Wisconsin Chief Justice Speaks on Wisconsin Business Court Pilot Project

On November 6, 2019, Wisconsin Chief Justice Patience Drake Roggensack gave considerable attention to Wisconsin’s new business court during her State of the Judiciary Address. She notes a reduction of two years in resolution time in some cases, and “super results” because of a  business court judge’s case management skills.  Justice Roggensack further observes that the business court is underutilized, but action is being taken to increase awareness on the benefits of using the business court.  A copy of the full annual address, including remarks on Wisconsin’s “Commercial Docket, a/k/a Business Court, Pilot Project,” can be found here.

Justice Roggensack’s excerpted remarks on the business court are quoted in full below:

“The commercial docket pilot project that I mentioned last year is on-going both in Waukesha County and in the 8th Judicial Administrative District. It has been very beneficial for business-related parties who proceeded in Wisconsin’s commercial dockets. The judges who handle these cases have business experience and an appreciation of the need for prompt intervention, early resolution and the large community impact that commercial disputes can have.

Commercial cases typically take about 36 months to resolve in a normal docket. However, in the commercial docket many cases have been resolved in less than 12 months.

We have had some super results because of the talent and commitment of our commercial docket judges. For example, a matter involving the Northland Hotel in Green Bay was filed in Judge Atkinson’s commercial docket in Brown County. Northland Hotel opened in March of 1924 and once was referred to as the ;crown jewel of Green Bay.’ However, it had fallen on hard times, and efforts to turn things around by creating a boutique hotel were having problems. The hotel ended up before a receiver. Undue delays could have sunk Northland Hotel for good. But, not to worry, Judge Atkinson was right there providing timely decisions so that a stall in our courts did not end up overwhelming restoration efforts. His attention made the difference. The Northland Hotel is once again open and a truly beautiful hotel, a jewel for Green Bay.”

Hotel Northland, Chris Rand (2012), license information

“The litigants have been appreciative of the knowledge and prompt attention of the business court judges, the judges’ understanding of the importance of scheduling, of promptly holding temporary injunction hearings and of regular status conferences to keep cases on track. Our only problem is that the docket is very underutilized.

Members of the business court team are working with the State Bar to present a program at the State Bar’s annual meeting. We hope the program will raise lawyer awareness of the opportunity to choose a commercial docket for their business-related cases. In addition, we are doing training with our clerks of court to gain their assistance in recognizing the types of cases that should be assigned to commercial dockets. The commercial docket is a mandatory docket in Waukesha County and District 8; however permissive transfers from any other venue are permitted by petition. We appreciate the excellent work of judges who staff the pilot project and their judicial colleagues who have recognized when a case should have been filed in a commercial docket, and make the necessary referral.

We are considering expanding mandatory commercial dockets into other counties. If there are judges who have an interest in participating, please contact Judge Jim Morrison.”