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Justices won’t hear commercial court constitutionality challenge

April 16, 2018

The Indiana Supreme Court on Friday rejected an appeal that challenged the constitutionality of the state’s commercial court dockets.

The petition to transfer on the constitutional challenge was denied in Craig Vickery v. Ardagh Glass Inc., 49A02-1702-PL-330. Vickery argued, among other things, that the commercial courts were established by Supreme Court order in violation of Article 7 of the Indiana Constitution’s requirement that the legislature create new courts.

The Supreme Court in February released a report at the midway point of the three-year commercial court pilot project, which established specialized dockets in six Indiana counties around the state. At that time, the report said 215 cases had been filed in the first 18 months of the program, with 85 now classified as closed and 130 as open. Most of these cases were for breach of contract. Of those, more than half — 128 — were filed in the Marion Superior Commercial Court. There were 44 cases filed in the Allen County docket, 24 in Lake County, and 10 or fewer each in commercial courts in Vanderburgh, Elkhart and Floyd counties.

Two appellate opinions had been issued in Commercial Court cases when the February report was released. The dockets were created as an effort to expedite complex business cases, and streamline rules and procedures in venues with expertise in business matters.

But Vickery claimed the commercial court process denied him fundamental rights in litigation over enforcement of a noncompete agreement that prevented him from taking a job at another glass manufacturer.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled against Vickery in October and rejected the constitutional challenge. While the commercial court in Vickery’s case failed to provide him sufficient notice he was being sued by his former employer seeking to enforce a noncompete agreement, the COA found Vickery had waived his argument and affirmed a resulting injunction barring him from a new job at a competing company.

Justices granted two of 25 transfer petitions reviewed last week. Supreme Court transfer petition decisions may be viewed here.

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