The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) developed an innovative training curriculum and faculty guide – along with practical tools – to help state courts establish and manage business court dockets more efficiently and effectively. The curriculum was developed as part of the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Business Court Docket Pilot Project.
That project was established in 2015 to address complex corporate and commercial cases in a specialized manner. In 2018, SJI awarded a grant to the Tennessee AOC and NCSC to develop and implement a training curriculum to help expand commercial dockets across the nation.
A wide variety of litigants have requested to transfer to the specialized docket ranging from large, multi-national companies, to small businesses, said Tennessee Administrative Director of the Courts Deborah Taylor Tate. The specialized court docket has handled business topics ranging from contract interpretation, to corporate e-discovery, to “business divorces,” to trade secrets and intellectual property.
“In addition to assisting the business and corporate sector by providing a specialized docket to address complex business disputes, it also helps cases involving citizens of our state by inserting efficiencies into the system and allowing more time for cases on other dockets,” said Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins.
One of the main goals of business court dockets is to provide businesses with more predictable answers and expedite the resolution of disputes, saving time and money for litigants as well as the court system. Feedback from litigant surveys has been overwhelmingly positive, with participants reporting a success rate of more than 90 percent.
Tate said the SJI grant allowed Tennessee – in cooperation with other business court judges – “to build on these successful strategies to create a blueprint for other states embarking on the creation of their own business court dockets…we hope this will become a regular way to share innovative ideas across state lines and across branches of government.”