Business Court Docket Pilot Project Continues to Expand, Designating Alternate Judge, Adding Three New Commission Members

The Tennessee Business Court Docket Pilot Project continues to expand and break new ground, providing an invaluable resource to Tennessee’s business community. Today, the Tennessee Supreme Court designated Chancellor Patricia Head Moskal as an alternate judge for the Business Court Docket Pilot Project, currently handled by Chancellor Anne C. Martin.  Chancellor Moskal has extensive first-hand knowledge of the business court pilot project, having chaired the statewide Business Court Docket Advisory Commission (BCDAC), which studies the future of the docket and how it can be expanded to better serve the business and legal communities across the state. Before taking the bench, Chancellor Moskal had over 30 years of private practice experience, much of it focused on complex business cases.

“I fully support the mission of the Business Court Docket Pilot Project and I am honored to join the team,” Chancellor Moskal said. “This is a great tool for Tennessee businesses, who need efficient and predictable resolutions to complex conflicts.”

The Business Court Docket Pilot was originally established by Supreme Court order in 2015.  Since its founding, over 150 cases have requested transfer to the specialized docket, with litigants ranging from large national companies to small businesses.  The pilot project has developed a body of corporate and commercial jurisprudence covering business topics ranging from shareholder derivative suits to business dissolutions to trade secrets to intellectual property disputes. Litigants included professional teams, high tech, healthcare, and music industry leaders.

“Even in the covid pandemic, these streamlined processes and use of remote technology will assist Tennessee businesses in resolving disputes efficiently and allowing employers to get back to business, not only for their employees, but also for our entire state’s economy,” stated Chancellor Martin.  “We also look forward to entities outside of Davidson County utilizing our business docket in larger numbers as we remain largely online.”

The Tennessee Supreme Court has also appointed three new members to the Business Court Docket Advisory Commission (BCDAC), one from each of the state’s Grand Divisions.  Dwight E. Tarwater, a partner at Paine Tarwater Bickers, LLP in Knoxville, is a seasoned litigator with extensive and wide-ranging trial and appellate experience in Tennessee, representing Fortune 500 companies throughout the nation.  He also served as general counsel to Governor Bill Haslam from 2014-2019.  Brigid Carpenter is the managing shareholder of Baker Donelson’s Nashville office, and is an experienced trial attorney with a practice that includes the prosecution and defense of commercial disputes.  Shea Wellford with Martin Tate in Memphis represents large and small businesses, financial institutions, and individuals in complex civil litigation.

“The Business Court Docket Pilot Project continues to grow and produce a robust body of well-defined, up-to-date business law for the state,” said Bill Tate, interim chair of the BCDAC and a founding member at Howard Tate in Nashville. “The new members are the perfect additions to the Commission and will ensure the project evolves and reaches every corner of the state. This project is essential to the state’s healthy economy and its ability to attract and keep businesses.”

Outgoing members of the board include Scott D. Carey, a shareholder at Baker Donelson in Nashville, and Jef Feibelman, a member at Burch, Porter & Johnson in Memphis.

Also currently on the BCDAC are: Celeste H. Herbert of Herbert, Meadows & Wall in Knoxville; David A. Golden, formerly of Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport; Charles T. Tuggle, Jr. of First Horizon National Corporation in Memphis; and Tim Warnock of Riley Warnock & Jacobson PLC in Nashville.

Tennessee’s business docket pilot project has been so successful that in 2018 the State Justice Institute awarded a grant to the Administrative Office of the Courts to assist other states in the establishment of a specialist docket for commercial matters. Seasoned business court judges and administrators from eight states along with the National Center for State Courts studied various courts and created a sample guide for launching business court dockets.

AOC Director Deborah Taylor Tate has presented nationally noting “The curriculum and faculty guide are a “how-to” for any state or local court setting up commercial court pilot.” Recognizing each jurisdiction is different, the program addresses various pitfalls and strategies learned from across the nation, allowing any state, regardless of idiosyncrasies, to use this curriculum and guide to establish and manage business courts more efficiently and effectively.

“We have already had great interest from other states in utilizing this blueprint and are happy for others to build upon our success here in Tennessee,” Taylor Tate said.