Circuit Court opens Business Court

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published July 9, 2013

 Judge Wendy Potts is ready to make her ruling as one of the new Business Court judges inside her Oakland County Circuit courtroom July 2.

Judge Wendy Potts is ready to make her ruling as one of the new Business Court judges inside her Oakland County Circuit courtroom July 2.

Photo by Donna Agusti

OAKLAND COUNTY — Businesses needing to resolve legal matters in the county will now have specialized attention after the Oakland County Circuit Court, 1200 N. Telegraph Road in Pontiac, opened its doors to a new Business Court July 1.

The Supreme Court assigned judges Wendy Potts and James Alexander to the Business Court, said Kevin Oeffner, Oakland County Circuit Court administrator.

Business courts are required under Public Act 333 of 2012, after Gov. Rick Snyder approved the law Oct. 16, 2012.

Oeffner said all 17 Michigan circuit courts with at least three judges must create a business court and have them operating by July 1; Oakland County Circuit Court has 18 judges.

He added that circuit courts with fewer than three judges can start business courts, but it’s not required by law.

The Business Court have jurisdiction over business and commercial disputes in which the amount in controversy exceeds $25,000, as well as cases of wrongful discharge — except for actions involving corporate officers or directors — and worker’s compensation claims under the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act, among other cases.

Oeffner said the business cases are specific in nature because at least one party involved must be a business enterprise.

“The statute specifically identifies which cases are business- court eligible,” he said. “All other civil cases that don’t meet that definition are then handled as they always have been by our judges who have general civil dockets.”

According to PA 333 of 2012, a business court judge has a six-year term and may be reassigned at the end of the term; the terms end April 1, 2019, and April 1 of every sixth consecutive year.

Oeffner said the idea for a Business Court started a few years ago, after the State Bar of Michigan created a committee called the Judicial Crossroads Taskforce, which made recommendations on how Michigan’s judiciary could be restructured in the wake of budget problems. 

“The task force was hoping the Business Court would … produce a reliable body of state business law,”’ he said. “If you have a few judges and they are hearing a steady diet of Business Court cases, you’ll develop a real reliable body of law, instead of a lot of judges handling a few (cases).”

Potts and Alexander will still oversee a portion of civil and criminal dockets as Business Court judges, a court administrator confirmed.

Potts said the concept behind the Business Court is to ensure that judges have their expertise developed in business matters, which allows for cases to flow more quickly.

“We’re excited to be able to create something and be part of the birth of this,” Potts said. “This is exciting for lawyers and businesses in Michigan.”

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