Lawrenceville – In 2014, Fulton County Superior Court Judge John Goger, who presides over the Fulton County Business Court, decided to see if the business court model, used successfully in Fulton County for over 10 years, could be expanded.
“I thought Fulton had a great model (for resolving business disputes), and the rest of the state ought to have a chance to see if they wanted to adopt the model,” said Goger, who believed that expansion in the Atlanta area would be a good place to start.
Right: Superior Court Judge Randy Rich
Shortly thereafter, leading business litigation lawyers, the State Bar of Georgia Board of Governors and metropolitan Atlanta judges began discussing the Metro Atlanta Business Court idea to see if a format could be agreed upon to present to the Georgia Supreme Court for approval. Clerks of Court and judges in these counties were consulted. Advertisements to the local bar were published for input.
On July 14, 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court voted to approve the expansion of the Business Court to include all metro Atlanta counties who opt in to the division. Gwinnett County is not only the first county to opt in, but it is also the only county in Georgia to include both State Court and Superior Court. The presiding judges for Gwinnett’s Business Case Division are State Court Judge Joseph Iannazzone, and Superior Court Judge Randy Rich. Judge Rich, who pioneered a Business Court Pilot Project in Gwinnett County in 2006, is excited about the expansion, saying, “For Gwinnett businesses, Business Court will assure the cases will move as efficiently as possible through the court system.”
“I am looking forward to Gwinnett's participation in the Metro Atlanta Business Court. I have found that early and active involvement in a case by the Court can significantly reduce the time it takes to bring the case to resolution, said Judge Iannazzone.
The Business Court has developed a reputation for promptly resolving disputes. Andy Childers, of Childers Schleuter & Smith LLC in Atlanta, said, “We filed about 130 cases that involved roll over injuries with the Yamaha Rhino off road vehicle. We felt that the cases would be best served by having one judge hear all of the cases, so the Business Court was a great solution.”
“The court allowed electronic filing, offered to have foreign witnesses testify live by video, and was readily available for hearings... after about a year of discovery, and only one trial, we ended up resolving all of the cases.”
David Monde of Jones Day, who successfully defended the Yamaha lawsuit, agreed that it was helpful and efficient to have a judge whose focus was on the Rhino cases. “To get that one case ready for trial was not easy, but the ultimate outcome vindicated our client .... with a result that helped avoid additional trials and several years of litigation that would have very likely continued,” said Monde.
The Metro Atlanta Business Court Division website is http://www.fultoncourt.org/business/.