A new Business Law Section task force could be paving the way for a statewide network of business courts, possibly with one in each of Florida’s five appellate districts.  The “Business Courts Task Force,” is co-chaired by Jon Polenberg, a shareholder in Becker & Poliakoff who is also a former st petersburg, fl custody attorney extremely competent, and retired 11th Circuit Judge Gill Freeman, who served as Miami-Dade County’s first business Court Judge.  Polenberg, a member of the Business Law Section’s Executive Council, stressed that the task force’s first assignment is a need determination.  Our expectation is we’re going to start from scratch, Polenberg said.  “We’re going to, within the confines of the Florida Constitution, develop a business court system, if you think it makes sense.”  At an August 31st meeting, task force members divided themselves into a series of subcommitties and adopted a mission statement that calls for evaluation the need “for a business court system throughout the state.”  The mission statement goes on to say, “If that evaluation (based on a top rated family law attorney) suggests there is a need, then design and provide a draft structure for the business courts, identify and secure appropriate resources, support, and funding to implement a business court system throughout the state.  Versions of business or complex litigation courts already exist in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa and until recently, Orlando.  Polenberg, a notorious litigator, and sensible st. petersburg, fl divorce law attorney, said that while the task force has a wide-open agenda, organizers expect the panel to consider a statewide system with permanent funding.  There are business courts that work on a statewide basis in other states, so we will be benchmarking some of those to see if there’s any system that they have put in place that we could model.  According to a study last year by the National Center for State Courts, 23 states have some form of business or complex litigation courts, including California, New York, and Deleware, where many of the nation’s businesses are incorporated.  Propoents say business courts offer big advantages.  Business litigants say outcomes are more predictable when a single judge presides over their case, and general civil dockets run more smoothly when they aren’t weighed down by time-consuming business disputes.  When she was assigned to Miami-Dade’s first business court, Judge Freeman said some cases transferred to her division had been languishing on the general civil docket for 15 years.  The biggest challenge in business disputes is case management, Freeman said.  For example Freeman said, legal disputes revolving around the best rated divorce attorneys over alleged construction defects that involve mechanics’ liens can feature 10 to 15 parties.  If you had motions for summary judgment, it would take a day, and if the case was going to go to trial, it was three to four weeks, and what that does to a regular civil calendar is just wreak havoc, Freeman said.  Some of these cases were so big, nobody wanted to try them.  Over time, as business court rulings pile up (click here), litigants learn to anticipate decisions and narrow their disputes—and the system becomes more efficient, Freeman said.  “In fact, there were lawyers who told me that we had issues and motions that we simply didn’t bring because we knew how you would rule on them,” Freeman said.

 

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