The Times West Virginian

Business

January 13, 2013

State Business Court Division getting positive reception

FAIRMONT — In its first few months of operation, West Virginia’s new Business Court Division is getting a positive reception from the business community.

On Sept. 11, 2012, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia passed an addition to Trial Court Rule 29 by a 5-0 vote, which established a Business Court Division in the state. The business court opened on Oct. 10 and is headquartered in the Berkeley County Judicial Center in Martinsburg.

“The Supreme Court, I commend them in their willingness to support the Business Court Division,” said division chair Judge Christopher Wilkes from the 23rd Judicial Circuit, which covers Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan counties.

This is a specialized court that deals with complex cases involving a business versus a business. The rule specifically excludes certain types of litigation from the court, such as consumer litigation, products liability, personal injury, wrongful death, consumer class actions, and those dealing with the West Virginia Consumer Credit Act.

“West Virginia is blessed with a great caliber of circuit judges, and the business court doesn’t mean that the routine business versus business litigation can’t be handled or shouldn’t be handled at the circuit court level,” Wilkes said.

He said the Business Court Division is meant for complex contractual cases or other matters that wouldn’t be considered routine because of the number of parties, the unique subject matter, or the complicated nature of the discovery.

Either party in a case can file a motion during a certain period of time to have the case heard by a Business Court Division judge. Also, at any time during the case, the presiding judge can file a motion to refer the case to the division. The chief justice makes the decision, or can request that a member of the business court panel hold a hearing to develop evidence of the complexity of the case.

“Specialization courts are becoming more prevalent throughout America,” Wilkes said. “A business court is just a necessary step in the evolution of our court process. It benefits the state wonderfully. It utilizes talents that certain of the judges have by way of their experiences before they took the bench and knowledge that they have learned since they have been on the bench.”

The Business Court Division is divided into seven regions. Four circuit judges have been appointed, and up to three more judges can be added if necessary. Their appointments are staggered.

In addition to Wilkes, the other judges are Judge James Rowe from the 11th Judicial Circuit — Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties; Judge Donald Cookman from the 22 Judicial Circuit — Hampshire, Hardy, and Pendleton counties; and Judge James Young Jr. from the 24th Judicial Circuit, which encompasses Wayne County.

“It’s really a great group of judges,” Wilkes said. “We work well together.”

Supreme Court Justice Robin Jean Davis, who was in charge of the final edit and implementation of the business court rule, said these four judges were very willing to get involved and were logical choices for the appointments. Each of them has an interest and background in business litigation, and they are taking on this additional obligation with no extra pay.

The decision on adding more judges to the Business Court Division rests exclusively with the Supreme Court, Wilkes said.

“I would anticipate some appointments at some time this year,” he said. “The court recognizes and anticipates expansion of it in due course.”

Wilkes said one unique aspect of West Virginia’s business court is the fact that two judges get assigned to a case — the trial judge and also a resolution judge who works to arbitrate the case early.

“We use any form of resolution that the parties may want,” he said. “That seems to be something that judges welcome in their litigation.”

The parties involved in the case often have ongoing business relations while their lawsuit is under way. If they can appear in front of a trained judge to get the case resolved, then they can return to their business operations, which is the key, Wilkes said.

Davis added that companies need prompt resolution of business litigation because while they’re trying to run their operations, they’re also paying legal fees and losing business. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, business litigation in the Business Court Division will be resolved within 10 months of the case management order, she said.

Davis said people are anxious to begin utilizing the Business Court Division and get the process moving.

“I’m just delighted that we started off in a positive way in regard to the business courts,” she said.

The business court judges have been undertaking various trainings, Wilkes said. Three of the judges went to the American College of Business Court Judges educational conference, hosted by George Mason University School of Law.

The judges also recently completed a complex mediation training, and some of them will go to an intensive training in southern California this summer. In addition, they are waiting to hear whether they have been accepted into the National Judicial College’s new scholarship program for handling complex business litigation, Wilkes said.

The first assignment of orders for the judges went out last week, he said.

The chief justice has designated one case from Kanawha County to the business court, and Judges Young and Rowe have been assigned. Another case didn’t meet the criteria, so the chief did not designate it to the division. Some other cases are pending ruling by the presiding circuit court judges as to whether they will be sent to the chief for designation or review, Wilkes said.

“We’re in business,” he said of the Business Court Division. “It’s been a good acceptance by the (West Virginia State Bar), but like any program, there’s some trepidation.”

Wilkes explained that there is always a period of apprehension until the State Bar gets to know the judges better and the workings of the court. He said it’s important that the State Bar is knowledgeable about what the business court offers so attorneys can advise their clients accordingly.

