Posted On Nov 12, 2014
On Septem ber 7, 2007, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina signed an administrative order creating the Business Court Pilot Program in South Carolina. The signing of this order was not a laissez-faire undertaking; rather, it was the result of a well-reasoned recommendation by the South Carolina Bar’s Task Force on Courts.
Initially, the Business Court was to only last two years. However, in 2009, 2011, and most recently in 2014 the Chief Justice not only extended the Business Court Pilot Program, but made it applicable in all counties in the state of South Carolina. The process of getting into the Business Court is quite simple, in that after a lawsuit is filed, one of the parties may file a specific motion to transfer the case into the South Carolina Business Court.
The Business Court can hear a myriad of cases, including those relating to: The Business Corporations Act, Uniform Securities Act, Uniform Commercial Code, trade and commerce, and the Trade Secrets Act. Furthermore, the Chief Justice allowed additional cases to be heard on a case-by-case basis.
One of the interesting components of the Business Court is the Chief Justice’s insistence that all orders issued by judges be available online. This transparency has allowed practitioners to see the types of cases in the Business Court, which has included shareholder lawsuits, suits regarding asset purchase agreements, actions by homeowners’ associations, and even fraud and breach of fiduciary duty cases related to actions of corporate directors. Another interesting component is that in most lawsuits filed in South Carolina, there is not one judge assigned the case; put another way, through the life of a South Carolina lawsuit different judges will hear motions and the trial. However, in the Business Court, one judge is assigned the case the entire life of the lawsuit.
So what is the benefit of transferring a case to the South Carolina Business Court? First, the judges in the Business Court develop a high degree of specialization on business related matters, which benefits all parties involved by having judges more in-tune with the legal issues. Second, there is a significant benefit of having the consistency of one judge assigned the case. Both of these benefits result in a more rationalized ruling since the judge is exposed to such a high volume of business matters and understands the case more fully. Finally, business clients want business oriented people deciding their cases and the Business Court Program provides exactly that, keeping clients more engaged and positive throughout the litigation.
* The Charleston School of Law’s Resolved: Journal of Alternative Dispute Resolution, in early 2015 will publish a more in-depth analysis of the procedures and history of the South Carolina Business Court Pilot Program.