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Georgia Business Court Law

Georgia Business Court Lawyers

Georgia recently passed a Constitutional Amendment that created a business court in Georgia.  As the law is very new, there have been many questions about its effects and what kinds of cases are included.  If you need contingency fee lawyers who are familiar with business litigation, including breach of contract and business torts, please visit our commercial litigation page.  The full text of the Georgia Business Court Act is below:

 

O.C.G.A. § 15-5A-1

There shall be a state-wide business court as provided for in Article VI of the Constitution of this state to be known as the Georgia State-wide Business Court. Nothing in this chapter shall preclude a superior court from creating or continuing an existing business court division for its circuit on or after the effective date of this chapter or preclude a state court from creating or continuing an existing business court division on or after the effective date of this chapter in the manner provided by law.

 

15-5A-2. Terms of court; location; trial; venue

(a) The terms of court for the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be the same as the terms of court for the Supreme Court.

(b) The Georgia State-wide Business Court shall sit at the seat of government in Atlanta or shall sit in Macon-Bibb County and shall conduct proceedings and trials in locations as provided for in this Code section.

(c)

(1) All cases before the Georgia State-wide Business Court may have pretrial proceedings conducted at the seat of government, in Atlanta, in Macon-Bibb County, or, in the sole discretion of the judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court to whom the case is assigned, conducted via video, telephone, or other efficient technological means as may be deemed necessary or useful to conserve the resources of the parties or the court.

(2) At the request of any party to a case, the judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court to whom the case is assigned may, in his or her sole discretion, conduct any pretrial proceeding in the county in which the trial of such case shall be conducted pursuant to the Constitution of this state.

(d) The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court to whom a case is assigned shall preside over a bench trial unless any party requests a jury trial. If such request is made, the judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court to whom the case is assigned shall preside over such jury trial. Any trial of a case before the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall take place in the county where venue is proper pursuant to subsection (e) of this Code section.

(e) Proper venue in the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be as provided:

(1) In Code Section 9-10-93 or 14-2-510 or as otherwise prescribed by law or the Constitution of this state when initiating a civil action that has not already been filed in superior court or state court; provided, however, that, if more than one venue is proper, then the party initiating the civil action in the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall select among the proper venues at the time of filing in the Georgia State-wide Business Court;

(2) In the pleadings, if proper, that initiated the civil action in superior court or state court when petitioning the Georgia State-wide Business Court for removal or transfer; provided, however, that, if venue is improper in the pleading that initiated the civil action in superior court or state court, then venue shall be set by the Judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court; or

(3) By the parties when all parties agree on the proper venue.

(f) When the judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court is disqualified from presiding over a case or proceeding pursuant to the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct or Code Section 15-1-8, the case shall be transferred to another judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court, if applicable, and if no other judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court may preside over such case, then the Supreme Court shall order a sitting judge of the Court of Appeals, the superior court, or the state court to sit by designation as a judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court.

 

15-5A-3. Authority of court; jurisdiction

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, pursuant to the process provided for in Code Section 15-5A-4, the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall have authority to:

(1) Exercise concurrent jurisdiction and the powers of a court of equity, to the extent that such powers are exercised:

(A) Notwithstanding the amount in controversy, where equity relief is requested in claims:

(i) Arising under Part 1 of Article 1 of Chapter 9 of Title 9, the “Georgia Arbitration Code”;

(ii) Arising under Part 2 of Article 1 of Chapter 9 of Title 9, the “Georgia International Commercial Arbitration Code,” for which an application may be made to a court of this state;

(iii) Arising under Article 27 of Chapter 1 of Title 10, the “Georgia Trade Secrets Act of 1990”;

(iv) Involving securities, including, but not limited to, disputes arising under Chapter 5 of Title 10, the ‘Georgia Uniform Securities Act of 2008’;

(v) Arising under Title 11, the “Uniform Commercial Code”;

(vi) Arising under Chapter 2 of Title 14, the “Georgia Business Corporation Code”;

(vii) Arising under Chapter 8 of Title 14, the “Uniform Partnership Act”;

(viii) Arising under Chapter 9 of Title 14, the “Georgia Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act”;

(ix) Arising under Chapter 9A of Title 14, the “Uniform Limited Partnership Act”;

(x) Arising under Chapter 11 of Title 14, the “Georgia Limited Liability Company Act”;

(xi) That relate to the internal affairs of businesses, including, but not limited to, rights or obligations between or among business participants regarding the liability or indemnity of business participants, officers, directors, managers, trustees, or partners;

(xii) Arising under federal law over which courts of this state have concurrent jurisdiction;

