South Carolina Lawyer
SC Lawyer, January 2010, #3.
Getting Down to Business: The Successes of the S.C. Business Court Pilot Program
South Carolina LawyerJanuary 2010Getting Down to Business: The Successes of the S.C. Business Court Pilot ProgramBy Pamela J. Roberts, Cory E. Manning and Carmen Harper ThomasThe S.C. Business Court Pilot Program, which began on October 1, 2007, was renewed for an additional two years by order of Chief Justice Jean H. Toal on October 13, 2009. An evaluation of the pilot program showed that lawyers overall had positive experiences with the program and support its continuation. This article describes the results of the evaluation undertaken during the summer of 2009, which recommended renewal of the program and provided suggestions for how the program can accomplish its primary purpose of creating an efficient forum to resolve complex business disputes.
Introduction to the program
More than two years ago, the South Carolina Bar's Task Force on Courts (the "task force") analyzed business courts across the country and identified a structure suited to the needs of business litigants in South Carolina. The task force determined that South Carolina needed a forum to hear business disputes based on several factors: (1) business relationships are complex; (2) the body of law governing many business disputes depends on interpretation of complex statutes; and (3) such specialized courts can promote predictability in resolving disputes, which would contribute to efficient business operations and a more competitive business community.
In its research, the task force recognized the following best practices for a business court: (1) assignment of a matter to a single judge for the life of the matter; (2) development of a body of case law through written opinions; (3) management of a business court program by a single gatekeeper; and (4) the use of technology in resolving disputes. The task force's report and recommendations, which included these best practices, were adopted by a vote of the South Carolina Bar House of Delegates on May 31, 2007. On September 7, 2007, Chief Justice Toal issued the administrative order creating the Business Court Pilot Program, Order 2007-09-07-01.
Description of program
According to the order, business court assignment is available for certain civil cases filed and subject to jurisdiction and venue in Charleston, Greenville and Richland counties, or properly transferred to one of those counties pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 15-7-100. No minimum amount in controversy is required.
Judges. Three circuit court judges were assigned to preside over the business court in addition to their other judicial duties: Hon. Roger M. Young, Charleston County; Hon. Edward W. Miller, Greenville County; and Hon. J. Michelle Childs, Richland County.
Jurisdictional parameters. As stated in the order, a case is appropriate for business court if the principal claim or claims are made under one of the following statutes:
Title 33-South Carolina Business Corporations Act Title 35-South Carolina Uniform Securities Act Title 36, Chapter 8-South Carolina Uniform Commercial Code: Investment Securities Title 39, Chapter 3-Trade and Commerce: Trusts, Monopolies and Restraints of Trade Title 39, Chapter 8-Trade and Commerce: The South Carolina Trade Secrets Act Title 39, Chapter 15-Trade and Commerce: Labels and Trademarks Such other cases as the Chief Justice may determine.
A party must move for assignment of a case to the business court no later than 180 days after the commencement of the action using the form approved by the S.C. Supreme Court. The moving party must attach a complete description of the claims and the basis for business court assignment...