This is a repost of a 30th anniversary business courts commemorative note that we originally posted in September 2022, focusing on the creation of business courts in New York and Chicago three decades ago.
New York’s state courts had initiated an “Individual Assignment System” (IAS) concept in 1986. On September 14, 1992, an article appeared in the New York Law Journal, “Commercial Court Parts to Open in Manhattan Specialized Judges to Preside Starting Jan. 1”. In early 1992, New York’s Chief Judge had proposed the idea for a specialized commercial court with designated judges. New York’s Governor was similarly looking into whether some form of business court, akin to the Delaware Court of Chancery, would be appropriate in New York.
This September 1992 article begins, “[a]ddressing the challenge posed by complex commercial litigation in Manhattan, state court officials plan to open at least two specialized commercial IAS parts at 60 Centre Street on Jan. 1.” “[T]he concept [was] clear – having judges with special expertise hear these complicated and protracted cases from beginning to end.”
In January 1993, commercial pilot parts became operational in Manhattan. New York County Justices Myriam J. Altman, Herman Cahn, Ira Gammerman and Beatrice Shainswit were the first judges designated to hear Commercial Parts cases, within the IAS format. These commercial pilot parts were a success, and evolved into the permanent Commercial Division in 1995, which has since spread well beyond the New York County Supreme Court, to ten additional New York jurisdictions across the City and the State.
On September 9, 1992, the Circuit Court of Cook County Law Division’s Presiding Judge, Donald P. O’Connell, entered an Order creating the Commercial Calendar Section. The Order states, in part: “Commercial Calendars shall have assigned to them cases, whether based upon theories of tort, contract or otherwise, that involve a commercial relationship between the parties. The number of cases assigned to each Commercial Calendar shall be as the Presiding Judge of the Law Division may from time to time designate.”
The initial Commercial Calendar assignment was implemented nearly one year later, on September 1, 1993, when Judge Martin Ashman became the first Commercial Calendar Judge. Today, there are eight Commercial Calendar Judges in Chicago.