(xiii) Where the complaint includes a professional malpractice claim arising out of a business dispute;

(xiv) Involving tort claims between or among two or more business entities or individuals as to their business or investment activities relating to contracts, transactions, or relationships between or among such entities or individuals;

(xv) For breach of contract, fraud, or misrepresentation between businesses arising out of business transactions or relationships;

(xvi) Arising from e-commerce agreements; technology licensing agreements, including, but not limited to, software and biotechnology license agreements; or any other agreement involving the licensing of any intellectual property right, including, but not limited to, an agreement relating to patent rights; and

(xvii) Involving commercial real property; and

(B) Where damages are requested the amount in controversy shall be at least:

(i) One million dollars for claims under subparagraph (A) of this paragraph involving commercial real property; or

(ii) Five hundred thousand dollars for claims under subparagraph (A) of this paragraph not involving commercial real property;

(2) Have supplemental jurisdiction over all pending claims that are so related to the claims in cases provided for under paragraph (1) of this subsection that such pending claims form part of the same case or controversy;

(3) Punish contempt by fines not exceeding $1,000.00, by imprisonment not exceeding 20 days, or both; and

(4) Exercise such other powers, not contrary to the Constitution, as are or may be given to such a court by law.

(b) The Georgia State-wide Business Court shall not have authority to exercise jurisdiction over claims arising under federal or state law, as applicable, involving:

(1) Physical injury inflicted upon the body of a person or death;

(2) Mental or emotional injury inflicted upon a person;

(3) Physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with the body of a person;

(4) A threat of physical violence toward another person;

(5) Matters arising under Title 19;

(6) Residential landlord and tenant disputes;

(7) Foreclosures;

(8) Individual consumer claims involving a retail customer of goods or services who uses or intends to use such goods or services primarily for personal, family, or household purposes; provided, however, that this paragraph shall not be construed to preclude the court from exercising jurisdiction over mass actions or class actions involving such individual consumer claims; or

(9) Collections in matters involving a family owned farm entity as defined in Code Section 48-5-41.1 or an individual farmer.

 

15-5A-4. Initiation of proceedings

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section, all claims provided for under Code Section 15-5A-3 may only come before the Georgia State-wide Business Court by:

(1) Any party filing a pleading with the Georgia State-wide Business Court to initiate a civil action that is not already pending in superior court or state court unless any defendant within 30 days after receipt by all defendants, through service of process, of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief upon which such action is based objects and petitions the Georgia State-wide Business Court to transfer such action to the superior court or state court with which venue is otherwise proper. The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall then compel transfer of the case to such superior court or state court, unless the action involves a contract claim or dispute where all parties are business entities and such contract provides that such dispute shall come before the Georgia State-wide Business Court;

(2) All parties to a civil action already filed in superior court or state court agreeing to remove the action to the Georgia State-wide Business Court and then filing such agreement with the Georgia State-wide Business Court, provided that the petition for removal is filed within 60 days of such action being filed in superior court or state court; or

(3) Any party to a civil action already filed in superior court or state court filing with the Georgia State-wide Business Court a petition to transfer such action to the Georgia State-wide Business Court; provided, however, that:

(A) Such a petition to transfer is filed within 60 days after receipt by all defendants, through service of process as provided in Code Section 9-11-4, of a copy of the initial pleading setting forth the claim for relief upon which such action is based. The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court, after considering the petition to transfer and all timely responses from the other party or parties in the case, shall thereafter determine whether the case is within the jurisdiction of the Georgia State-wide Business Court, and with a presumption that the civil action remain in the court of filing, the judge may enter an order compelling the transfer of the case to the Georgia State-wide Business Court unless a party objects within 30 days of the filing of the petition to transfer; or

(B) Such a petition to transfer is filed within 60 days after receipt by all defendants, through service of process as provided in Code Section 9-11-5 or as otherwise provided by law, of a copy of an amended pleading, motion, order, or other document from which the party petitioning to transfer may first ascertain that the case is transferable. The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court, after considering the petition to transfer and all timely responses from the other party or parties in the case, shall thereafter determine whether the case is within the jurisdiction of the Georgia State-wide Business Court, and with a presumption that the civil action remain in the court of filing, the judge may enter an order compelling transfer of the case to the Georgia State-wide Business Court unless a party objects within 30 days of the filing of the petition to transfer.

(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this Code section, the Georgia State-wide Business Court may transfer to the appropriate superior court or state court any and all claims filed in the Georgia State-wide Business Court and may reject acceptance of any and all petitions to transfer or petitions for removal to the Georgia State-wide Business Court, even if such claims are within the jurisdiction of the Georgia State-wide Business Court.

