Indiana’s pilot commercial courts will become a permanent part of the Hoosier judiciary next month.
Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush on Thursday signed an order making the Commercial Courts Pilot Project permanent effective June 1, the same day the pilot was set to expire. The Supreme Court enacted the pilot program in 2016 as a way of expediting business and commercial litigation.
The Thursday order establishes six permanent commercial courts to be presided over by:
• Judge Craig Bobay, Allen Superior Civil Division
• Judge Stephen Bowers, Elkhart Superior 2
• Judge Richard D’Amour, Vanderburgh Superior
• Judge Maria Granger, Floyd Superior 3
• Judge John Sedia, Lake Superior
• Judge Heather Welch, Marion Superior Civil Division 1
Those six judges also presided over the pilot courts.
The order further makes permanent an Indiana Commercial Court Committee, which is comprised of the commercial court judges, litigators, transactional attorneys and in-house counsel representing businesses, other attorneys with commercial experience, a lawmaker, a Chamber of Commerce representative and a commercial law professor. The order says the commercial court judges determine the committee members, who are tasked with providing the commercial courts with guidance.
Finally, the order adopts the Interim Commercial Court Rules, with some amendments as recommended by the Commercial Courts Working Group.
Among the amendments is one to Rule 5, which now allows commercial court judges to appoint a special master at their discretion, rather than only if all parties agree. Special masters, according to the rule, have “special skills or training appropriate to perform the tasks that may be required,” such as serving as a financial expert.
Under the amended Rule 5, commercial court judges can appoint a special master without the consent of the parties if, among other things, “Appointment of a Commercial Court Master will materially assist the Court in resolving the case in a just and timely manner.”
The amended rules also now incorporate the commercial court discovery guidelines, which initially were not part of the interim rules. The guidelines are now listed under Commercial Court Rule 6, which calls for discovery to be “proportional to the needs of the case.”
The pilot judges and commercial litigators have said the three-year test period successfully met the commercial court goals of resolving business-related disputes in a fair and timely manner. Business leaders say the addition of commercial courts improves the Hoosier state’s judicial reputation, while judges and practitioners say they eventually would like to see the business courts expanded to other Indiana counties.