On March 30, 2017, Governor Nathan Deal issued an Executive Order establishing a Court Reform Council “to review current practices and procedures within the judicial court system . . . and make recommendations to improve efficiencies and achieve best practices for the administration of justice . . . .” To fulfill this mission, the Court Reform Council created three subcommittees, among them a “Statewide Business Court” Subcommittee tasked with evaluating “the feasibility and efficacy of a statewide Business or Complex Litigation Court.”
Following several months of work, the Court Reform Council, on November 20, 2017, issued a “Final Report,” in which it recommended, in relevant part, “the constitutional creation of a statewide business court in Georgia”: The Business Court Subcommittee of the Court Reform Council recommends the constitutional creation of a statewide business court in Georgia. The Georgia Business Court would provide specialized expertise for the adjudication of complex cases, ultimately enhancing litigation of complex matters by providing judicial resources specifically tailored to such cases.
Implementation of the Court Reform Council’s recommendation, however, could not be achieved without amending Article VI of the Georgia Constitution. As such, in March 2018, the General Assembly approved a resolution – HR 993 – authorizing a proposed amendment to the Georgia Constitution to provide for the creation of a business court with statewide jurisdiction. HR 993 appeared on the ballot that same year, and on November 6, 2018, Georgia voters approved the amendment, thereby authorizing the creation of what would become the Georgia State-wide Business Court.
During the subsequent 2019 legislative session, the General Assembly passed HB 239, enabling legislation that effectively brought the Court from concept to reality (the “Enabling Legislation”). HB 239, in relevant part, vests the Court with both equity and at-law jurisdiction (each of which it now shares with superior courts) over claims arising under 17 subject matter areas, in addition to supplemental jurisdiction over claims falling outside these specific categories. The Enabling Legislation, however, also contains several important restrictions, many of which are aimed at ensuring that smaller, less complex cases, among others, do not find their way into Business Court. Such restrictions included, without limitation: (i) specific carve-outs from the Court’s subject matter jurisdiction (e.g., individual consumer claims, foreclosures, and landlord-tenant disputes, among others), (ii) a $3,000 filing fee, and (iii) an amount-in-controversy requirement of $500,000, which applies to all but one category of claims brought to obtain monetary relief.
On July 15, 2019, Georgia Governor Brian P. Kemp appointed Walt Davis, then a partner at the law firm Jones Day in Atlanta, to serve as the inaugural judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court. Judge Davis was thereafter unanimously confirmed by the Judiciary Committees of both houses of the General Assembly on August 14, 2019, and began his term on January 1, 2020.
On July 20, 2020, Governor Kemp appointed Angie T. Davis, the long-time Clerk of Court for the State Court of Cobb County, to serve as the first Clerk of Court for the Georgia State-wide Business Court. Ms. Davis was thereafter unanimously confirmed by the Joint Judiciary Committees of the House and Senate on July 28, 2020, and was sworn in on August 4, 2020.
The PeachCourt e-filing system began accepting filings on Saturday, August 1, and the Court officially commenced operations on Monday, August 3, 2020.