PARKERSBURG - Local business leaders and the legal community are in support of a new court at the state level to handle specialized legal litigation between businesses.
The new business court will start Oct. 10 and will generally handle disputes involving commercial or technology issues, including complex tax appeals, West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Davis announced on Tuesday
"Those issues can get bogged down in a busy circuit court docket," Davis said.
"So this provides a way for circuit judges to be relieved from the burden of handling those novel or complex issues."
The goal is to expedite decisions within 10 months after a judge enters a case management order, Davis said.
According to the new court's rules, claims heard by the business court would involve matters "of significance to the transactions, operations or governance between business entities."
A bill signed in 2010 by then-Gov. Joe Manchin laid the groundwork for the new court system. A group of judges from around the state has been working on the rules and procedures of how the court would operate.
The establishment of the court has been of keen interest to the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley, President Jill Parsons said.
''Our Government Relations Committee has been following the announcement of a business court with great interest since the Legislature passed the bill in October 2010 authorizing the West Virginia Supreme Court to set up the business court concept,'' she said.
''We thank our Legislature for recognizing there was a need for a separate and specialized court to deal with disputes between businesses due to the complex nature of commercial litigation.''
From the business perspective, Parsons said it will be beneficial to have a court designated for the types of complex cases that may affect companies, such as business contracts, trademark infringement, anti-trust, franchise agreements and intellectual property disputes.
''These types of cases often require a business skill set to understand the complexities of the cases,'' she said.
''It is our understanding that the West Virginia Supreme Court will provide specialized training to judges to elevate their expertise in commercial litigation as part of the launch of the business court.''
Wood County Circuit Judge Robert Waters did not believe the Wood and Wirt counties area would be affected much by the new court.
''We just don't have a large number of these kind of cases,'' he said.
''However in special cases, it could be a good thing. It would be good to have specialized judges who are specifically trained to handle these issues.''
Waters said there are a number of cases that would be exempt.
Consumers could still go through the traditional circuit court system on personal injury or wrongful death cases, he said.
The new court also won't handle cases involving product liability, consumer class actions and criminal cases, Davis said.
Cases would be sent to the business court upon motions made by the presiding circuit judges or by a motion made by a party in the case, Waters said.
It would then go to the chief justice of the Supreme Court, who would consider whether the case would be assigned to the business court.
More detailes will be forthcoming and Waters said he is looking forward to seeing the final plans for the new court.
The court will have seven regions with each reason encompassing from six to 11 counties. Its central location will be announced next month.
The Supreme Court will appoint seven judges to serve on the business court in addition to their other circuit duties with no additional pay. The judges will have seven-year staggered terms and can serve successive terms, Davis said.
The court will improve West Virginia's standing with the business community throughout the nation, Parsons said.
''Ultimately the goal in implementing the business court concept is to facilitate commerce,'' she said. ''Businesses will look favorably upon the state to see that our leaders have launched such an initiative. The business court will be a foundation for consistent and efficient legal proceedings for businesses in our state.''
The Associated Press contributed to this story.