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Judges to explore feasibility of statewide business court

If approved, a constitutional amendment proposal on the November ballot would create a statewide court to handle business matters.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Resolution 993 on May 6.

The question will read: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to create a statewide business court, authorize Superior Court business court divisions, and allow for the appointment process for statewide business court judges in order to lower costs, improve the efficiency of all courts, and promote predictability of judicial outcomes in certain complex business disputes for the benefit of all citizens of this state?”

Judges would serve five-year terms and be appointed by the governor “subject to approval by a majority vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a majority vote of the House Committee on the Judiciary.”

“By removing complex, time-consuming business cases from the general docket, non-business cases will be resolved more efficiently, thereby benefiting businesses and citizens alike,” Georgia Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark said in a statement following Deal’s signing of the resolution.

In response to the resolution passing, the Council of Superior Court Judges of Georgia created a special committee May 15, to explore the “feasibility of implementing business courts statewide.” The committee is asked to present a draft of its report at the end of August.

“The committee is charged with developing a plan to provide the legislature with alternatives which would accomplish the intent of the legislature to create a process for the efficient resolution of complex business cases at a cost savings to the taxpayer,” according to the council’s notice.

The chair of the committee is Fulton County Superior Court Deputy Chief Judge John J. Goger of Fulton County, who has overseen cases in the Metro Atlanta Business Court. In July 2016, Gwinnett County’s Superior and State Courts were added to the business court.

Cases can be transferred to the business court by the judge or if one party’s motion is granted.

Business court cases typically concern securities violations, class-action issues and other contract disputes.

“Typically those cases are very discovery intensive, involving a lot of documents, a lot of electronic records and that sort of thing. And it’s not at all unusual when these cases are filed that they need immediate relief as well in the form of an injunction or a protective order, something of that sort,” Goger said.

Goger said it can be difficult to get that immediate action taken care of when there are hundreds of other criminal, civil and divorce cases on the docket.

“I think it’s been extremely well-received by lawyers and clients alike,” he said.

According to the Metro Atlanta Business court’s 2016 report, the court handled 47 total cases, closing or settling 17 of those. Half of those cases closed in 2016 were closed within 12 months of transferring to business court.

The average “age” of each case closed in 2016 was 488 days, or roughly 16 months.

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