'Business Court' judge assignments announced

Court dockets specializing in business disputes will soon be ready to operate, in the wake of Wednesday's Michigan Supreme Court's assignment of 18 judges to "business court."

Public Act 333 of 2012 requires circuit courts with three or more judges to have "business courts" for business and commercial cases where the amount at stake is over $25,000; circuit courts with fewer judges may choose to have a business court docket. Business court cases include those where all the parties are "business enterprises," as well as disputes between a business and individuals connected with it, such as employees, directors, owners, or shareholders. Some claims on behalf or against a nonprofit may also come before business courts, as can cases about corporate governance, finance, organization, and others.

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. said that business courts "complement Michigan judicial branch's three-part reform plan: Court performance, technology, efficiency - with the best possible service to the public as the goal."

The business court act calls for electronic filing of legal documents "whenever possible," as opposed to paper filings. PA 333 also encourages business courts to use telephone or video conferencing, and early use of alternative dispute resolution. Business courts' written opinions "shall be made available on an indexed website," the act provides.

Young said the stress on technology and prompt resolution of disputes "is very much in the spirit of the reform plan for Michigan courts. The focus, first and always, has to be on public service. That is what we mean by the slogan we've adopted for our court reform plan; 'Courts working smarter for a better Michigan.'"

The business court judges will serve terms expiring April 1, 2019. The business courts are scheduled to accept their first filings by July 1.

On the list of assigned business court judges:

* 3rd Circuit Court (Wayne), Judge Jeanne Stempien.

* 22nd Circuit Court (Washtenaw), Judge Archie C. Brown.

* 31st Circuit Court (St. Clair), Judge Daniel J. Kelly.

* 6th Circuit Court (Oakland), Judge James M. Alexander, Judge Wendy L. Potts.

* 38th Circuit Court (Monroe), Judge Michael W. LaBeau.

* 16th Circuit Court (Macomb), Judge John C. Foster.

* 7th Circuit Court (Genesee), Judge Judith Anne Fullerton.

* 4th Circuit Court (Jackson), Judge Richard N. LaFlamme.

* 9th Circuit Court (Kalamazoo), Judge J. Richardson Johnson.

* 14th Circuit Court (Muskegon), Judge Neil G. Mullally.

* 17th Circuit Court (Kent), Judge Christopher P. Yates.

* 20th Circuit Court (Ottawa), Judge Jon A. Van Allsburg.

* 30th Circuit Court (Ingham), Judge Joyce A. Draganchuk.

* 37th Circuit Court (Calhoun), Judge James C. Kingsley.

* Berrien County Trial Court, Judge John E. Dewane.

* 10th Circuit Court (Saginaw), Judge M. Randall Jurrens.

* 18th Circuit Court (Bay), Judge Kenneth W. Schmidt.

Published: Fri, Apr 5, 2013