Specialized Business Docket is earning its keep


It is rare that business owners and attorneys meet in glad circumstance. The Business Journal this week reports on the first six months of operation of Kent County’s 17th Circuit Court Specialized Business Docket, a pilot program to establish a court solely dedicated to business matters.

Based on feedback from participants, the specialized court is likely to become a permanent part of court structure. The Business Journal supports such a move as a tremendous benefit to business owners and corporate chiefs. The pilot program is scheduled through 2014.

The most important consideration in this matter is that business owners and representatives have the expertise of a judge dedicated to knowledge of business legalities and statutes. Also of vital concern is that the timeframe of litigation is vastly improved and provides priority.

The pilot is proving to simplify business litigation, reduce the cost, speed the judicial process and clear up the court’s overall docket. Circuit Court Judge Christopher Yates has been assigned to the Business Docket, which can include issues such as shareholder disputes, torts, antitrust matters, intellectual-property concerns and securities law.

The American Bar Association helped to establish these courts on a trial basis as long ago as 2009 when 15 states had implemented such systems. According to the ABA, they existed long before the recent revival. It cites the roots of the program in the Delaware Court of Chancery, founded in 1792. Both New York and Illinois created specialized courts to hear only commercial cases in 1993. The ABA has noted that specialized courts have long existed as criminal, family or bankruptcy courts.

The pilot program was assisted in establishment by the Michigan Bar Association. Macomb and Oakland counties also established pilot programs.

Mark Smith, a shareholder and litigator for Rhoades McKee and past president of the Grand Rapids Bar Association, told the Business Journal business issues usually involve a great deal of money and an even greater amount of paperwork.

“In law, time translates into money, and the quicker these cases can be moved, the faster business knows what the playing field is and how to manage its business. There’s nothing worse than to have a cloud of uncertainty hanging over your business for two, three or four years. Here the goal is to expedite that process and have that cloud blow over you quite quickly. And that’s huge,” he said.

If this has become “a litigious society,” there is great relief for business owners in the Specialized Business Docket.

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