This past week, the Supreme Court Task Force on Commercial Dockets released its final report titled Report and Recommendations of The Supreme Court of Ohio Task Force on Commercial Dockets ("Report"). The late Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer created the Supreme Court Task Force on Commercial Dockets in 2007 to address the often time-consuming litigation of business-to business disputes. The "key goals of the commercial docket are to have knowledgeable judges readily available to meet with counsel for injunction and discovery hearings and overall case management; to produce timely decisions; and to develop a greater body of reported case law to guide business lawyers and their clients." (Report, p. 17). Chief Justice Moyer charged the Task Force with assessing the best methods of handling commercial litigation in the Ohio courts of common pleas. In January 2009, as part of the commercial docket pilot program, the courts of common pleas in Hamilton, Franklin, Cuyahoga, and Lucas Counties implemented commercial dockets, on which two judges in each of the four counties agreed to serve as the commercial docket judges.
The Task Force Report contains 27 recommendations, including the recommendation that commercial dockets be established permanently in any eligible court of common pleas. Report, p. 5. A court of common pleas would be eligible to have a commercial docket if it "(1) has six or more general division judges or (2) is located in a county that has a population of 300,000 or more according to the latest federal decennial census." Report, p. 6. The Task Force, however, recommends that participation be voluntary to ensure that participating judges and courts are interested and committed to the commercial docket. Report, p. 7. In addition to the four counties that participated in the commercial docket pilot program, the other counties that are currently eligible to have a commercial docket include Butler, Lorain, Montgomery, Stark, and Summit. Report, p. 7.
Among other recommendations, the Task Force suggests that commercial docket judges be permitted to refer a case for alternative dispute resolution (e.g., mediation) to a commercial docket judge from another county or to a retired or sitting former commercial docket judge. Report, pp. 22-23. In addition, the Task Force recommends some level of centralized oversight of the commercial dockets across Ohio, specifically through the creation of the Supreme Court Commission of Commercial Dockets, which would be comprised of a diverse group of members, including transactional attorneys, commercial litigators, one commercial docket judge from each court with a commercial docket, and others. Report, p. 8.
Since the inception of the commercial docket pilot program, Faruki Ireland & Cox P.L.L. has handled numerous cases on the commercial dockets in Ohio.
The Task Force Report can be accessed here.