Boston University School of Law

March 21, 2008

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Justice Carolyn Berger (’76) imparts wisdom on BU Law students

Delaware Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Berger delivered informal comments to a full house of BU Law students, alumni and faculty on Monday, March 25. After an introduction by Dean Maureen O’Rourke, Justice Berger treated the BU Law community to remarks that reflect the insight and expertise gained from serving 24 years on the bench.

While Justice Berger’s area of expertise is corporate law, she was not limiting in her advice to students. She structured her talk to reflect on the law and the art of judging as well as issues specific to her court and knowledge. She outlined four topics of discussion: judicial decisions in general, or the myth of stare decisis; the way the Delaware Supreme Court operates; some tensions in corporate decision making and a few observations about recent issues in corporate litigation.

Commenting on the principle of stare decisis, latin for “to stand by things decided,” Justice Berger stated, “It is when the colors do not match, when the references in the index fail, where there is no decisive precedent, that the serious business of the judge begins. ..The problem of course is that once you acknowledge that stare decisis is a principle that can be manipulated to support more than one and sometimes even opposite results, you have to ask what does ensure consistent and principled decision making?”

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After delivering her comments, Justice Berger opened the floor to questions. Her candid responses were humorous, yet practical, “In real life you can tell what’s on the judge’s mind by the questions they ask… whereas it’s not an inappropriate part of moot court to ask a question just for the sake of seeing whether you’re going to squirm.”

Prior to her appointment on the Supreme Court, Justice Berger was a vice chancellor for the Delaware Court of Chancery from 1984 to 1994. She received her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Rochester in 1969, a Masters in Elementary Education in 1971 from Boston University School of Education and her Juris Doctorate from Boston University School of Law in 1976. She also received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Widener University School of Law in 1996.

From 1979 to 1984, Justice Berger was an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. She also worked as an associate at Prickett, Ward, Burt & Sanders for a year. From 1976 to 1979, Justice Berger was a Deputy Attorney General with the Delaware Department of Justice. She served as an associate member on the Board of Bar Examiners, as president and vice president of the Milton & Hattie Kutz Home, as a member of the Community Advisory Council of the Junior League of Wilmington and on the Board of Directors with the Jewish Federation and the Delaware Region National Conference of Christians & Jews. She is currently a member of the American Bar Foundation, the American Law Institute and the Rodney Inn of Court. Her current term on the Delaware Supreme Court ends in July 2018.

Reported by Sam Chetrit