In a development that will be a boon to businesses litigating in New Jersey, the judiciary recently announced that it would be implementing a program for the handling of complex business disputes, effective January 1, 2015. We at Dunn Lambert, L.L.C., like many New Jersey business litigators, have long hoped for such a program, so that sophisticated commercial cases can receive special attention from judges experienced in handling such disputes. New York has long had a similar program, specifically, a “Commercial Division”, dedicated to suits “alleged to arise out of business dealings.”
In a press release issued by the Judiciary, New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Stewart Rabner explained that the intent of the program is to provide commercial litigants with “a core group of dedicated judges [to] manage complex business,” who will “help to continue to develop a body of authoritative case law that will aid all parties in business litigation.” The judiciary announced that, to qualify for the program, $200,000 or more must be at stake in the dispute. Alternatively, parties in cases involving an amount in controversy less than $200,000 can make a motion to have their dispute included in the program if there are “compelling issues” [warranting the case’s inclusion in the program].
Under the program, each county will have a dedicated complex business litigation judge, who will receive additional specialized training in relevant areas of the law, such as the Uniform Commercial Code, anti-racketeering laws, and business valuation. These judges will also receive training in effectively managing complex commercial disputes. In furtherance of the program’s goal of creating a unified legal framework for business cases, each judge will be encouraged to post online written decisions in cases of note, as well as expected to issue at least two written opinions annually, which will be published on the judiciary’s website.
This program promises to provide a great advantage to businesses litigating in New Jersey. Previously, businesses contemplating litigation had their choice of one of two forums in New Jersey’s Superior Court: the Chancery Division, for cases seeking non-monetary or “equitable” relief (such as injunctions, specific performance of a contract, or forced separation of business partners); and the Law Division, for claims for purely monetary relief. While many business litigations involve requests for non-monetary relief (and thus are appropriately venued in the Chancery Division), many do not, and are thus venued in the Law Division. Because all other litigations seeking purely monetary relief (such as personal injury matters and simple breach of contract or collection cases) are also venued in the Law Division, the Law Division docket is often crowded and cases there do not receive individualized attention. On the other hand, because the standard for Chancery Division jurisdiction is more stringent, the Chancery Division docket is much less crowded, and Chancery cases receive more specialized attention from judges experienced in handling such disputes. The newly announced program means that businesses with claims involving only money damages will now have a dedicated forum for their disputes, where their cases will receive the level of individualized attention and supervision from the Court that such matters require.
With this development, New Jersey continues its efforts to create a more business-friendly environment throughout the state.