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High court asked to give business courts another try

A proposal before the Wisconsin Supreme Court calls for the state to experiment with setting up specialized courts that would deal primarily with large-claim business and commercial cases.

The idea is coming from a committee set up by Chief Justice Pat Roggensack in the fall. The specialized courts would primarily handle disputes between business entities and not cases involving consumers, labor organizations, residential foreclosures or cases in which the government is a party.

Cases that fit certain qualifications would be required to go through the business court. Other disputes, though, could be handled in the business courts as long as the litigants were willing.

The committee behind the proposal includes judges and business lawyers among its members. It is now asking the Supreme Court to test out the proposed specialized courts in both Waukesha County and the Eighth Judicial District, which takes in Brown, Door, Kewaunee, Marinette, Oconto, Outagamie and Waupaca counties.

The two areas were chosen because they have a large number of sitting judges who have backgrounds in business law and because they are home to a good deal of commercial activity, according to a memoranda submitted with the petition. Waukesha County has 12 circuit court judges, and the Eighth Judicial District has 24 circuit court judges.

Two members of the committee hail from the two selected areas. Judge James Morrison, who is also chief judge of the 8th Judicial District, and Circuit Court Judge Michael Aprahamian have expressed willingness to play a leading role in setting the business courts up in their jurisdictions, according to the memo.

The committee is recommending that Roggensack select two judges in Waukesha County and five judges in the Eighth Judicial District and charge them with handling the business-courts docket. These judges would not be relieved of duties involving other dockets.

If the justices approve the business-court proposal, this would be the state’s second attempt at setting up courts that specialize in these sorts of disputes. Business courts were tested out in Milwaukee in 2008 but the experiment was discontinued the following year.

At that time, a case could not be moved into business court without the agreement of all the parties. The courts also barred motions for summary judgement, limiting pleadings and restricted discovery. The courts were discontinued because it they were not being used enough, according to the memo.

About Erika Strebel, [email protected]

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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