House Bill 239
After voters approved a constitutional amendment to establish a statewide business court, Georgia lawmakers worked during the 2019 Legislative Session to create the bill that would enact this amendment. These courts are primarily used to streamline legal processes in high-traffic court systems and provide more specialized expertise for business litigants. Following weeks of debate and compromise, the legislative houses reached an agreement on Day 40 of the session. The original bill was significantly weakened by the end of the discussions; a provision that permitted just one party to bring a case before the business court was overruled. HB 239 will instead require the consent of both parties, drastically reducing the number of cases that will appear before the court. This has proven a challenge when implemented in past systems; often, one party prefers to bring their case before a state or superior court.
Georgia joins only three other states – New Jersey, California, and South Carolina – that have statewide business courts, though 23 states have some form of city, county, or regional level business court. The court will be located in Atlanta and begin taking cases on August 1, 2020. It will have jurisdiction over matters involving the Uniform Commercial Code, the Georgia Uniform Securities Act, the Georgia Business Corporation Code. Additionally, most commercial causes of action will be heard by the business court if a party requests equitable relief or at least $250,000 in monetary damages. One judge, with a minimum of 15 years of legal experience, will preside over the court for a term of five years; the judge will be appointed by the Georgia Governor rather than elected. The first of these judges, Walter Davis, was tapped by Governor Brian Kemp on July 15. Davis has not presided over a court before, but is a veteran litigator with lots of experience in corporate mergers, ownership disputes, and other complex legal issues.