(c) Notwithstanding any other law, when the superior court or state court where a claim is pending receives a certified copy of an order issued by the Georgia State-wide Business Court transferring or removing such civil action to the Georgia State-wide Business Court pursuant to paragraph (2) or (3) of subsection (a) of this Code section, such superior court or state court shall certify the transfer or removal from the superior court or state court to the Georgia State-wide Business Court.

(d)

(1) A pleading, petition, or other document as provided in subsection (a) of this Code section that is filed with the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be deemed filed as of the time of its receipt by the filing service provider of the Georgia State-wide Business Court.

(2) Where such pleading, petition, or other document is filed within an applicable statute of limitations, such filing shall toll that applicable statute of limitations and such statute of limitations shall remain tolled until the date that the Georgia State-wide Business Court accepts or rejects acceptance of the pleading, petition, or other document as provided in subsection (a) of this Code section.

 

15-5A-5. Fees

(a) The fee for filing a case with, or having a case transferred or removed to, the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be $3,000.00, to be paid by:

(1) The party or parties filing the action in, or seeking transfer to, the Georgia State-wide Business Court under paragraph (1) or (3) of subsection (a) of Code Section 15-5A-4; or

(2) An equal allocation across all parties to an agreement seeking removal of the case to the Georgia State-wide Business Court under paragraph (2) of subsection (a) of Code Section 15-5A-4.

(b) All fees collected by the clerk of the Georgia State-wide Business Court pursuant to this Code section shall be the property of the state and the same shall be paid into the state treasury.

 

15-5A-6. Judge; commencement of operations; qualifications

(a) The Georgia State-wide Business Court shall consist of one judge and one division.

(b) The court shall commence operations on January 1, 2020, and may commence accepting cases on August 1, 2020.

(c) No individual shall be a judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court unless, at the time of his or her appointment, he or she has:

(1) Been a resident of this state and a citizen of the United States for at least seven years;

(2) Been admitted to practice law in this state for at least seven years; and

(3) At least 15 years of legal experience as an attorney or judge in complex business litigation, which experience shall be presumed by law as being met by virtue of appointment and approval under Code Section 15-5A-7.

 

15-5A-7. Appointment; term

(a) The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be appointed by the Governor, subject to approval by a majority vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a majority vote of the House Committee on Judiciary. The Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Judiciary shall be authorized to meet jointly or separately, while in or out of a legislative session, as called in the discretion of each such chairperson, with notice provided by the chairpersons to such committee members, to consider the approval of such appointment.

(b)

(1) The initial judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be appointed by July 1, 2019, and approved by December 31, 2019, or within three months of the Governor’s appointment, whichever is later, and the judge shall serve an initial term beginning on August 1, 2020.

(2) Beginning on January 1, 2020, such initial judge may perform the administrative duties required for establishing the Georgia State-wide Business Court and, if so, shall receive compensation as a judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court beginning on such date and for such purposes.

(3)

(A) The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall serve for a term of five years and may be reappointed for any number of consecutive terms so long as he or she meets the qualifications of appointment at the time of each appointment and shall be reappointed and reapproved in the same manner as provided for in subsection (a) of this Code section.

(B) Vacancies in the office of judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be filled by appointment and approval in the same manner as provided for in subsection (a) of this Code section.

(4) The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be deemed to serve the geographical area of this state.

 

15-5A-8. Oath

Before entering on the duties of his or her office, the judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall take the oath required of all civil officers in addition to the following oath:

“I swear that I will administer justice without respect to person and do equal rights to the poor and the rich and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me as judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court, according to the best of my ability and understanding, and agreeably to the laws and Constitution of this state and the Constitution of the United States. So help me God.”

 

15-5A-9. Salary; expenses and allowances

(a)

(1) The annual salary of the judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be as specified in Code Section 45-7-4. Such salary shall be paid in equal monthly installments.

(2) The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall receive expenses and allowances as provided for in Code Section 45-7-20. If the judge resides 50 miles or more from where the Georgia State-wide Business Court sits, such judge shall also receive a mileage allowance for the use of a personal motor vehicle when devoted to official business as provided for in Code Section 50-19-7, for not more than one round trip per calendar week to and from the judge’s residence and where the Georgia State-wide Business Court sits by the most practical route, during each regular and extraordinary session of court. In the event the judge travels by public carrier for any part of a round trip as provided above, such judge shall receive a travel allowance of actual transportation costs for each such part in lieu of the mileage allowance. Transportation costs incurred by the judge for air travel to and from the judge’s residence to where the Georgia State-wide Business Court sits shall be reimbursed only to the extent that such costs do not exceed the cost of travel by personal motor vehicle. All allowances provided for in this paragraph shall be paid upon the submission of proper vouchers.

