The Business Calendar: A Deeper Bench, 0418 RIBJ, RIBJ, 66 RI Bar J., No. 5, Pg. 13

Author:Harmony Conti Bodurtha, Esq. Orson and Brusini Ltd Providence Catherine A. Shaghalian, Esq. Orson and Brusini Ltd Providence
Position:Vol. 66 5 Pg. 13

The Business Calendar: A Deeper Bench

Vol. 66 No. 5 Pg. 13

Rhode Island Bar Journal

April, 2018

March, 2018

Harmony Conti Bodurtha, Esq. Orson and Brusini Ltd Providence

Catherine A. Shaghalian, Esq. Orson and Brusini Ltd Providence


For the past sixteen years, Rhode Island has provided a dedicated forum for businesses to litigate their commercial disputes—the Superior Court Business Calendar. Businesses are drawn to states whose courts understand and deftly handle the complexity of business litigation.1 There are currently twenty-seven states in this country with a business court,[2] and at least a handful more in which the establishment of business courts is under consideration. The State is following the judiciary's lead in creating a more business-friendly environment3 and it is only natural that the Business Calendar is expanding to meet the growing litigation needs of Rhode Island businesses.

The latest shift in the Business Calendar lineup occurred on September 3, 2017.4 Justice Michael A. Silverstein continues, as he has since 2001, to expertly handle matters on the Business Calendar in Providence County. Justice Brian P. Stern moves from the Out-County Business Calendar to assist on the Business and Trial Calendars in Providence County. And, Justice Richard A. Licht moves from assisting in Providence County to run the Out-County Business Calendar. The rapid growth from one to three Superior Court Justices on the Business Calendar reflects how well this calendar has addressed the litigation needs of the Rhode Island business community tripling in size in just sixteen years. It also reflects a growing national trend in favor of establishing business calendars and business courts.

History of Business Courts

Perhaps the most well-known business court in the United States is the Delaware Court of Chancery. The Court of Chancery has a well-developed body of case law and seasoned judges that quickly adjudicate complicated cases. Attorneys and judges in jurisdictions around the country often look to Delaware for guidance. But, the history of business courts has its origins in the Courts of Equity found in England.

The existence of business courts reaches as far back as the King's Chapel in feudal England.5 The early goal was to provide judicial relief for disputes where the law did not offer it.6 This same flexible approach to business disputes has survived and is alive and well today in Rhode Island.

The Establishment of the Business Calendar in Rhode Island

While its origins do not reach back quite as far as England or Delaware, Rhode Island was an early adopter of a business court for commercial disputes. On April 17, 2001, Presiding Justice Joseph F. Rodgers, Jr. (Ret.), recognizing a distinct need in Rhode Island, established the Business Calendar for the Counties of Providence and Bristol.7 Justice Michael A. Silverstein was appointed to commence operations on Monday, June 4, 2001. The intent was clearly stated: "to process matters on the Business Calendar in as expeditious a manner as possible."8 One need only look to the history that follows to know that this goal is being met.

So much so that in 2011, Presiding Justice Alice B. Gibney established a Statewide Business Calendar for all of the counties in Rhode Island.9 And, with the addition of the remaining counties in Rhode Island, the Business Calendar gained a second Superior Court Justice, Brian P. Stern. But, it did not stop there.

Now, a third Justice of the Superior Court, Justice Richard A. Licht, has been assigned to the Out-County Business Calendar. Justice Licht has been assisting Justice Silverstein for the past two years in Providence County. This frees up Justice Stern to assist Justice Silverstein on the Business Calendar in Providence County.

Why choose assignment to the Business Calendar?

As the Business Calendar has grown...

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