By passing HB239, the Georgia Legislature amended Title 15 of the Official Code of Georgia, relating to Courts, by adding “the Georgia State-wide Business Court.” The new Court will sit in either Atlanta or Macon. The Governor will be appointing the new judge by August 1, subject to the approval by a majority vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Judiciary.
The Business Court judge will begin administrative functions on January 1, 2020, and his or her initial term shall commence August 1, 2020. The judge shall sit for a term of five years and may be appointed to as many consecutive terms as he or she remains qualified.
Although the new Business Court will sit in either Atlanta or Macon, venue shall be in accordance with O.C.G.A. §§ 9-10-93 or 14-2-510; and, “if more than one venue is proper, then the party initiating the civil action in the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall select among the proper venues at the time of filing.”
A plaintiff can file an action directly with the Business Court, or the case can be transferred by consent of the parties. A party also may petition to transfer the case to the Business Court and if it meets all other jurisdictional requirements and considering a presumption that the action shall remain in the court of filing, the Business Court may accept the case. Interestingly, the judge of the Business Court will have discretion to reject any petitions for transfer or removal “even if such claims are within the jurisdiction of the Georgia State-wide Business Court.”
The Business Court shall exercise concurrent jurisdiction and the powers of a court of equity, to the extent permitted by the facts of the case. HB239 enumerates 17 substantive areas where jurisdiction is expressly proper such as those arising under the UCC, the Georgia Uniform Securities Act and the Georgia Business Corporation Code, among others.
Where damages are requested, the amount in controversy must exceed $500,000 or $1 million for claims involving commercial real property. The Business Court will have supplemental jurisdiction over all pending claims that are so related to cases and which otherwise meet the jurisdictional prerequisites. Yet, HB239 explicitly preclude the exercise of jurisdiction for claims involving certain subject matters, such as claims arising from physical and emotional injuries, residential landlord tenant disputes and foreclosures.
The fee for filing a case, or having a case transferred or removed to the Georgia State-wide Business Court shall be $3,000 and paid by the party filing the action or seeking transfer, or by an equal allocation if the parties consent to adjudication by the State-wide Business Court.