The business court judges are involved in a program to educate the Bar and the public. As part of those efforts, Wilkes will be discussing the mechanism of the court and the pros and cons of it during meetings with different lawyer organizations.

 “I just think it is an opportunity that we hope the Bar and businesses in West Virginia recognize and take advantage of, and I’m fairly confident that they’ll be pleased with the resolution and operations of the court,” he said.

Davis said having the Business Court Division in place should be very positive for West Virginia and its judicial system and for potential companies looking to come to the state to do business.

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce has been a proponent of the idea of establishing a business court in the state for many years.

“We really applaud the Legislature and the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals for working together to create this new division of courts,” said Steve Roberts, president of the chamber. “Some business issues that end up going to court are very complex, and having some judges who specialize in those issues that are sort of unique to business ... we think will help cases to be heard faster and also be heard by judges who are more familiar really with the terminology of what’s being discussed and the details of what’s at stake.”

With faster trials and judges well-versed in business issues, this will help improve West Virginia’s challenging legal reputation, he said. The chamber also hopes that the new court will help attract more business to the state.

The Chamber of Commerce is holding a Business Court Symposium on Jan. 22 at the Charleston offices of Jackson Kelly PLLC. The event will explore how the business court functions, what kinds of cases will be heard and the timelines, and provide an opportunity for questions and answers, Roberts said.

All of the business court judges are planning to participate, which will allow attendees to hear from those who know the most about the court and are completely involved, he said. Justice Davis will serve as the keynote speaker.

The symposium has generated a great deal of interest, as the available space has already been filled up. But the chamber is now keeping a waiting list for people who are interested. The cost to attend is $30 per person.

For more information on the symposium, contact Kim Nelson at knelson@wvchamber.com or 304-342-1115.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

1
Text Only
Business
  • ‘L-gov’ program of West Virginia Treasurer’s Office providing many benefits

    The “L-gov” program of the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office is providing many benefits to governmental entities across the state, including the City of Fairmont.
    L-gov, which is an abbreviation for local government, helps cities, towns, school boards, public service districts and other entities process their bills in a streamlined, efficient way.

    July 27, 2014

  • Cardinal Tax Services-JB.jpg Helping people focus of Cardinal Tax Services

    At Cardinal Tax Services LLC, Wendy Cutlip is doing what she enjoys — helping people.
    Cutlip, owner and Registered Tax Return Preparer, opened her new business in White Hall at the beginning of June. It is located in the Mountain Gate Business Park, which is along Route 250 South just past Fabric and Foam and next to the Sunoco.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 22, 2014

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 22, 2014

  • Morgantown’s housing expenses exceed national average

    The housing prices in Morgantown are driving the city’s cost of living above the national average, a new survey reports.
    John Deskins, director of the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics’ Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER), explained that the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) orchestrates data collection in 288 cities across the country.

    July 20, 2014

  • JA Used Furniture-JB.jpg J.A. Used Furniture has valuable variety

    J.A. Used Furniture in Fairmont carries items that people need — all at low prices.
    Owner Ron Dray officially opened the doors of his new business, located at 10 Locust Ave., toward the end of December. He explained that the “J.A.” initials in the store’s name stand for the names of his two granddaughters, Jordan and Adriauna.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Backbone Security, T&T Pump Co. among 37 state companies recognized

    Two Marion County companies were recently celebrated for their continued successes in exporting.
    Backbone Security and T&T Pump Co., both in Fairmont, were among the 37 West Virginia companies that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Cabinet Secretary Keith Burdette, the West Virginia Development Office and the West Virginia Export Council recently acknowledged for expanding their business to new parts of the world. An awards presentation was held in Charleston on June 24.

    July 13, 2014

  • All Things Herbal-JB.jpg All Things Herbal health and wellness shop

    All Things Herbal Local Market is a one-stop, health and wellness shop.
    Owner Christa Blais officially opened her new business in downtown Fairmont at 327 Adams St., across from Veterans’ Square, on June 6 during Main Street Fairmont’s First Friday event.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • 3-D printing continuing to revolutionize manufacturing

    As 3-D printing is revolutionizing manufacturing, the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing continues to stay at the forefront of this technology.
    RCBI has three Advanced Manufacturing Technology Centers, located in Bridgeport, Charleston and Huntington.

    July 6, 2014

  • Blackheart International -JB.jpg Blackheart International bringing high-quality services

    Blackheart International, a firearms manufacturer and provider of logistics and training solutions, is bringing high-quality services to the local community.
    At the beginning of April, the company moved from Philippi, where it had been located since 2005, to its new home in Fairmont.

    July 6, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
NDN Business
House Ads