Judges discuss Michigan's business court system

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By Melanie Deeds
Legal News

Macomb County Circuit Court Chief Judge John C. Foster, who also presides over the county’s business court, is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion on Thursday, Sept. 5 in Detroit regarding the new Michigan business court system.

Organizers said the free event, aimed at lawyers and business owners, will be held from 5:50-8:30 p.m. at the University of Detroit Law School Atrium, located at 651 E. Jefferson.
It is co-sponsored by the Incorporated Society of Irish American Lawyers and UDM.

Besides Foster, the panel will include other business court judges named by the Michigan Supreme Court in their respective counties: Judge Archie Brown from Washtenaw Country, Judge Michael LeBeau from Monroe County and Judges Daniel Ryan, Jeanne Stempien and Brian Sullivan from Wayne County.

Ryan will serve as moderator.

“Business courts are intended to provide a case management structure that facilitates more timely, effective and predictable resolution of complex business cases,” Ryan said. “Specialized dockets improve the efficiency of the courts, which benefits all litigants.”

Macomb County had been operating a business court docket under a pilot program since late 2011, and Foster was supervising that initiative before his appointment by the high court in April.

Public Act 333, which took effect late last year, required circuit courts with three or more judges to create a specialized business court docket.

According to the law, any case that has a business or commercial dispute as defined in the act, whether in the initial pleading or added later, must be placed on the business docket,
even if the case also contains non-business claims.

Courts with less than three circuit judges may, but are not required to, have a business court.

David O’Conner, president of the Michigan Irish American Chamber of Commerce, said the presentation “is important for both business and attorneys to attend to understand the new business courts and how they work.”

The deadline for registration is Sept. 3.

To register or for more information, call 231.590.0003 or visit www.michiganirishchamber.com.

In announcing the new judicial appointments earlier this year, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr., said the 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. At the same time, it 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,” he said. “That is what we mean by the slogan we’ve adopted for our court reform plan; ‘Courts working smarter for a better Michigan.’” 

According to the law establishing the new court system, the following types of disputes will be heard:

• An action in which all of the parties are business enterprises.

• An action in which one or more of the parties is a business enterprise and the other parties are its or their present or former owners, managers, shareholders, members, directors, officers, agents, employees, suppliers, or competitors, and the claims arise out of those relationships.

• An action in which one of the parties is a nonprofit organization, and the claims arise out of that party’s organizational structure, governance, or finances.

• An action involving the sale, merger, purchase, combination, dissolution, liquidation, organizational structure, governance, or finances of a business enterprise.

• Business or commercial disputes include, but are not limited to, the following types of actions:

• Those involving information technology, software, or website development, maintenance, or hosting.

• Those involving the internal organization of business entities and the rights or obligations of shareholders, partners, members, owners, officers, directors, or managers.

• Those arising out of contractual agreements or other business dealings, including licensing, trade secret, intellectual property, antitrust, securities, non-compete, non-solicitation, and
confidentiality agreements if all available administrative remedies are completely exhausted, including, but not limited to, alternative dispute resolution processes prescribed in the
agreements.

• Those arising out of commercial transactions, including commercial bank transactions.

• Those arising out of business or commercial insurance policies.

• Those involving commercial real property.

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