(3) If the judge resides 50 miles or more from where the Georgia State-wide Business Court sits, such judge shall also receive the same daily expense allowance as members of the General Assembly receive, as set forth in Code Section 28-1-8, for not more than 35 days during each term of court. Such days shall be utilized only when official court business is being conducted. All allowances provided for in this paragraph shall be paid upon the submission of proper vouchers.

(b) The salary provided for in subsection (a) of this Code section shall be the total compensation to be paid by the state to the judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court and shall be in lieu of any and all other amounts to be paid from state funds.

 

15-5A-10. Rules of the Georgia State-wide Business Court

(a) The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall have responsibility for creating and, when needed, making revisions to the rules of the Georgia State-wide Business Court and submitting such rules and revisions to the Supreme Court for approval prior to such rules or revisions taking effect; provided, however, that such rules shall conform to Chapter 11 of Title 9, the “Georgia Civil Practice Act,” where related and applicable.

(b) The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court is authorized to empanel a commission of up to eight individuals, who may be judges, to assist the judge in the creation or revision of such rules; provided, however, that such individuals shall not receive compensation for being empaneled but may receive a daily expense allowance and travel cost reimbursement in the amount specified in Code Section 45-7-21.

(c) Such rules may include a matrix or guidelines for the acceptance of cases by the Georgia State-wide Business Court, including, but not limited to, such factors as the amount in controversy, the existence of novel or complex legal issues, and anticipated discovery issues needing the intervention of the Georgia State-wide Business Court.

(d) Such rules shall include:

(1) Guidelines and procedures for the filing of pleadings, petitions, motions, and all other documents, electronically or otherwise, with the Georgia State-wide Business Court; and

(2) A reasonable time within which the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall issue a decision on a matter before the court.

 

15-5A-11. Clerk of the Georgia State-wide Business Court

(a) There shall be a clerk of the Georgia State-wide Business Court. Such clerk shall be appointed by the Governor, subject to approval by a majority vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a majority vote of the House Committee on Judiciary. The Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Judiciary shall be authorized to meet jointly or separately, while in or out of a legislative session, as called in the discretion of each such chairperson, with notice provided by the chairpersons to such committee members, to consider the approval of such appointment.

(b)

(1) The initial clerk of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be appointed and approved by July 31, 2020, and shall serve an initial term beginning on August 1, 2020.

(2)

(A) The clerk of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall serve for a term of five years and may be reappointed for any number of consecutive terms and shall be reappointed and reapproved in the same manner as provided for in subsection (a) of this Code section.

(B) Vacancies in the office of clerk of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be filled by appointment of the Governor in the same manner as provided for in subsection (a) of this Code section.

(c) The annual compensation of the clerk of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be equal to the annual compensation provided for the clerk of the Court of Appeals.

 

15-5A-12. Offices of the judge and clerk; electronic filing system

(a) The offices of the judge and clerk of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall sit at the seat of government in Atlanta or shall sit in Macon-Bibb County pursuant to subsection (b) of Code Section 15-5A-2.

(b) The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court, in coordination with the clerk of the Georgia State-wide Business Court, shall be responsible for designating an electronic filing system.

 

15-5A-13. Law assistants

(a) The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be authorized to appoint law assistants for the use of the court and to remove them at pleasure. Each law assistant of the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall have been admitted to the bar of this state as a practicing attorney; provided, however, that an individual who graduated from law school but who is not a member of the bar of this state may be appointed as a law assistant so long as he or she is admitted to the bar of this state within one year of such appointment.

(b) It shall be the duty of a law assistant to attend all sessions of the court, if so ordered, and generally to perform the duties incident to the role of law assistant.

 

15-5A-14. Stenographers, clerical assistants, and other employees

The judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court may employ and fix the salaries of stenographers, clerical assistants, and such other employees as may be deemed necessary by the court; and the salaries therefor shall be paid by the clerk from the amount appropriated by the General Assembly for such purposes.

 

15-5A-15. Purchase of books, pamphlets, and other publications

The Georgia State-wide Business Court shall purchase such books, pamphlets, or other publications, whether in hard copy or digital format, and such other supplies and services as the judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court may deem necessary. The costs thereof shall be paid by the clerk out of the amount appropriated by the General Assembly for such purposes.

 

15-5A-16. Budget

The Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be a budget unit as defined in Part 1 of Article 4 of Chapter 12 of Title 45, the “Budget Act”; provided, however, that the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be assigned for administrative purposes only to the Court of Appeals.

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