Commercial Court FAQ
Commercial Court was first established as a pilot program in Maricopa County in 2015. The Arizona Supreme Court recently approved Commercial Court as a permanent venue for commercial litigation in Maricopa County.
It’s a special civil docket that is designed to effectively manage and efficiently resolve commercial litigation.
A commercial court is designed to resolve business cases expeditiously, and to reduce the expense of litigation. Many litigators have horror stories about commercial cases that last far longer than they should, or involve litigation expenses that exceed the amount at issue. On the other hand, a number of commercial cases require extensive discovery or have complex underlying legal issues. Parties in these cases will have the benefit of judges who are knowledgeable about commercial transactions and business issues. This specialized court should therefore improve the quality of justice in commercial cases. It should also increase the business community’s confidence in Arizona’s system of commercial dispute resolution.
Judges Roger Brodman, Daniel Martin, Christopher Whitten, and Timothy Thomason are currently serving on the Commercial Court in Maricopa County. They are experienced jurists with extensive knowledge of commercial law and the practicalities of business. They understand not only legal issues in business cases, but also the complexities, realities, and nuances of commercial disputes.
The rules for Commercial Court require in-person or telephonic scheduling conferences under Rule 16(d). That is, the parties must actually speak with the assigned judge before the court will enter a scheduling order. The rationale is that early, hands-on judicial management will promote cost-effective and efficient case processing. An early conference between the parties and the judge will help identify factual and legal issues in the case, and focus the parties on discovery that is needed for those issues and that is appropriate for the amount in controversy. Commercial Court judges may also adopt an abbreviated motion practice, such as “letter motions,” to manage commercial cases efficiently. The judges will utilize a toolbox of case management options to reduce litigation costs and to assure fair and timely dispositions.
A majority of commercial cases involve disclosure and discovery of electronically stored information, or “ESI.” Parties in commercial cases are required to confer and attempt to reach agreements regarding ESI. The Commercial Court has prepared a two-page ESI checklist to assist the parties with their Rule 16(b) discussions. The ESI checklist includes dozens of topics, including (1) the preservation of ESI, (2) phased ESI discovery, (3) searching for and producing ESI, (4) privilege considerations, and (5) proportionality and costs. The checklist is flexible; some of these topics may not apply, depending on the nature and complexity of the case. The parties may consider topics in any appropriate sequence.
Rule 8.1(a) specifies that a commercial case is one in which at least one plaintiff and one defendant are “business organizations,” the primary issues of law and fact concern a “business organization,” or the primary issues of law and fact concern a “business contract or transaction.” These phrases in quotation marks are further defined in the rule. Rule 8.1(d) identifies the types of cases eligible for Commercial Court. Rule 8.1(e) identifies the types of cases that are not eligible for Commercial Court.
Rule 8.1(c) provides that a case that seeks only monetary relief in an amount less than $300,000 is not eligible for Commercial Court.
It is mandatory that a plaintiff filing a commercial case in Maricopa County include in the caption of the initial complaint the words “commercial court assignment requested.” That assures that a defendant who is served with the complaint will be aware of the potential assignment. The plaintiff must also check a new box on the Civil Cover Sheet that indicates the case is eligible for Commercial Court. A defendant may file a notice requesting commercial court assignment within 20 days of making an appearance. A judge may reconsider the Commercial Court assignment on motion of a party within a specified time limit. A judge with a general civil docket may also order transfer of a case to Commercial Court on motion of a party or on the court’s own initiative.
It is mandatory for all eligible commercial cases. However, and as noted above, a party can request the judge to reconsider assignment of a case to Commercial Court.
Yes. An assignment to Commercial Court does not preclude subsequent transfer of an eligible case to the complex civil litigation program under the Superior Court’s local rules.
No. All commercial cases in Maricopa County will be heard downtown, regardless of the district where the complaint was filed.
Commercial Court cases filed in either the Northeast or Southeast facilities will be assigned to one of the four Commercial judges, all of whom work downtown. If you file a Commercial Court case in either Northeast or Southeast and need an emergency hearing (e.g., a Temporary Restraining Order or a Preliminary Injunction), you will have to call 602-506-1497. The court staff who answers the call will give you the name of the assigned judge and direct you to the judicial officer’s division assigned to your case.
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