A task force is looking into whether Louisiana should establish a “business court,” which they say could become a selling point for companies considering a move to the state.
The proposal could raise constitutional and funding questions, though a pilot program may initially sidestep those issues to test the concept.
Ileana Ledet with Greater New Orleans, Inc., the region’s economic development chamber, said 23 states have business courts, though not all have jurisdiction statewide. Generally speaking, the courts are set up to handle complex business-to-business litigation.
The goal is to have judges experienced in business matters preside over the cases, leading to quicker (and therefore cheaper) resolutions while keeping those cases from clogging up the rest of the judicial system. Some states set a dollar threshold for a case to get into business court, while others just require the agreement of both sides.
Richard Crowell, an attorney who represents the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana on the Statewide Business Court Task Force, compared the concept to other kinds of special courts, such as those focused on drugs, juvenile defendants or family issues. He said specialization is “the new norm” in the legal profession.
Crowell said he hasn’t seen data showing the economic benefit of having a business court but said it’s generally considered “an arrow in the quiver” for state efforts to improve their business climate and attract companies.
Trent Oubre, an attorney representing the Council for a Better Louisiana with the task force, said the state constitution allows the legislature to create courts of limited jurisdiction, but only within a parish. He said a business court with statewide jurisdiction likely would need to be established by a state constitutional amendment, which requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of the legislature and voter approval.
But Crowell said East Baton Rouge and Orleans may be the only jurisdictions with enough demand to warrant business courts. He suggested establishing pilot programs in those parishes.
Other members said the state Supreme Court could designate an already-elected judge for a pilot court. While the legislature might need to tweak rules governing allotment of cases, a constitutional amendment and new court funding wouldn’t be needed, at least for the time, possibly three to five years, the pilot is in place.
The task force met Wednesday and plans to meet once more before its report to the legislature is due Feb. 1.