CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Proponents of the state's new business court say the specialized judiciary system will better handle complex corporate litigation and enhance West Virginia's standing as a place to do business.
The new court will be administrated from Berkeley County, headed up by Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes. He said he is eager to launch the effort Oct. 10.
"I think the judges who have been working on this are all anxious to be able to inflate the tires and ride the bike," Wilkes said. "I would love to see the first request filed Oct. 11."
The new court will hear complex corporate cases involving one business in dispute against another, contract issues or trademark infringement for example. It will not take up cases of consumer complaints or product liability.
"We have the cases, and I predict the court will be very busy," said Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. "Based on our research, the need is great.
"Many businesses don't know exactly what the law says because it is complex," Roberts said. "They want clarity. They want to follow the law but in some cases don't know what it is. That's why we have trials sometimes."
Currently, the state's 70 circuit judges hear those cases, but Wilkes said a specialized knowledge of business law is often needed to understand them adequately. And moving such cases to a different court could free up dockets to handle other civil and criminal matters more quickly.
Attorneys will make application to the state Supreme Court to have a case transferred from a circuit court to business court. If assigned to the new court, the goal is to resolve the case within 10 months.
"A speedier resolution is important so a business can remain operating during the resolution of the case," Wilkes said. "Often times the facts of the case are already determined and the parties just need an application of the facts to the law."
Mike Clowser, executive director of the West Virginia Contractors Association, believes the court should be an effective tool when contractors have to go to court.
"There are nuances within a construction contract, and you want somebody who has a good understanding of what's in there and to differentiate the facts when there is a dispute," Clowser said.
"The business community should view this as a very positive action to expedite issues that arise," he said. "We look forward to it successfully meeting its goals here."