On November 6, Georgians have the opportunity to improve our court system and our economy by voting YES on Amendment #2, which would establish a statewide business court in Georgia.
What is a business court and why is it important?
Business courts are specialized courts designed to efficiently provide resolution of commercial cases that, due to their complexity, can take time and resources away from other pending matters. These cases, in which millions of dollars are often on the line, typically involve multiple witnesses and thousands of pages of evidence that must be considered. The court would provide much needed relief to an already taxed judicial system while ensuring businesses located in or considering a move to Georgia have the ability for their matters to be resolved in a fair and timely manner, impacting their ability to grow and create jobs, or in some cases even remain open.
While the resolution of these cases is critical to the businesses involved, they often get relegated to the bottom of the docket in state or superior courts due to the constitutional obligation of the courts to first hear criminal, divorce and land cases. Consequently, businesses in some cases have waited for years for a decision, forcing many to file bankruptcy, or close, because they could not move forward with their business plan. As a result, both jobs and contributions to Georgia’s tax base are lost forever.
As important as timeliness is judicial expertise. Most jurists do not have extensive experience dealing with the specialized subject matter involved in complex commercial cases. Amendment #2 would permit the governor to appoint business court judges with the appropriate knowledge and experience to five-year terms with the confirmation of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. As a result, when a case is brought before the new business court, litigants on both sides will be heard by a judge familiar with the appropriate area of the law.
With a business court, all parties involved in a dispute will benefit from faster resolution of cases, resulting in lower litigation costs, enhanced predictability, less time in court and improved case management. Additionally, when these time-consuming cases are removed from the general docket, state and superior courts will be able to move their other cases more quickly. This has borne out in both Fulton and Gwinnett Counties, which currently have local business courts – and we believe that all Georgia counties would benefit from the same access, especially as we work to attract new economic development in every area of the state. In addition, as Georgia seeks to maintain its economic competitiveness, it is important to note that our neighbors in North Carolina and South Carolina both have statewide business courts that are working well. If we want to remain the top state for business and job growth we must continue to make ourselves even more attractive than our neighbors – which includes the creation of a court system that is efficient and responsive.
Amendment #2 would come at no cost to Georgia taxpayers. The business court would be a self-sustaining entity, funded entirely by the fees paid by a party who requests its case be moved to the business court. It would also permit trials to be held in the county where the case was originally filed.
Statistics from existing business courts show that the vast majority of cases are fully resolved in less than one year and most motions decided within 30 days. These time frames are approximately half as long as it takes similar cases to make their way through the state and superior courts. The statewide business court will ultimately make our government more efficient while better serving the needs of both citizens and employers across Georgia.
We encourage all voters to vote YES on Amendment #2 on the general election ballot this year.
Kade Cullefer is the Executive Director of Georgians for Lawsuit Reform (“GLR”). GLR is Georgia’s leading advocate focused on improving Georgia’s legal climate through political, legislative and judicial engagement.