Philadelphia’s Commerce Case Management Program (“Commerce Court”) has three dedicated judges who manage all aspects of cases assigned to them from beginning to end. The program has five dedicated administrative officers, and over 100 qualified members of the bar providing services as mediators/neutrals, discovery masters, and receivers. The Philadelphia court system’s 2018 annual report includes a section on the Commerce Court, providing history, current developments, and statistics. A copy of the report can be found here, but note that this website can only be accessed with Safari, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge, and not Internet Explorer.
The Commerce Court provides an interesting example of a specialized business court taking on other types of specialized litigation. The Commerce Court’s basic jurisdiction, set forth in its governing administrative order, identifies specific commercial and business case types defining the program’s jurisdictional parameters. Over time, however, for longer or shorter periods, the Commerce Court has taken on various other responsibilities.
In 2018, these other responsibilities included Property Tax Sequestration petitions, the Taxi Medallion Loan Program, petitions to open or strike confessed judgments (which arguably fall within its basic jurisdiction), and class actions that do not otherwise fall within the Commerce Court’s jurisdictional categories (“Non-Commerce Class Actions”). In 2018, the Commerce Court disposed of 674 cases within its commercial/business case type jurisdiction, 1,590 property tax sequestration cases, 34 taxi medallion cases (with another 26 stayed at counsel’s request), and 33 Non-Commerce Class Actions.
The property tax sequestration cases involve petitions to appoint receivers for commercial properties with tax liens. The Commerce Court started hearing tax sequestration matters in 2013. The Taxi Medallion Loan Program was created in 2017, and arose out of the large number of defaults on taxicab medallion loans (a phenomenon not unique to Philadelphia). Most of these cases are not contested, and the program is aimed at efforts to settle, with a 50% settlement rate where the defendants appear.
Overall in 2018, 2,449 cases were brought in the Commerce Court and 2,331 were disposed. Of these, 456 traditional Commerce Court cases were filed, and 674 were disposed. 1,888 sequestration petitions were filed, and 1,590 were disposed. As of January 7, 2019, the overall Commerce Court inventory for all cases was over 1,400, including 599 commercial cases, 671 sequestration cases, 138 taxi medallion cases, and 25 Non-Commerce Class Actions.
The report observes that in 2018, the Commerce Court became a member of the Standing International Forum on Commercial Courts. The Commerce Court has also published more than 1,360 opinions since beginning operations on January 1, 2000, that are posted on the court’s website (again, only accessible with browsers other than Internet Explorer).