Iowa Supreme Court Establishes Iowa Business Specialty Court Pilot Program

Posted by Brant Kahler in April 2013 on 4/1/2013

Download a PDF of this article

On December 21, 2012, the Honorable Mark S. Cady, Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, issued a Supervisory Order and accompanying Memorandum of Operation establishing the Iowa Business Specialty Court pilot program (the “Program”). In doing so, Iowa became approximately the twenty-fourth state to implement a business specialty court program. The establishment of the Program came in response to a report issued by the Iowa Civil Justice Reform Task Force in March of 2012. Chief Justice Cady explained the purpose of the Program as follows: 

"The primary aims of the Iowa Business Specialty Court will be to move business or complex commercial litigation cases through the court system more expeditiously, with lower costs for litigants and the court system. Businesses and attorneys will benefit from the business court’s published body of case law and providing guidance and promoting risk assessment for fair and cost-effective resolution of such cases. Judges will benefit from the development of specialized judicial expertise to be shared with their judicial colleagues. All Iowans should benefit from the creation of a more attractive and cost-effective environment for the resolution of complex business disputes. Non-business case dockets will benefit from the removal of time-consuming, complex business cases from the general docket. The court system as a whole should benefit from the business court’s role as an incubator of innovative court practices that may be applied generally across the justice system.” 

The Program will operate from May 1, 2013 to May 1, 2016 and will consist of a statewide docket of cases that qualify for, and are voluntarily transferred to, the Program. At the close of the pilot period for the Program, the Iowa Supreme Court will decide whether or not to create a permanent business specialty court docket in Iowa. Cases in the Program will be tried in the county in which they were filed, just like any other case. Also, qualifying cases will only be transferred to the Program where all parties involved have consented. The Program will accept both pre-existing and new cases and will be staffed by at least three current Iowa District Court judges who will apply for the Program and be selected by the Iowa Supreme Court. 

In order to qualify for the Program, a case must have an amount in controversy of at least $200,000.00 and meet one or more of the following criteria: 

(1) arise from technology licensing agreements, including software and biotechnology licensing agreements, or any agreement involving the licensing of any intellectual property right, including patent rights; 

(2) relate to the internal affairs of businesses (i.e., corporations, limited liability companies, general partnerships, limited liability partnerships, sole proprietorships, professional associations, real estate investment trusts, and joint ventures), including the rights or obligations between or among business participants, or the liability or indemnity of business participants, officers, directors, managers, trustees, or partners, among themselves or to the business; 

(3) involve claims of breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, or statutory violations between businesses arising out of business transactions or relationships; 

(4) be a shareholder derivative or commercial class action; 

(5) arise from commercial bank transactions; 

(6) relate to trade secrets, non-compete, non-solicitation, or confidentiality agreements; 

(7) involve commercial real property disputes other than residential landlord-tenant disputes and foreclosures; 

(8) be a trade secrets, antitrust or securities-related action; or 

(9) involve business tort claims between or among two or more business entities or individuals as to their business or investment activities relating to contracts, transactions, or relationships between or among them. 

BrownWinick expects to be very involved with this Program and, as with all business-related matters, will closely monitor the status and implementation of the Program and be in contact with our clients who are eligible to participate. If you have any specific questions regarding the Program, please contact your BrownWinick attorney

Brant D. Kahler is an associate at BrownWinick and practices primarily in the areas of litigation,employment law and construction law. Brant can be reached at (515) 242-2430 or kahler@brownwinick.com.