The Times West Virginian

Business

February 17, 2008

Courts of chancery

Can a forum dedicated to business law free up the state’s court system?

FAIRMONT — The West Virginia House of Delegates recently passed a resolution to investigate what a business court could do for the state.

House Speaker Richard Thompson introduced House Concurrent Resolution 20, which the house adopted on Feb. 8. Next, the senate will review and vote on the resolution.

The resolution calls for a committee to conduct an interim study of a business court system and report back to the Legislature. Upon passage of the resolution, a legislative subcommittee will be assigned to the study. The Legislature will bring in interested parties to give their input, suggestions and concerns.

“We would hope that they would have legislation to introduce at the beginning of the 2009 legislative session,” Thompson said.

Lawmakers could create a law master system by statute to hear business matters. The legislature could also pass a constitutional amendment or choose to go with other alternatives.

Stacey Ruckle, communications director for the West Virginia House of Delegates, said the speaker has looked into “courts of chancery” in some other states, such as Delaware, which has a high number of Fortune 500 companies. She said Delaware and West Virginia have similar court systems.

A business court would deal mostly with disputes between companies, like franchise issues, and cases that should receive attention from someone with expertise in business law, Ruckle said.

“The basic idea behind this is to expedite the process for businesses so that disputes can be handled outside of the circuit court system,” she said.

Thompson said the circuit court has to handle all types of cases, and sometimes business lawsuits get lost among the others that are filed. Because business cases aren’t as pressing as child abuse or neglect cases or criminal cases, naturally they don’t receive attention as fast, he said.

A chancery court would allow more experienced individuals to deal with business disputes and provide quicker results, Thompson said. It would provide speedy resolution and more predictability.

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