Is a Statewide Business Court in Georgia’s Future?

Yesterday, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual “Eggs & Issues Breakfast,” which coincides with the start of the 2018 Georgia legislative session.  Of particular interest to Georgia businesses and business litigators, Governor Deal proposed a constitutional amendment to create a statewide business court.

This proposal is not a bolt from the blue.  On March 30, 2017, Governor Deal signed an Executive Order establishing the Court Reform Council to “review current practices and procedures within the judicial court system … and make recommendations to improve efficiencies and achieve best practices ….”  On November 20, 2017, the Court Reform Council issued its Final Report, which included a recommendation for the constitutional creation of a statewide business court in Georgia.

The key points of the Court Reform Council’s recommendation are as follows:

  • Cases would continue to be filed in superior or state court but could be removed to the business court on motion.  A business court judge, not the superior or state court judge, would rule on the issue of removal.
  • The proposed subject matter jurisdiction of the business court would encompass actions:
    • Brought pursuant to or governed by the Georgia Business Corporation Code, Uniform Partnership Act, Uniform Limited Partnership Act, Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act, Limited Liability Company Act, or Uniform Commercial Code;
    • Involving securities, antitrust, intellectual property, cybersecurity or biotechnology issues;
    • Arising out of or rooted in e-commerce that meet amount-in-controversy requirements;
    • Implicating the Georgia International Arbitration Act;
    • Premised on professional malpractice claims involving a business dispute subject to an amount-in-controversy requirement; and
    • Constituting contract or business tort cases, also subject to an amount-in-controversy requirement.
  • Business court judges would be appointed, not elected.
  • Any jury trials would take place in the circuit where the action was originally filed.

Implementing the proposal would require an amendment to Article VI of the Georgia Constitution.  Either chamber of the Georgia General Assembly could propose such an amendment.  Any proposed amendment would have to be approved by two-thirds of the membership of both the House of Representatives and the Senate before being submitted to the voters for approval.  If the Constitution was amended, the General Assembly would then have to pass enabling legislation.

Ichter Davis will be closely tracking legislative action on this issue during the session.  Stay tuned for updates.

William Daniel Davis

 

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