Tennessee Supreme Court Appoints Chancellor Anne C. Martin To Lead Business Court Pilot Project

The Tennessee Supreme Court today assigned Chancellor Anne C. Martin to hear cases for the Business Court Docket Pilot Project, which seeks to provide all Tennessee businesses and citizens a specialized forum to hear complex or unique questions of business law, effective November 1, 2019.

The Business Court Docket Pilot Project was originally established by Supreme Court order in 2015 and was extended in April and December 2017, with slight modifications. Since its founding, 136 cases have requested transfer to the specialized docket with litigants ranging from large, national companies to small businesses that meet the criteria set forth by Supreme Court Order. The specialized court docket has developed a body of corporate and commercial jurisprudence covering business topics ranging from contract interpretation to corporate e-discovery to business organization to trade secrets and more.  

“Chancellor Martin has more than 25 years of experience working in business law and is uniquely qualified to focus on this very complex and time-consuming business litigation in order to provide efficient and effective outcomes in these types of cases,” said Chief Justice Jeff Bivins.  “She has fully embraced her role as a judge and has quickly emerged as a leader in the judiciary. The Court is confident she is a perfect choice to continue to build the Business Court Docket.”

Prior to taking the bench, Chancellor Martin was a partner at Bone McAllester Norton PLLC in Nashville, and previously at Dodson, Parker & Behm, P.C. in Nashville, where she focused her practice on complex litigation and employment law. She was selected for The Best Lawyers in America in the field of labor and employment for more than ten years and as Lawyer of the Year, Management – Labor and Employment, Nashville and Lawyer of the Year, Individuals – Labor and Employment, Nashville. Chancellor Martin was also selected by Chambers USA in the field of labor and employment and was a Mid-South Super Lawyer, Top 50 Women Attorneys and Top 100 Tennessee Attorneys. The Nashville Business Journal also named Chancellor Martin as among the Best of the Bar for multiple years. Chancellor Martin earned her bachelor’s degree from Smith College and her law degree from Vanderbilt University.

“As a judge who practiced in the business law arena for a long time, I understand the need for Tennessee businesses to have disputes decided in a reliable and efficient manner,” Chancellor Martin said. “I am delighted to take on this project and am excited to dive in to the cases. I fully believe the Business Court Docket is having an impact on Tennessee businesses and is an important asset for our state.”

Chancellor Martin takes the reins of the Business Court Docket from Judge Joe Binkley and Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle.

“Chancellor Lyle and Judge Binkley have both done a remarkable job establishing and operating this historic and highly successful pilot project,” said Chief Justice Jeff Bivins.“The Court wishes to thank them, the Davidson County Chancery Court, the Clerk and Master’s Office, the entire 20th Judicial District, and all of those who worked to create an environment to assist commercial litigants and the bar in these matters.  Starting the Business Court Docket was no simple undertaking and the impact will be felt throughout the state for years to come.”

The Business Court Docket has become highly regarded in the Tennessee legal community. A federal judge recently dismissed a case in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, stating the Business Court Docket Pilot Project would be a better venue. In addition, Tennessee businesses have started including the Business Court Docket in contractual forum selection clauses. Before expanding the project statewide in 2017, the Supreme Court conducted a thorough survey with all prior litigants in the business court and found over 90 percent had a positive, productive experience.

“Tennessee businesses have benefitted from this pilot project,” said William H. Tate, acting chair of the Business Court Docket Advisory Commission. “We are providing more tools for economic development, streamlining our judiciary, and modernizing the courts to meet the needs of today’s complex business litigants.”

The Business Court Docket Advisory Commission is led by Tate, a founding member of Howard Tate Sowell Wilson Leathers & Johnson, PLLC in Nashville, and includes Celeste H. Herbert, Herbert, Meadows & Wall (Knoxville); Scott D. Carey, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC (Nashville); David A. Golden, formerly with Eastman Chemical Company, (Kingsport); William H. Tate, Howard Tate Sowell Wilson Leathers & Johnson, PLLC (Nashville); Tim L. Warnock, Riley Warnock & Jacobson PLC (Nashville); and Charles T. Tuggle, Jr., First Horizon National Corporation, (Memphis). Jef Feibelman, Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC (Memphis) recently rotated off the Commission, but is still actively involved.

Business Court Docket cases will begin to be assigned to Chancellor Martin on November 1, 2019. Cases transferred to the Business Court Docket prior to November 1, 2019 will remain as previously assigned. The Supreme Court, in its discretion, may designate other judges, including senior judges, to preside over particular cases or judicial settlement conferences. In addition, outside of Davidson County, the Supreme Court, at the request of a trial judge, may appoint a senior judge to hear an eligible Business Court Docket case in the venue in which it was originally filed. The parties may also request transfer of venue to the Davidson County Business Court Docket.

“This is a natural continuation of the highly successful Business Court Pilot Project,” said Deborah Taylor Tate, Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). “This pilot has proven there is clearly an ongoing demand for a specialized business court docket in the state.  The AOC will support Chancellor Martin and the Business Court Docket Advisory Commission in every way possible to ensure the Business Court Docket’s continued resounding success.”

The State Justice Institute recently awarded the AOC a Curriculum Adaption and Training Grant to work with the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) to develop and implement a training curriculum to assist other states in creating business court programs. Through the grant, seasoned business courts judges and administrators from eight states along with NCSC gathered in Nashville to create a curriculum and training materials that will be used nationwide.

Decisions, motions, criteria for transfer, and other legal documents from the pilot project will continue to be posted on the judiciary’s website.  The broader legal community, as well as the public, is invited to provide comments via email to business.court@tncourts.gov, as well as watch tncourts.gov for updates.