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Kentucky launches first Business Court Docket in Jefferson County

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Supreme Court of Kentucky justices joined Jefferson County judges and several members of the Business Court Docket Advisory Committee at a news conference Tuesday in Louisville to formally announce the start of Kentucky’s first Business Court Docket.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, Jefferson County will begin a pilot project with Circuit Judges Angela McCormick Bisig and Charles L. Cunningham serving as the inaugural Business Court Docket judges. The docket will provide specialized attention for complex commercial cases, improve court efficiency for all litigants and create a more attractive forum for doing business.

“Today Kentucky joins approximately 24 other states that have adopted a business court model,” Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. said. “Business courts have grown in popularity as states have recognized the complex and specialized needs of business and commercial litigation. We already know from talking to business litigators that they – and especially their clients – are excited about the Business Court Docket and are appreciative of the Supreme Court’s efforts to focus on the unique needs of intra- and inter-company disputes.”

The Business Court Docket is an early success of the Supreme Court’s civil justice reform initiative, which is headed by Deputy Chief Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes, who serves the 4th Supreme Court District.

“Across the country, the constant concerns in the area of civil justice are the costs of litigation and the time it takes to see a case through to disposition, whether by trial, settlement or a final order from the court,” Deputy Chief Justice Hughes said. “Business Courts offer great promise to those involved in business and commercial litigation but they also are a boon to civil justice generally because they remove these often complex cases to a separate docket where they can get the time and attention they deserve, freeing up more time on the regular civil docket for all other types of civil litigation. So I want to emphasize today that we are not simply joining a nationwide trend, but we are taking positive first steps in redesigning civil justice in Kentucky.”

Taking a cue from other states with business courts, the Supreme Court created a Business Court Docket Advisory Committee, also chaired by Justice Hughes, that is comprised of business litigators from Jefferson and Fayette counties. As a result of its first meeting in August 2018, the committee recommended that the Supreme Court develop a Business Court pilot project in one or more jurisdictions. After evaluating data, it was determined that Jefferson County was the ideal jurisdiction for a pilot project based on the number of business case filings and interest among the circuit judges.

The committee developed eligibility criteria for the Business Court Docket and drafted a set of rules to guide everything from the assignment and transfer of cases to case management. The Supreme Court adopted the rules of practice in November 2019.

“The goal of the Business Court project is to make our court system more user friendly for all attorneys and all litigants, not just businesses,” said Janet J. Jakubowicz, a partner with Bingham Greenebaum Doll and a member of the Business Court Docket Advisory Committee.

Jakubowicz said the business court rules were designed to make cases more user friendly for business litigants as well.

“We will have in business court early case management, early scheduling, more use of telephonic conferences with the court, more email communications with the court and this will, too, help get our cases through the legal system more effectively,” Jakubowicz said. “So this is an exciting time for the legal system in Jefferson Circuit Court.”

“We are the judges who will literally be in the trenches with you in Business Court,” said Bisig, who along with Cunningham will be the first Business Court Docket judges in Jefferson County. “We have every intention of having this program succeed.”

Bisig added that the goal of business court is to have judges involved from the outset of the case, and that she and Cunningham plan to seek regular feedback from the business community about how best to address their needs.

Cunningham said that often it’s the employees, not the business leaders, whose lives are changed dramatically when business cases are not resolved efficiently. “So this is not about helping a handful of business leaders,” he said. “It’s about making sure the people who work for them in our broader community get served by the justice system.”

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