Supreme Court launches Kentucky’s first court to meet needs of business community

Photo caption: Jefferson Circuit Judges Charles L. Cunningham Jr. and Angela McCormick Bisig will serve as the first Business Court judges in Kentucky when the Jefferson County Business Court Docket launches Jan. 1, 2020. Judge Cunningham emphasized that all employees will benefit from Business Courts and donned a hard hat and protective glasses to pay respect to the workers who keep America’s businesses running.

Louisville, Ky., Dec. 17, 2019 — Supreme Court of Kentucky justices joined Jefferson County judges and several members of the Business Court Docket Advisory Committee at a news conference today in Louisville to formally announce the start of Kentucky’s first Business Court Docket.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, Jefferson County will begin a pilot project with Circuit Judges Angela McCormick Bisig and Charles L. Cunningham serving as the inaugural Business Court Docket judges. The docket will provide specialized attention for complex commercial cases, improve court efficiency for all litigants and create a more attractive forum for doing business.

“Today Kentucky joins approximately 24 other states that have adopted a Business Court model,” Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. said. “Business Courts have grown in popularity as states have recognized the complex and specialized needs of business and commercial litigation. We already know from talking to business litigators that they – and especially their clients – are excited about the Business Court Docket and are appreciative of the Supreme Court’s efforts to focus on the unique needs of intra- and inter-company disputes.”

The Business Court Docket is an early success of the Supreme Court’s civil justice reform initiative, which is headed by Deputy Chief Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes, who serves the 4th Supreme Court District.

“Across the country, the constant concerns in the area of civil justice are the costs of litigation and the time it takes to see a case through to disposition, whether by trial, settlement or a final order from the court,” Deputy Chief Justice Hughes said. “Business Courts offer great promise to those involved in business and commercial litigation but they also are a boon to civil justice generally because they remove these often complex cases to a separate docket where they can get the time and attention they deserve, freeing up more time on the regular civil docket for all other types of civil litigation. So I want to emphasize today that we are not simply joining a nationwide trend, but we are taking positive first steps in redesigning civil justice in Kentucky.”

Taking a cue from other states with Business Courts, the Supreme Court created a Business Court Docket Advisory Committee, also chaired by Justice Hughes, that is comprised of business litigators from Jefferson and Fayette counties. As a result of its first meeting in August 2018, the committee recommended that the Supreme Court develop a Business Court pilot project in one or more jurisdictions. After evaluating data, it was determined that Jefferson County was the ideal jurisdiction for a pilot project based on the number of business case filings and interest among the circuit judges.

The committee developed eligibility criteria for the Business Court Docket and drafted a set of rules to guide everything from the assignment and transfer of cases to case management. The Supreme Court adopted the rules of practice in November 2019.

“The goal of the Business Court project is to make our court system more user friendly for all attorneys and all litigants, not just businesses,” said Janet J. Jakubowicz, a partner with Bingham Greenebaum Doll and a member of the Business Court Docket Advisory Committee.

Jakubowicz said the Business Court Rules were designed to make cases more user friendly for business litigants as well. “We will have in Business Court early case management, early scheduling, more use of telephonic conferences with the court, more email communications with the court and this will, too, help get our cases through the legal system more effectively. So this is an exciting time for the legal system in Jefferson Circuit Court.”

“We are the judges who will literally be in the trenches with you in Business Court,” said Judge Bisig, who along with Judge Cunningham will be the first Business Court Docket judges in Jefferson County. “We have every intention of having this program succeed.”

Judge Bisig added that the goal of Business Court is to have judges involved from the outset of the case, and that she and Judge Cunningham plan to seek regular feedback from the business community about how best to address their needs.

Judge Cunningham said that often it’s the employees, not the business leaders, whose lives are changed dramatically when business cases are not resolved efficiently. “So this is not about helping a handful of business leaders,” he said. “It’s about making sure the people who work for them in our broader community get served by the justice system.”

Online Resources
You can find Chief Justice Minton’s remarks here and information about the new Jefferson County Business Court Docket, including the rules of practice, Supreme Court order and legal forms, can be found here.

Those speaking at the news conference were:
  • Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr.
  • Deputy Chief Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes, Supreme Court of Kentucky
  • Janet P. Jakubowicz, Partner, Bingham Greenebaum Doll and Member, Business Court Docket Advisory Committee
  • Circuit Judge Angela McCormick Bisig, 30th Judicial Circuit, Division 10
  • Circuit Judge Charles L. Cunningham Jr., 30th Judicial Circuit, Division 4

Supreme Court of Kentucky
The Supreme Court is the state court of last resort and the final interpreter of Kentucky law. Seven justices sit on the Supreme Court and all seven justices rule on appeals that come before the court. The justices are elected from seven appellate districts and serve eight-year terms. A chief justice, chosen for a four-year term by fellow justices, is the administrative head of the state’s court system and is responsible for its operation. The Supreme Court may order a ruling or opinion to be “published,” which means that the ruling becomes the case law governing all similar cases in the future in Kentucky.

Photo captions:
Deputy Chief Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes of the 4th Supreme Court District chairs the Business Court Docket Advisory Committee, which was instrumental in developing rules of practice and legal forms for the Business Court Docket pilot project in Jefferson County.

Several members of the Business Court Docket Advisory Committee posed with members of the judiciary at a news conference Dec. 17 in Louisville. Front row (l to r): Thomas E. Rutledge, Stoll Keenon Ogden; Theresa A. Canaday, Frost Brown Todd; Mary Ross Terry, Dinsmore & Shohl; Janet P. Jakubowicz, Bingham Greenebaum Doll; Deputy Chief Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes; Elisabeth (Libby) S. Gray, Middleton Reutlinger; Kevin Smalley, chief of staff, Office of Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk; and Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. Back row (l to r): Katie Shepherd,  chief of staff and counsel, Office of the Chief Justice; Dustin E. Meek, Tachau Meek; Jefferson Circuit Judge Angela McCormick Bisig; Donald J. Kelly, Wyatt Tarrant & Combs; and Jefferson Circuit Judge Charles L. Cunningham Jr.

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