New Jersey Supreme Court Implements Complex Business Litigation Program

December 2014Articles In the Zone

In a move designed to address the needs of the business community, the New Jersey Supreme Court (Supreme Court) recently approved the statewide implementation of the Complex Business Litigation Program (the Program) for the handling of complex business, commercial and construction cases. The court’s order authorizing implementation of the Program was entered on November 13, 2014, and is effective for cases filed on and after January 1, 2015.

The “Working Group,” which reported to the Supreme Court and recommended implementation of the Program, sought to address, by the Program’s establishment, the business community’s goals of certainty, finality, timeliness and a cost-effective means of addressing business disputes. The intentions here are good. To the extent that those involved in the business of real estate become involved in complex litigation, the Program is intended to benefit their needs. The highlights are as follows:

  • A judge has been appointed in each vicinage to handle these cases and to receive, over time, extensive specialized training in all areas relating to business litigation. Each such judge will handle cases from beginning to end and will be expected to issue a minimum of two written opinions per year for the purpose of developing a body of case law on issues relating to business litigation.
  • The amount in controversy must be at least $200,000 for inclusion in the Program, though the court may determine in a particular case that a lesser amount in controversy warrants inclusion. On motions, parties may seek to opt into the Program because a particular case warrants inclusion, notwithstanding the failure to meet the monetary threshold, or to opt out on the basis that the case does not meet the eligibility criteria.
  • On the filing of their initial pleadings, parties will designate that the matter is either “complex commercial” or “complex construction,” as those terms are defined under the Supreme Court’s order.
  • The Program encompasses both jury and non-jury matters. The cases are not part of the mandatory civil mediation and arbitration programs, though it is likely that participation in those will be encouraged by the sitting judge.
  • Matters not included in the Program are those handled by General Equity (such as foreclosures and those seeking injunctive relief, though there are exceptions) and those primarily involving consumers, labor organizations, personal injury, condemnation, and in which the government is a party.

By this move, the Supreme Court has recognized the need to streamline and expedite service to litigants in complex business-related cases. The move, which constitutes an expansion of a pilot program previously in place in two counties, is encouraging.

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