Tennessee Business Court Docket Pilot Project Awarded Grant to Create Nationwide Curriculum

The State Justice Institute (“SJI”) has awarded the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (“AOC”) a Curriculum Adaptation and Training Grant to work with the National Center for State Courts (“NCSC”) to develop and implement a training curriculum to assist in expanding business court dockets to other areas of the state and to assist other states in creating their own business court dockets.

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Business Court Docket Pilot Project is a specialized court docket that addresses only complex corporate and commercial matters.  Since its inception in 2015, the project has been highly successful in Nashville, handling more than 130 cases ranging from breach of contract to copyright infringement to e-discovery in business settings.  In December 2017, the Business Court Docket Advisory Commission—a group of respected attorneys from across the state—recommended that the Tennessee Supreme Court formally extend and expand the pilot project throughout the state. In response, the Court issued an Order that continues and expands the Davidson County Business Court docket by allowing cases to be heard outside of Davidson County.

“The Court fully supports the business court docket model,” Chief Justice Jeff Bivins said. “In addition to assisting businesses by providing a specialized docket to address complex business disputes, it also helps cases involving citizens of our state by speeding up other court dockets.”

In the nearly three years the Davidson County pilot project has been running, business litigants have welcomed the opportunity to transfer their cases to the business docket.

“Over 90 percent of litigants in the business court docket pilot project who were surveyed had a positive experience,” said Deborah Taylor Tate, director of the AOC. “With this grant, the NCSC will use our overwhelmingly successful pilot project to create a blueprint for other states embarking on the creation of their own business court dockets.  We are thankful that the SJI recognized this need for collaboration, and we hope this will become a regular way to share innovative ideas across state lines and across branches of government.”

The pilot project has supporters in the highest reaches of the public and private sectors.

“I have been a supporter of the Business Court Docket Pilot Project since its inception in 2015.  It has added to Tennessee’s business friendly environment, and it is crucial to our State’s continued success in attracting new businesses and jobs,” said Beth Harwell, Tennessee Speaker of the House of Representative, in support of the grant.

One of the main goals of business court dockets is to provide businesses with more predictable answers and to expedite the resolution of disputes.  Expansion of the business court docket to other areas in Tennessee needs to proceed with appropriate planning and rollout to ensure a level of uniformity that allows for the rational and predictable administrative of justice.

“We believe that with a SJI Curriculum and Training grant and the guidance of the NCSC, Tennessee’s Business Court Docket Pilot Project, as well as specialized business court docket programs in other jurisdictions, will be better equipped to continue to further the development of business court dockets across the country,” said Patricia Head Moskal, a partner in the Nashville office of the Bradley firm and chair of the Business Court Docket Advisory Commission.

 “As the Supreme Court and the Advisory Commission began to develop the rules and procedure for our pilot project, there was no definitive overview of the other states that have gone before us in implementing a business court.  We gathered information piecemeal from other states.  We hope this grant will allow other states to have a comprehensive roadmap already in place,” said Director Tate.

The SJI was established by federal law to award grants to improve the quality of justice in state courts.  It disperses federal and private funds to “foster innovative, efficient solutions to common issues faced by all courts,” according to the SJI.  

More information about the business court docket can be found at tncourts.gov/bizcourt.