Friday, July 05, 2013

Ohio Commercial/ Specialized Court Dockets

As of Monday, July 1st. Ohio officially got its first set of commercial docket courts when their permanent rules, adopted Feb. 26, went into effect.

Commercial court dockets evolved from the foresight expressed by late Chief Justice Thomas Moyer in his
April 25, 2007 State of the Judiciary speech where he spoke of the concern all Ohio citizens share regarding the economic realities challenging the state’s businesses. “When making decisions to locate or remain in Ohio,” the Chief Justice then said, “employers assess a number of criteria. Not so obvious, but important to many, is the prospect of civil litigation arising from commercial transactions—costly, time-consuming litigation.

“A number of states have responded to that reality by creating business or complex commercial dockets in courts of general jurisdiction. Such dockets are devoted to litigation between businesses, not consumer transactions. Most business-to-business litigation is different from other litigation in the number of documents and witnesses, the extent of the motion practice, discovery disputes, and increasingly, knowledge of technology. Often such cases benefit from advanced case management techniques and the availability of dispute resolution alternatives… A concurrent resolution adopted by the West Virginia legislature observed that states with a business court system report that they have successfully used business courts to persuade businesses to locate or remain in those states.”

And thus was born the Court’s Task Force on Commercial Dockets pilot program, charged with assessing the best method of establishing commercial civil litigation dockets in Ohio’s courts of common pleas.

By March 2008, the Task Force had reached the point where it had submitted an interim report that included a proposed set of Temporary Rules of Superintendence for Courts of Ohio “designed to establish the framework for the commercial docket pilot project.” Following the Supreme Court’s adoption of the temporary rules later that year, the courts of common pleas in Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, and Lucas Counties agreed to serve and were designated as the pilot project courts. Commercial dockets in all four counties were in operation by the beginning of March of 2009,

A second interim report was filed in March 2011 containing the results from surveys conducted of each of the eight commercial docket judges and many of the lawyers involved in commercial docket litigation over the preceeding two years, noting the successes of the pilot project while also revealing the biggest challenge to each of the commercial dockets – the burden the docket places on the commercial docket judges.

The Task Force’s final report was submitted that December.

The Task Force recommendation of establishing a commercial docket in any court of common pleas that (1) has six or more general division judges or (2) is located in a county that has a population of 300,000 or more according to the latest federal decennial census has resulted in the state now having three commercial court dockets. An article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer last Monday noted that city’s (Cuyahoga County) judges voting to retain their commercial dockets last month. Of the original four participants in the pilot project, Lucas County judges also voted last month to keep their court as has Hamilton County. Franklin County judges, however, voted 9-8 to disband theirs.

Allied to the commercial courts, the Supreme Court’s news service also announced last Wednesday that the first five specialized docket courts in the state receive final certification today from the Commission on Specialized Dockets. They include Ashtabula County Common Pleas Drug Court, Clermont County Municipal OVI Court, Columbiana County Municipal Mental Health Court—STAR Program, Franklin County Family Drug Court; and Licking County Common Pleas Drug Court—CIA Program.

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