Panel Working on West Virginia Business Court Proposal

July 18, 2011

The West Virginia Supreme Court has given a committee the go-ahead to design a new court system that would consider business-related lawsuits.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Darrell Pratt, the committee’s chairman, said the goal is to design a court that can focus on complex issues that arise in commercial litigation. It also would relieve circuit judges from handling novel or complex issues that they may not be trained to handle.

“We hope it will provide for a more expeditious and judicious resolution of complex commercial disputes and give the business litigants confidence in a quick and appropriate decision,” Pratt said Friday in a news release.

The court said in the news release that it approved the committee’s proposal to develop rules and procedures for the proposed business court last month. The rules and procedures are expected to be available for public comment and public hearings by the end of the year.

The committee also will develop proposed legislation for the 2012 legislative session to establish the court.

“This should not be misunderstood as the Court’s approval of a business court at this point. The final approval of the rules is still some months ahead,” Supreme Court Administrative Director Steve Canterbury said in the news release.

The proposed court would be called the Complex Commercial Litigation Court. It would handle cases such as contract disputes between two or more businesses, shareholder disputes, trade secrets and securities cases.

However, the business court would not handle cases such as product liability, workplace injuries, consumer environmental actions or criminal cases.

It would be comprised of five to seven circuit judges with backgrounds in business or commercial litigation. The judges, who also would be active circuit judges, would be appointed by the Supreme Court chief justice. They would serve terms between three and seven years and would receive training by the National Association of Business Court Judges.

Pratt said representatives of business and a group of defense and plaintiffs’ attorneys will be invited to work with the committee on refining the rules before they are released for public comment and public hearings.

House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, said a business court system is vital to the health of West Virginia’s business climate and he is encouraged by the committee’s progress.

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