By: Jeanelle Dawes | Staff Writer
In June 2015, the Supreme Court Civil Branch of New York County presented a program that highlighted the past and future of its Commercial Division (the “Division”). The program offered an overview of the Division’s beginning, recent rules and procedures introduced to address the Division’s increasing caseload, and an analysis of the Division’s future.
In its brochure, An Efficient and Cost-Effective Forum for the Resolution of Business Disputes, the Division’s formation and growth has been held as an example for commercial courts nationwide[i]. In 1995, the Civil Branch of New York Supreme Court created the Division after a successful experimental program, which involved four Commercial Parts designed to test whether specialized handling of commercial litigation would improve efficiency and quality of judicial treatment for commercial cases. The New York Supreme Court found that the business community and the general public were better served by removing commercial cases from the general docket. The creation of the Division allowed judges with experience and expertise in commercial law to preside over those cases, while also decreasing the caseload of other courts, thereby enabling them to dedicate more time to non-commercial cases. Since 1995, the Division expanded to include 29 Commercial Justices in 10 jurisdictions. The Division’s strong growth reflects the business community’s confidence in its efficiency and quality of work. The New York State Bar Association’s Commercial and Federal Litigation Section awarded the entire Division the Stanley H. Fuld Award, which confirmed the business community’s confidence in the Division.
Recently, the Chief Judge of New York State created a Task Force for Commercial Litigation (the “Task Force”) to build on and ensure the Division’s continued success as a desirable forum for business litigation. Additionally, the Chief Judge established the Commercial Division Advisory Council the (“Advisory Council”) to advise the Chief Judge of all matters regarding the Division. Since the creation of the Task Force and Advisory Council, the Division benefited from a series of reforms to streamline litigation, improve efficiency, enhance judicial expertise, and decrease litigation expenses. These reforms include earlier assignment of cases, limitations of depositions, interrogatories, and privilege logs, accelerated adjudication procedure and many more. Since these reforms, the Division established a national standard for judicial excellence and efficiency in the resolution of complex business disputes.
The Division’s noted success as a forum for resolution of complex commercial disputes has raised new challenges to its future. Due to its success, the Division experienced a significant increase in its judicial caseload, and the cases are more complex and take longer to resolve due to the unprecedented legal issues. Moreover, the Division suffered from the dramatic increases in motion practice. Over the last six years, motion practice in the Division increased by 85% across the State and by 84% in New York County. Although the Division’s Justices are working hard to avoid backlogs, the increas in motion practice makes it difficult to gain ground. Though the Division is faced with new challenges, it is looking to establish solutions to better manage its caseload and maintain its reputation as a leading forum of choice for business disputes.
The Division is committed to maintaining its standing and reputation in the legal business community. The Division implemented many improvements to better handle the litigation needs of the business community and maintain the quality of the courts. Looking to the future, the Division seeks to balance its need for judicial resources to keep growing and adapting to the challenges of a changing business world and increasing dockets. To meet these challenges successfully, the Division recognizes that it needs the support of the government, commercial bar, and business community.
[i] New York Supreme Court- Commercial Law Division, An Efficient and Cost-Effective Forum For the Resolution of Business Disputes (June 2015), https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/comdiv/whatsnew.shtml