CHARLESTON -- North Carolina's business court has mandatory jurisdiction over certain types of cases: those involving a material issue related to the law of corporations, securities, antitrust law, state trademark, unfair competition, intellectual property as well as certain cases involving technology.
Other cases can be moved to business court through a Notice of Designation, including certain tax cases and disputes concerning the rates, terms, and conditions associated with the use of poles, ducts, and conduits of communication service providers.
There are no dollar limitations and no waiver of jury trial is required.
Consumer litigation is not allowed.
Both the Greensboro Business Court and the Raleigh Business Court are located in law schools. The third court is in a trial court building in Charlotte.
The business court utilizes electronic filing and case management systems.
"I spend the vast majority of my time with small business," said Ben F. Tennille, Chief Special Superior Court Judge for Complex Business Cases in North Carolina. "They create jobs and our economy relies on small businesses. These are the people who need our services more than anybody else.
"That's the highest service the business court in North Carolina has provided, to give the small business a place for their case to be heard quickly and get their case resolved," he said.
"We have had the high-profile cases, but they are few and far between," Tennille said.
Business courts are necessary because businesses and attorneys are becoming more specialized, access to electronic discovery information has expanded, and that has created a demand for judicial expertise, Tennille said. Providing that expertise and a faster litigation process makes it more cost-effective for a company to do business in a state.
Business courts also are a good way for a court system to experiment with new technologies, like electronic filing, the judge said. "We realized we could not do our job without technology. I can run my business court off my iPad, and I sometimes do."
Each state must design its own business court to suit its own needs, Tennille advised.
Those making the decisions should consider:
* Whether the business court should focus on issuing written opinions in every case that could provide legal guidance to litigants or focus more on moving a large number of cases through the court system.
* Whether the business court should emphasize alternative dispute resolution, which he recommended.
* Whether to start with a statewide business court or a pilot program.
* Whether to set a dollar limit on cases that would be heard by the business court, which he cautioned against.
* Whether to allow jury trials or only bench trials. He recommended jury trials.
* Whether to have electronic filing, which he recommended.