After a successful test run elsewhere in Indiana, Hamilton County has added a commercial court to handle certain business-related cases more efficiently and predictably for all involved.
Hamilton County’s commercial court launched Jan. 1. All commercial court cases filed in the county are handled by Superior Court 2 Judge Jonathan Brown, who specialized in business litigation before taking the bench in 2017.
“The goal is to have predictable resolutions for business disputes,” Brown said. “From a business person’s perspective, they want to know how their litigation is going to turn out, and they don’t want to spend a whole lot of time getting there.”
Commercial courts streamline the litigation process by following a template outlined by the Indiana Supreme Court, such as scheduling a case management conference soon after a case is filed, issuing orders to protect confidential business information and listing commercial court orders in a searchable database. Only certain types of cases are eligible, and plaintiffs and defendants must agree to handling the matter in commercial court for it to be heard there.
Eric Schmadeke, an attorney with Densborn Blachly, litigated several cases in commercial court during the state’s initial rollout beginning in 2017 and advocated for it to expand to Hamilton County.
He said many of his clients prefer commercial court because the structured process leads to cost savings and quicker resolution.
“It makes your worst days in business a little less bad. If a client ends up in a lawsuit, the business and its lawyers want to be in front of a judicial officer who is familiar with the realities of modern commercial operations,” Schmadeke said. “Judges are people, too, and like all of us, there is a certain amount of expertise you get with repetition. This allows businesses in Hamilton County to have a forum where there’s going to be a judge that has a deeper understanding of the issues particular to commercial litigation.”
Brown, whose caseload consists mostly of matters outside of commercial court, said he expects the program to continue expanding across the state. Other counties that have recently launched commercial courts are Madison, St. Joseph and Vigo. The first commercial courts in Indiana were established in Allen, Elkhart, Vanderburgh, Floyd, Lake and Marion counties.
What’s eligible for commercial court?
Only certain types of cases may be considered for Indiana’s commercial court system. Acceptable cases include those related to:
- The formation, governance or dissolution of a business
- Disputes regarding rights or obligations between or among owners, shareholders, etc.
- Trade secrets/confidential information
- Franchise or dealer relationships
- Unfair trade practices
- False advertising
Cases not eligible for commercial court include:
- Consumer claims
- Most environmental claims
- Personal injury
- Most employment law
- Federal or state law-based discrimination
- Criminal cases
- Eminent domain