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Bar News - June 6, 2008

In the Works: A Business Court in Superior Court

The Superior Court appointments that Gov. Lynch can make in the next few months are of particular interest to Chief Justice John Broderick as they are key to the launch of a business-only court, an initiative he has advocated for several years.

SB 378, pending signature by Gov. Lynch, would allow the superior court to designate a judge to specifically be assigned to hear cases involving businesses where the dispute involves more than $50,000. (Read the text of the bill). Broderick said 19 other states have instituted similar business courts.

Broderick is hoping that one of three vacancies on the Superior Court would be filled with the appointment of a judge who would preside over the business court. Broderick is encouraged that Gov. Lynch, a former business executive with a law degree, has been "very engaged in the legislation" to create the business docket.

Meanwhile, Broderick and Superior Court Chief Justice Robert Lynn have recently been traveling around the state to meet with chambers of commerce and business groups to promote use of the superior court as a dispute-resolution forum.

Broderick also is promoting to business leaders the greater emphasis on mediation in the courts, and is making them aware that the Office of Mediation & Arbitration within the Judicial Branch provides lists of qualified, experienced attorneys who are mediators. Both the OMA and the potential business-only court are designed to bring businesses back into using courts to resolve disputes. "Itís critical that the business community feel invested in the success or failure of the justice system in NH," said Broderick. "I have been talking about access to justice for poor people; we also are concerned about access to justice across the spectrum, and that includes the business community."

Broderick has noted that businesses have increasingly turned to private arbitrators and even private juries to settle their disputes quickly and quietly, and he wants to bring some of those cases back into the public arena.

In an interview for the Bar Journal in the Winter 2005 issue, Broderick had explained: "We should be able to demonstrate to the private sector that the state courts can handle their problems in a timely and cost effective way before they consider the private justice system. I think it is in the public interest that disputes that arise in our communities be resolved in a public forum with public input either through juries or less directly through judges. We need to be competitive in the sense of providing a meaningful alternative to private justice."

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