WV business court approved - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

WV business court approved

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The first of its kind — a West Virginia commercial litigation court focusing on resolving disputes between businesses -- will take effect Oct. 10, the West Virginia Supreme Court announced Tuesday.

Justice Robin Davis initially made the announcement at the Aug. 29 portion of the West Virginia Chamber's annual business summit, where she told attendees she expected the court to open in October.

The state Supreme Court voted 5-0 to approve the new trial court rule – modeled after a rule that governs the mass litigation panel – that would establish the business court.

The goal of the business court, Davis explained, is provide a separate avenue for cases that can get bogged down in a circuit court docket.

"This provides a way for circuit court judges to be relieved from the burden of handling those novel or complex issues," Davis said. "It also should provide a more expeditious and judicious resolution of disputes for business litigants."

And cases should be resolved within 10 months from the time a case management order is filed, Davis further explained.

The high court has worked on rules for the division for a long time, Davis said. The West Virginia Legislature passed a bill in 2010 that requested the high court to draft rules for the commercial litigation court.  

"We felt like if we had a specialized business court that it would move business litigation more swiftly along in the state of West Virginia and eliminate some of the burden of these complex cases being filed in various circuits around state," she said. 

According to a news release from the state Supreme Court, types of cases that will not be assigned to the business court will be consumer litigation, products liability, personal injury, wrongful death, consumer class actions and actions arising under the West Virginia Consumer Credit Act.

The chief justice or any other judge can recommend a case to the business court, the news release explained.

Up to seven judges will serve seven-year staggered terms. Judges will serve on the court with no additional pay, the news release states.

Four judges have been appointed thus far.

Chief Justice Menis Ketchum appointed 11th Judicial Circuit Judge James Rowe (Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties)and 22nd Judicial Circuit Judge Donald Cookman (Hampshire, Hardy and Pendleton counties) to serve with 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes (Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties). Their terms will begin on Oct. 10.

James Young Jr, a 24th Judicial Circuit judge (Wayne County), will join these three judges starting Jan. 1, the news release states.

These judges will have training in business litigation to cut down the length of time it takes to try these cases, Davis said.

"The only cost that we're going to have right now is training of the circuit court judges," Davis said. "They will have no additional pay and we are using the space that the court already has. We have not added any employees." 

The new court will have a circuit court docket in seven regions, and the state Supreme Court will announce the central location Oct. 10.

In a released statement, House Speaker Rick Thompson said he has advocated for a business court for the past four years.

"I think a separate business docket focusing on resolving commercial litigation will make our state a much more welcoming environment for businesses and assist circuit judges in managing these often complex cases," Thompson, who first proposed consideration of a business court in 2008, said in the release.

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