Mark S. Cady
Mark S. Cady

Progress often is achieved when a group of people with different life experiences and areas of professional expertise get together and create a vision that benefits everyone. The Iowa Supreme Court Civil Justice Reform Task Force was such a group, and the Iowa Business Court Pilot Project is such an idea.

The task force of 84 volunteers, including representatives from business, labor, medicine, industry, consumer groups, judges and lawyers, worked for almost two years to assess the Iowa civil justice system and find ways to make it faster, less complicated and more affordable.

One of the many recommendations was to create a specialty court for complex commercial cases. On the basis of this recommendation, the Iowa Supreme Court launched a three-year business court pilot project.

The Iowa business court pilot project is another example of the commitment by our court system to treat all litigants and their claims with respect and understanding.

The project is not intended to create a separate court favoring business litigation over other court priorities; it is meant to establish a separately managed docket that will leverage judicial expertise.

By relocating these complex litigation cases to a separate docket, other civil cases may proceed more efficiently. Additionally, business courts are expected to help all Iowans by contributing to the new wave of economic confidence in the state.

Business courts have been successful in other states, such as Arizona, Delaware and North Carolina. Done in the right way, Iowa’s business courts will find their own success.

Iowa has other types of successful specialty courts, such as family, drug and juvenile courts. These courts utilize judges with special training to resolve very difficult cases.

Business courts will operate in a similar way. As a first step, the Supreme Court has selected three outstanding judges with expertise on emerging business issues and experience with complex business litigation to preside over these cases. (Michael Huppert, of Des Moines; Annette Scieszinski, of Albia; and John Telleen, of LeClaire.)

The judges were selected based on their educational background, judicial and trial practice experience in complex commercial cases, and personal interest.

The pilot project will encourage the judges and litigants to be innovative and flexible with trial procedures and creative in using new technology.

The business court pilot program will begin accepting existing and newly filed cases on May 1.

All parties in a dispute must agree to move their case to the pilot program. Cases will be heard in the county where they are filed.

A broad range of business conflicts with $200,000 or more in dispute will be eligible for the project.

The business court pilot program is not expected to divert judicial branch resources from existing priorities. If successful, the business court will make the entire court system more efficient without diverting scarce court resources.

The goal of the Iowa Judicial Branch is to have the best and most responsive court system and the best system of justice in the nation. The Iowa Business Court Pilot Project may be one giant step toward achieving that goal.

Co-written by Mark S. Cady, chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, and Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.