Business courts will debut in July

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Governor Snyder recently signed into law a bill creating a special business court docket for business and commercial disputes where the amount in controversy exceeds $25,000. Circuit courts, such as Ingham County, which have three or more judges are required to establish a business court. A request was sent out to the Ingham County Circuit judges seeking someone to take on the task.

Hon. Joyce Draganchuk answered the call.

"My motivation and the reason I am sitting here today," she said, "has always been public service. And this is an aspect of public service. Businesses are the public, litigants are the public, and attorneys are the public. This is way to serve them more fully and efficiently."

Why create business courts?

"They were created by the legislature," said Judge Draganchuk. "We are in the process of court reform and the theme is 'Courts Working Smarter for a Better Michigan.' The business court fits right in with that theme and is compatible with courts working smarter. It uses technology and the prompt resolution of disputes. And that is the focus of the legislation and business courts in general. There is also a predictability aspect to it. Predictability is an important part of business and so the law takes that concept of predictability in business and brings it into the court system and makes it a component of the business court plan."

Who are business litigants?

The easy simple answer, explained Judge Draganchuk, "is when you have one business suing another business, you will end up in business court. But there could also be a situation, which we have plenty of, where a shareholder is suing a business and that would also qualify as a business court case. There are certain cases that you can just rule out--such as personal injury cases."

"There are a lot of situations where a business sues a business," she said.

How will the filing of business cases work?

The attorney filing the case will start the process, she indicated. There will be a designation on the summons the attorney files with the suit that, in the attorney's opinion, this qualifies as a business court case.

It will work this way:

* Those cases will be subject to the random draw like all civil court cases.

* If it comes to Judge Draganchuk it is not an issue and the case will proceed with her.

* If it comes to another judge, it will be submitted to Judge Draganchuk for an administrative reassignment.

* At that point, she will review the complaint and make sure that it does qualify as a business court case.

* If it does, she will approve it for reassignment to her; if not, it stays with the original judge

She has a number of cases on her docket that would be in business court, however, because the cases are not identified, it is unknown how many cases there will be in Ingham County.

At this point, the business court cases will simply be added to her present docket of cases. If necessary, down the road, there may be an adjustment in her caseload.

Will business cases be heard at a special time?

"One of the major focuses of the legislation is efficiency and speedy resolution of disputes. Those cases will proceed like other civil cases as far as getting on our docket. But there will be more hands-on control by me to make sure that they are moving along efficiently and that they do get a speedy resolution."

In every civil case, she explained, once an answer to the complaint is filed, the file comes to the court and scheduling conference is set.

"With my business court cases I am going to have all the attorneys come in even if they can agree on dates among themselves. We will have an actual (in-person) scheduling conference. This will help further this idea of speedy resolution."

And it will give her a chance to discuss with the attorneys alternative dispute resolution, an important aspect of business court, which fits in with the concept of a speedy and an economical resolution.

"I can discuss with them whether we should have facilitative mediation early on or is there some reason why it can't be early on. Sometimes attorneys will say 'well, there is an issue where we need more time for discovery and until we do that we don't believe we can go to facilitative mediation.'"

"If that is legitimate, then yes, maybe we won't have the entire time for discovery we will have a limited time for discovery." The plan of having all the attorneys at the initial meeting, she noted, "will make that meeting more meaningful and make it easier to come up with a mutually acceptable plan."

What are the advantages to the business courts?

Business courts in Ingham County will be technologically oriented.

"We are working on e-filing so it will be more convenient." There will be video-conferencing and other things that improve efficiency. "When you improve efficiency, you save businesses money."

Will there be training for business court judges?

Judge Draganchuk recently received a letter from the American College of Business Court Judges inviting all the new Business Court Judges to join.

"They have an annual meeting that includes educational opportunities. Their annual conference is subsidized and organized by various non-profits, including the AEI-Brookings Institute Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, Northwestern University Law School and the George Mason University School of Law. I have had some experience with training with these groups and it was excellent and well-balanced."

She mentioned the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Insurance and Indemnity Law, which is published by the Insurance and Indemnity Law Section of the State Bar. "An article in the journal talks about this section's desire to act as a source of expertise for Business Courts. In what capacity they will do that is unclear. However, this section would be at least one of the logical ones to be involved in Business Courts."

Judge Draganchuk is a graduate of University of Michigan, Dearborn, and Wayne State University Law School. She was elected in November, 2004. Her term expires in January, 2017.

Published: Thu, May 23, 2013

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