N.H. Chief Justice Hopes to Open Business Court This Year

June 11, 2008

New Hampshire’s chief justice is praising a new law that allows the state to create a business court and he’s hoping to have the new court operating this year.

The court would handle only complaints between businesses and would not see consumer cases.

Chief Justice John Broderick says business acts quickly, but the court system currently does not react as quickly.

“We’re going to lose market share. People won’t come,” Broderick said. “The court system of the 21st century has to be competitive in a way it never has before. Because there are options.”

Last week, Gov. John Lynch signed into law legislation establishing a business court. Meanwhile, Broderick has been touring the state to build support for an approach he believes will bridge a gap between the state’s business community and court system.

He says 20 other states have adopted the model since the early 1990s.

Business leaders support the new approach. They say they have been disenfranchised by the state’s judicial system.

“(The Superior Court) is working within the structure it has,” said Rick Maloney of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire. “But there’s no question that it is not meeting the needs, in some ways, of the business community because it’s not working fast enough.”

Maloney said business disputes currently have less priority than criminal cases.

Some companies sometimes seek outside arbitration through the American Arbitration Association in Boston to try to speed settlement of disputes. Arbitration comes with its own problems, however, according to Howard Myers, a Lebanon attorney specializing in business law.

“Many times, there aren’t enough arbitrators sophisticated in particular areas (of business law) to understand and appreciate the subtleties of issues,” Myers said.

The ever-expanding list of regulations, such as environmental laws, are challenging to keep up with and have made business transactions much more complex in recent years, Myers said. Understanding and mediating those nuances takes time, often more than a party can bear.

“If you have a transaction or a deal, you can’t sit around two or three years because that would kill the deal,” Myers said.

Broderick says a knowledgeable business court judge may be able to move through those cases more quickly.

Similar to other specialized courts, such as juvenile court or the adult drug court in Grafton County, one Superior Court judge would handle a docket of all business and commercial disputes — breach of contract matters, fraud, property sales and leases, and other issues, according to the new law.

Broderick says finding the right judge for this court won’t be easy because most of the state’s judges don’t specialize in one area of law.

He said the new court should not require much additional funding because it is simply a matter of reassigning cases.

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Information from: Lebanon Valley News, http://www.vnews.com

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