Interim commercial court rules released

The Indiana Supreme Court has issued an order outlining the interim rules applicable to the courts participating in the three-year Commercial Court Pilot Project, which begins this summer.
The Indiana Commercial Court Working Group, which will provide guidance throughout the project, recommended interim guidelines for the operation of the pilot, which were adopted Wednesday by the Supreme Court.

“The purpose of these rules is to (1) promote the efficient resolution of commercial disputes; (2) improve court efficiency for all court users; (3) employ and encourage early alternative dispute interventions; (4) enhance the accuracy, consistency, and predictability of judicial decisions in commercial cases; and (5) enhance economic development in Indiana by furthering the efficient resolution of commercial law disputes,” the order states.

The rules provide definitions of “business entity,” “commercial court,” and “rule,” and outline cases that can and cannot be assigned to commercial court. Cases eligible for the commercial court docket include any civil case on trade secrets or non-compete agreements; the formation or dissolution of a business entity; and disputes between or among two or more business entities or individuals as it relates to business activities. Cases that are not eligible for commercial court include personal injury or wrongful death matters; matters involving only wages or hours, occupational health or safety, workers’ compensation or unemployment compensation; discrimination; and individual residential real estate disputes.

The court rules are limited to cases filed after June 1. Any cases already pending as of this date cannot be transferred to the commercial court docket, even if all parties consent.

The rules also allow for the appointment of a commercial court master, which could be an attorney, senior judge or non-attorney with certain skills. The master’s powers and duties will be outlined in the appointment order made by the commercial court judge.

The pilot project, announced in January, will have six participating courts: Allen Superior Civil Division Judge Craig Bobay; Elkhart Superior 2 Judge Stephen Bowers; Vanderburgh Superior Judge Richard D’Amour; Floyd Superior 3 Judge Maria Granger; Lake Superior Judge John Sedia; and Marion Superior Civil Division 1 Judge Heather Welch.

Indiana joins more than 20 states with specialized commercial court dockets since the first such venues appeared in the 1993, according to the court. Chief Justice Loretta Rush first mentioned creating commercial courts in her 2015 State of the Judiciary address.

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