See you in (Business) Court: Georgia Gets New Statewide Specialty Court

Posted by Ashley M. Bowcott on

In November 2018, Georgia voters approved a constitutional amendment to establish a statewide business court. During Georgia’s 2019 Legislative Session, lawmakers were tasked with passing a bill to create that court. That goal was achieved on the last day of the legislative session: April 2, 2019.

Initially, the House and Senate introduced competing bills detailing their respective visions for the Georgia business court. After weeks of compromise, HB 239 finally passed both houses. Georgia now joins New Jersey, North Carolina, and South Carolina with its statewide business court. Currently, however, there are 23 states with a specialized business court of some type in at least one of their cities, counties, or regions. Business courts have become popular streamlining tools in high-traffic court systems, particularly in New York City and Chicago. Metropolitan Atlanta joined this trend and implemented business courts in Fulton County and Gwinnett County as early as 2005. Some highlights of HB 239 are as follows:

  • The statewide business court will either be located in Atlanta or Macon.
  • The business court has authority to hear claims involving the Uniform Commercial Code, the Georgia Uniform Securities Act, the Georgia Business Corporation Code, and other business disputes. The court also has supplemental jurisdiction over all pending claims related to those business claims.
  • The court can grant equitable relief, including injunctions.
  • The business court does not have jurisdiction to resolve certain federal and state claims, including residential landlord and tenant disputes, foreclosures, and individual consumer claims.
  • Qualifying cases may be transferred from state courts to the business court with the consent of the parties.
  • The cost to file or transfer a case to the business court is $3,000.00.
  • There will be one judge. That judge must have at least 15 years of legal experience as an attorney or judge in complex business litigation.
  • The judge will be appointed by the Governor and will serve for a term of five years.

Proponents of the statewide business court look forward to the efficiency and expertise the court will provide for business litigants. Opponents have voiced concerns over the fact that the judge is appointed by the Governor rather than elected. If the Governor signs HB 239, the statewide business court will begin taking cases on August 1, 2020. At that time, those involved in business disputes will have a new venue to consider in their litigation strategy.