Maricopa County Introduces New Venue For Resolving Business Disputes
May 20, 2015
Written By: Christopher J. Charles, Esq.
Founder/Managing Partner, Provident Law, PLLC
With special guest writer Andy G. Anderson
Prudent business owners value predictable costs and minimal disruption to business operations. Legal disputes often conflict with those goals.
Currently, business disputes are assigned to judges with general civil litigation dockets, housing matters that range from motor vehicle accidents to complex antitrust claims. The civil rules treat many of these vastly different matters alike. And the randomly appointed judge may more well-versed at divorce proceedings rather than derivative actions. The net result for the litigant is added months or years in court and greater cost.
To address this issue, the Superior Court of Maricopa County is embarking on a three-year Commercial Court pilot program, beginning on July 1, 2015. This pilot will test the hypothesis that a court dedicated only to business disputes: (a) process cases more efficiently; (b) reduce the cost of resolving business disputes; and (c) provide access to judges with business acumen.
What Cases Are Permitted in Commercial Court?
In a commercial case, at least one plaintiff and one defendant are business organizations — or the case concerns a business organization, contract, or transaction.
Further, certain cases will qualify, regardless of the amount in controversy. For example, cases concerning the internal affairs, governance, dissolution, receivership, or liquidation of a business organization — or those concerning trade secrets or misappropriation of intellectual property, or arises from an agreement not to solicit, compete, or disclose — are properly brought in commercial court.
Additionally, the Commercial Court will hear other categories of cases, when the amount in controversy is at least $50,000, including: claims in connection with the sale of services by, or to, a business organization — or claims concerning a surety bond, or arising under any type of commercial insurance policy purchased by a business organization, including an action involving coverage, bad faith, or a third-party indemnity claim against an insurer.
A complete list can be found in the new Rule 8.1(b) and (c), ARIZONA RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE.
What Cases Are Excluded from Commercial Court?
The Commercial Court is not the proper venue for “consumer contracts or transactions,” defined as those primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. Moreover, the Commercial Court will not hear motor vehicle or personal injury torts or employees’ claims for wrongful termination, among others enumerated in Rule 8.1(d).
Who Are the Commercial Court Judges?
The lynchpin to the Commercial Court is the experience and knowledge of judges assigned to its bench. The three judges named to the new program for the pilot period are Judges Dawn Bergin, Roger Brodman and Christopher Whitten.
Judge Dawn Bergin has served on the bench of the Maricopa County Superior Court since 2007 and previously was a partner at Lewis and Roca, LLP. Judge Roger Brodman has also served on the bench since 2007 and founded the firms Holden Brodman PLC and Brockelman & Brodman after he practiced with Gallagher & Kennedy and Latham & Watkins. Judge Christopher Whitten is the current Presiding Tax Court Judge for Maricopa County Superior Court. He moved to the bench in 2006, after his private practice with Whitten Berry, P.L.L.C. and Holloway, Odegard & Sweeney.
What Can We Expect?
If the Commercial Court Pilot succeeds and is permanently implemented, it will be a main ingredient in Arizona’s ever-improving business environment. Judges with excellent business law experience will preside over cases that demand their skill-set. Better judicial opinions will be written, leading to greater certainty on new or novel issues. Overall, our body of corporate and commercial law will grow.
Business owners and attorneys should follow the news on the Commercial Court Pilot and consider requesting this venue for resolving any business dispute. The Arizona Supreme Court will monitor the Commercial Court Pilot through the end of 2018, receiving data on cases assigned to the court, the level of litigant satisfaction, and the views of judges and attorneys.
Call Mr. Anderson or Mr. Charles today if you or someone you know has questions about a business or real estate dispute.
Andy Anderson is an attorney with the law firm Provident Law, PLLC. He serves businesses and individuals, counseling them as they form, operate, and protect their companies. He is a graduate of the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona and the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. He is on the Board of Directors of the Christian Legal Society and serves on a subcommittee of the State Bar of Arizona tasked with revising the Arizona Limited Liability Company Act. Andy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-388-3343.
Christopher J. Charles is the founder and Managing Partner of Provident Law, PLLC. He is a State Bar Certified Real Estate Specialist and a former “Broker Hotline Attorney” for the Arizona Association of REALTORS® (the “AAR”). He is also an Arbitrator and Mediator for the AAR regarding real estate disputes; and he serves on the State Bar of Arizona’s Civil Jury Instructions Committee where he helped draft the Agency Instructions and the Residential Landlord/Tenant Eviction Jury Instructions. Christopher is a licensed real estate instructor and he teaches continuing education classes at the Arizona School of Real Estate and Business. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 480-388-3348.