bench.
It continues to have an all-white judiciary following Cook’s appointment. Not since Tamika Montgomery-Reeves was promoted to the Delaware Supreme Court in 2020 has the Court of Chancery had a Black chancellor or vice chancellor, and she was the only Black judge to ever serve on the court.
Wednesday’s roughly 10-minute confirmation hearing did not allow public comment as is procedure in the Senate Executive Committee, despite protests by celebrity civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton, local activists and the Citizens for Judicial Fairness, a group formerly known as Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware that was formed by employees of Transperfect, a company with a long, bitter history in the Chancery system.
Cook, a Virginia native who developed a passion for business law and moved to Delaware specifically to practice before the Court of Chancery 17 years ago, only touched upon his life, career and qualifications in his remarks before the Senate.
“Delaware’s my home and practicing as a member of the Delaware bar, and before the Court of Chancery in particular, has offered me more than I could have ever dreamed,” he said. “I’m keenly aware of the critical importance of the Court of Chancery to the state of Delaware and its citizens. Should I be so fortunate as to be confirmed today, I promise you that I will do my utmost every day to justify the confidence has been placed in me by the governor and the Judicial Nominating Commission.”
Several senators remarked that they had met personally with Cook to vet his nomination and came away impressed while others said they trusted the opinion of one of his mentors, former Chancellor William B. Chandler III.
With the Court of Chancery being the home venue to the legal disputes for the state’s more than 1 million legal incorporations, any appointments to the bench are scrutinized by corporate America. It is the judges, who are expected to have a large degree of business litigation experience, and not juries who hear cases that involve shareholders, executives, and corporate boards.
Cook will have to fill the shoes of Slights, who heard cases involving some of the nation’s largest public companies like Facebook, FedEx, Goldman Sachs and McDonald’s. Notably, he also presided over the perhaps Chancery’s most high-profile case last year, a shareholder lawsuit against billionaire Tesla CEO Elon Musk who testified in person in Wilmington. Slights recently ruled in favor of Musk.
The reputation of Delaware’s incorporation system, as well as the qualifications of its Chancery bench that keeps it in check, help drive a state economy worth billions of dollars.
Cook brings 16 years of experience litigating before the Court of Chancery to the bench. Initially working at Abrams and Laster, and later at Grant & Eisenhofer, Cook most recently served as the managing partner at the Delaware office of Block & Leviton, a Boston-based firm focused on securities litigation. He received his undergraduate degree and his law degree from the University of Virginia.
“I’m confident that each has the experience and judgment necessary to serve as part of Delaware’s world-class judiciary,” Carney said in a statement following the confirmation of Cook and along with other state judges.