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Section calls for statewide business courts

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Jon PolenbergThe Business Law Section has passed another milestone in a proposal to create a statewide business court.

After a lengthy discussion, the section voted unanimously at the Winter Meeting in Orlando to approve the proposal, which is contained in proposed amendments to the Rules of Judicial Administration.

“Our next step is to get it in front of The Florida Bar Board of Governors, and get their input, if any, and get their authorization to pursue it,” said Jon Polenberg, co-chair of the section’s Business Courts Task Force.

The task force was formed in 2018 with an assignment to “evaluate the need for a statewide business court” and if the need is confirmed, “focus on identifying and securing appropriate resources, support and funding to implement such a system.”

The proposal would create a statewide business court in each of the five state district courts of appeal, and require 10 new judges.

A legislative component, including a funding request, will be submitted for consideration in the 2021 legislative session.

Much of the discussion at the meeting centered on the types of cases that would be assigned to the statewide business court.

The proposal calls for dividing cases into “mandatory” and “discretionary” sections, Polenberg said.

“The mandatory assignment section are cases that you would typically see in a court of chancery, derivative lawsuits involving entities, disputes involving duties under the entities, breaches of the contracts involving entities, typical corporate governance issues,” Polenberg said.

Gill FreemanRetired Eleventh Circuit Judge Gil Freeman, a former business court judge who served as task force co-chair, and other judges on the task force, recommended creating a “discretionary” section as well, “to make sure that the resources that are being committed to the business court are being used to their full extent,” Polenberg said.

While the proposal does not call for creating new court facilities, it includes a provision for jury trials — a component that was strongly endorsed by the Trial Lawyers Section, Polenberg said.

“That’s in there,” he said.

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