Following up on a previous article about the procedural requirements for getting your case designated as a mandatory complex business case, and thus before the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Business Court, this week I discuss the Business Court’s many benefits.
One Case, One Judge
Generally, cases filed in North Carolina’s Civil Superior Courts fall under the general jurisdiction of the Superior Court in the county where the action is filed. Any pretrial motions, and eventually the trial of the case, will be heard by whichever judge happens to be on the calendar on the date of your motion or trial. There are normally several judges in each district and each may have their own methodology when dealing with pretrial and evidentiary issues. Often cases need to be addressed by a judge at several different times – for example, a motion to dismiss, a motion to compel the production of discovery responses, and a motion for summary judgment will normally be heard at three different times during the pendency of the case – and, quite often, your case will not be heard by the same judge each time. This can be inconvenient if you have to bring each judge “up to speed” before presenting the merits of your motion, and each judge could have a different opinion on the merits of your case, resulting in potentially conflicting rulings.
With the mandatory complex business case designation, your case is assigned to one judge and your case will stay with that one judge from inception to completion. There is less risk of conflicting rulings on pretrial motions and little need to bring your judge “up to speed” before each motion is heard. If your matter is eventually tried, your judge has a complete history of the case.
Written Opinions and Predictability
Business Court judges are required to draft written opinions when ruling on dispositive pretrial motions. Not only does this allow judges to refer to previous similar cases when ruling on legal issues, it also allows business litigation attorneys to know what to expect when bringing their actions and motions before the Court.
Dedicated Clerks and Coordinators
Each Business Court judge – currently there are three, but more maybe be added in the near future – has two dedicated clerks to assist in the management of each his cases. The clerks assist in addressing discovery issues, scheduling conferences with attorneys, and drafting the written opinions mentioned above – as well as the day-to-day tasks of the Court. The Court also has judicial assistants and a trial court coordinator to address the administrative and scheduling needs of each of the three judges. In comparison, an average Superior Court district has one trial court coordinator to schedule the entire Superior Court calendar for all of its cases and judges, and Superior Court judges are not afforded clerks to assist them with case management.
Each of the Business Court judges has a specialization in understanding and deciding complex business cases. The longer they sit on the bench, the more specialized they become. Superior Court judges, by comparison, are more generalized, deciding cases involving anything from criminal law to zoning ordinances and everything in between
Speed and Availability
Although each judge has a substantial caseload, the Business Court remains available on short notice to decide issues which require immediate resolution, including temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions. Most Superior Court districts require notice of a motion hearing weeks in advance.
Direct Appeal to NC Supreme Court
Any final judgment (or, in some instances, interlocutory orders) in a mandatory complex business case is directly appealable to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Cases will be reviewed by seven justices, rather than three Court of Appeals judges. This develops a consistent, reliable body of law on complex business issues.
While it is expensive to get your case into Business Court ($1,100, plus the Superior Court filing fee of $200), if you are successful in prosecuting your claim, you are entitled to recover your costs of court, including the Business Court designation fee and Superior Court filing fee.
Overall, the benefits of bringing a case in the Business Court substantially outweigh the burdens of getting it there. Often the specialized nature of the Court allows for cases to be decided on pretrial motions, rather than at trial, which can save a substantial sum of money in attorneys’ fees. Before moving forward with filing and action and seeking mandatory complex business case designation, consult an experienced business litigation attorney to consider your options and assess the strength of your case.