Special court will streamline companies’ cases

May 11th, 2016

News Coverage:

May 9, 2016

Special court will streamline companies' cases

The Journal Gazette

With a pilot program that begins next month, Indiana will join more than 20 other states that recognize the wisdom of channeling business matters into special courts.

One of these commercial courts will be here, presided over by Allen Superior Court Judge Craig Bobay. Besides saving local businesses time, headaches and money, the new court will be one more tool for economic development.

Typically, no one thing prompts a business to choose one state or community over another, or persuades another to stay, or leave.

But along with good schools, a well-trained workforce and a good overall quality of life, businesses may be attracted to a place that offers efficient and effective ways to resolve legal matters.

For two years, that has been the goal of a statewide working group Bobay leads that has grown to comprise judges from around the state, lawyers and legal educators, and Kevin J. Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The group looked at how courts in other states operate and sorted out how the Indiana pilot commercial courts would be organized and managed for greatest efficiency, what types of cases would be eligible for the new courts and how caseloads and operating expenses would be covered.

On June 1, commercial courts will begin to accept cases here and in Elkhart, Vanderburgh, Floyd, Lake and Marion counties.

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David expects the pilot program to be a success. Commercial courts won’t focus on tort cases, contract disputes or employment litigation, he told BizVoice, the state chamber’s magazine.

“It’s acquisition, divestiture, allegations of insider trading, sophisticated transactions, trade secrets litigation – those types of things,” David said.

“These are the types of cases where discovery is very important; there are often significant issues related to discovery, motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgments.”

Such proceedings can keep businesses embroiled in court for years. The wait – and the uncertainty – creates huge costs for the companies involved.

“You can take bad news,” Ron Christian, an executive at the energy company Vectren in Evansville, told the publication. “You can take good news; you just can’t take no news.”

“Oftentimes, big, complex cases can get out of hand before they show up for the first time on a judge’s desk,” Bobay told BizVoice. The answer, he said, is a comprehensive management plan with reasonable deadlines “focusing on wanting to get this case done efficiently and not having it linger for years.”

An added benefit, Bobay told The Journal Gazette last year, is that commercial courts may clear up congestion in other courtrooms.

“These cases can take lot of judicial resources, if they’re handled in the regular courts,” Bobay said.

Bobay, who was recently given a Distinguished Barrister’s Award by the Indiana Law Journal in part for his work on setting up the new courts system, is working to get the word out to both the legal and business communities.

Bobay is planning a continuing education session for local attorneys May 20, and there will be a presentation for statewide business leaders in the Indiana Supreme Court chambers this summer once the program is launched.

Bobay said he’s working with Greater Fort Wayne Inc. to make sure potential new businesses know about the new court.

The commercial court is the latest of several specialty courts in Allen County, including a substance-abuse and alcohol-dependency court, a veterans court and a mortgage foreclosure settlement court that seeks to minimize evictions.

The commercial court concept will likely expand throughout the state. But thanks to Bobay and others here who have helped make the innovative courts a reality, Allen County will be in on the ground floor.