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Iowa Supreme Court Establishes Business Specialty Court Pilot Project

This news story was published on December 31, 2012.
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Iowa Supreme Court

Iowa Supreme Court

Des Moines — The Iowa Supreme Court this month issued an order establishing a three-year pilot project for an Iowa Business Specialty Court for complex commercial cases with $200,000 or more in dispute. The primary impetus for the pilot project is to improve the overall efficiency and responsiveness of the Iowa court system.

“This pilot project results from the extensive work of the Iowa Civil Justice Reform Task Force and its efforts to make Iowa’s civil justice system faster, less complicated, more affordable, and better equipped to handle the disputes of all litigants in the Iowa court system,” Supreme Court Justice Daryl Hecht, the chair of the task force, said. “We hope that a focus on complex business cases, built into the existing judicial branch framework, ultimately will develop efficiencies to help other civil cases move through the court more quickly.”

To begin the project, Iowa judges will apply to serve as business court judges. The supreme court will then select three judges based on their educational background, judicial and trial practice experience in complex commercial cases, and personal interest. The court anticipates accepting eligible commercial cases, whether existing or newly filed, for the pilot program no later than May 1, 2013.

Participation is voluntary and all parties to the dispute must agree to opt in to the business court pilot program. The supreme court will establish a separately managed docket within Iowa’s unified court system for the business court that will leverage judicial expertise and litigants’ desire to tailor case management practices best suited for resolving substantial business disputes fairly and expeditiously. The pilot program is designed and will operate within the framework of the existing Iowa court system with minimal impact on the balance of court operations. It is not intended to be a separate court favoring business litigation over other court priorities. The business court pilot program is not expected to divert judicial branch resources from existing priorities.

Only cases in which compensatory damages totaling $200,000 or more are alleged, or claims seeking primarily injunctive or declaratory relief, will be eligible for assignment to the business court docket. In addition, to be eligible a case must satisfy one or more of the following criteria:
I. Arise from technology licensing agreements, including software and biotechnology licensing agreements, or any agreement involving the licensing of any intellectual property right, including patent rights.
II. Relate to the internal affairs of businesses (i.e., corporations, limited liability companies, general partnerships, limited liability partnerships, sole proprietorships, professional associations, real estate investment trusts, and joint ventures), including the rights or obligations between or among business participants, or the liability or indemnity of business participants, officers, directors, managers, trustees, or partners, among themselves or to the business.
III. Involve claims of breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, or statutory violations between businesses arising out of business transactions or relationships.
IV. Be a shareholder derivative or commercial class action.
V. Arise from commercial bank transactions.
VI. Relate to trade secrets, non-compete, non-solicitation, or confidentiality agreements.
VII. Involve commercial real property disputes other than residential landlord-tenant disputes and foreclosures.
VIII. Be a trade secrets, antitrust, or securities-related action.
IX. Involve business tort claims between or among two or more business entities or individuals as to their business or investment activities relating to contracts, transactions, or relationships between or among them.

The State Court Administrator will evaluate the pilot project annually to assess the program’s operation and recommend any necessary adjustments.

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