On July 15, Governor Brian Kemp appointed Judge Walter W. Davis, an experienced commercial litigator, to serve as the first state-wide business court judge. Less than a month later, he was unanimously confirmed to serve as the first business court judge by the Georgia Senate and House of Representatives. This was one of the last major steps in making the Georgia State-wide Business Court a reality.
The business court was approved by Georgia voters in the November 2018 election and codified with bipartisan support in the 2019 legislative session. O.C.G.A. § 15-5A-1 et seq. Although opponents voiced concerns over the fact that the judge is appointed by the Governor rather than elected, proponents of the statewide business court, including the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, look forward to the efficiency and expertise the court will provide for business litigants.
The idea for a business court originated from an advisory council formed by former Governor Nathan Deal and was conceived with business litigants in mind. The expectation of the new business court is that complex business cases will be expedited by sending them to a dedicated court presided over by a judge with expertise in business law. Based on proponents’ estimations, the court will reduce companies’ legal expenses because the time spent in the legal system will be shorter.
The business court will have the authority to hear claims involving the Uniform Commercial Code, the Georgia Uniform Securities Act, the Georgia Business Corporation Code, Georgia Trade Securities Act, and other business disputes. The court also has supplemental jurisdiction over all related pending claims. However, the new court’s jurisdiction will be limited to claims greater than $500,000–except for commercial real estate, which will be limited to claims greater than $1 million. The cost to file a case in the business court is $3,000. For the same fee, qualifying cases may be transferred from state courts to the business court with the consent of the parties. However, this State-wide Business Court will not preclude a superior court from creating or continuing with an existing business court division for its circuit, which currently exists in Fulton and Gwinnett counties.
Judge Davis will be the only judge of the court. As such, he will be in charge of appointing all his staff and creating all the rules. Since his appointment, Davis has recruited eight lawyers to serve on an inaugural rules commission, which includes big firm business litigators, smaller firm partners, a law professor, and a judge. He is still working on assembling the court’s staff, including the court’s clerk, who will have to go through the same confirmation process as him.
The Georgia State-wide Business Court commences operations on January 1, 2020, and is scheduled to begin taking cases on August 1, 2020.