Indiana will become the 23rd state to adopt commercial courts through a three-year pilot program that will allow most business-related court cases to be fast-tracked through the legal system.
The Indiana Commercial Court Pilot Program is set to launch Wednesday after efforts to establish it started about three years ago at the request of the state's Supreme Court.
A group of lawyers met regularly to craft the rules for Indiana, reviewing other states' guidelines for their commercial courts, and heavily relying on Michigan's throughout the process.
Allen Superior Judge Craig Bobay is one of the six judges who have agreed to preside over the special courts. He told The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette that the pilot program will let businesses more efficiently and predictably resolve disputes, thus saving them time and money.
"It doesn't mean lawyers will be running out of business," Bobay said.
The commercial courts will be able to handle lawsuits involving trade secrets, contracts, non-compete agreements, sales transactions, antitrust law and franchise relationships. They won't be able to handle personal injury claims, eminent domain cases, routine debt collection, lemon law cases, federal law- or state law-based discrimination cases, most environmental cases and most employment law cases. The interim commercial court rules are available online.
Bobay said cases won't be channeled through a commercial court unless the participants want them there, with every party in the lawsuit in agreement, or the case will travel the conventional court route.
"We don't want this to be a trap," he said. "We only want people in the program who are interested in the program."
Bobay said the commercial courts will allow the legal system to work more efficiently because complex cases will be taken away from judges who don't want to deal with them.
Bobay said the judges overseeing the commercial courts will be able to develop a greater expertise in the intricacies of business, patent law and various relatively arcane rules. He said well-informed judges likely will render predictable decisions when deciding similar cases
In addition to Bobay's court, the other participating courts are 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.