Supreme Court creates rule for appointing commercial court judges

As Indiana’s commercial court program expands, the Indiana Supreme Court is implementing new rules to govern the appointment of judges to the specialized dockets.

The high court on Wednesday issued an order creating Commercial Court Rule 7 for the appointment of judges. The rule gives the justices sole authority to appoint commercial court judges and lays out a process for filling vacancies or establishing a new commercial court docket.

Under the rule, applications for a commercial court judgeship are open to “Any Judge in the Administrative District where the open position occurs or is expected to occur or where a new Commercial Court is sought to be established … .” Those applications will be reviewed by the Commercial Court Committee or a designated subcommittee with input from the bench, bar and business community.

The committee within 45 days of the application deadline must recommend up to three applicants to the justices, who will select the commercial court judge from among those three.

“If no applicants are submitted to fill the open position or the Supreme Court is not satisfied with the applicant(s) recommended by the Committee, the Supreme Court may solicit additional applications or appoint the new Commercial Court Judge from: a county in the Administrative District where the open position occurs; or, an Administrative District adjacent to the Administrative District where the open position occurs, after further input from the Committee,” according to the order.

When a new judge is appointed, the docket of the outgoing commercial court judge must be transferred to the new judge “without assessing any fees that might otherwise apply. Unless agreed to by the parties, all proceedings will occur in the county where the Commercial Court was first established, notwithstanding that the new Judge may be from a different county.”

If the new judge is disqualified or seeks recusal, the parties can either agree to transfer their case to another commercial court docket in the state or seek the appointment of a special judge under Indiana Rule of Trial Procedure 79(D) and (H).

All justices concurred.

The order comes less than a month after the Supreme Court expanded the commercial courts to four additional counties, bringing the total to 10: Allen, Elkhart, Floyd, Hamilton, Lake, Madison, Marion, St. Joseph, Vanderburgh and Vigo counties.

A commercial court pilot project was launched in six counties in 2016 with an eye toward resolving business disputes with greater efficiency, accuracy and consistency. The pilot project became permanent in 2019.

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