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Ballot Measures

2018 State-Wide Ballot Measures

Amendment 2: Establish Statewide Business Court

Amendment 2

According to Ballotpedia: Amendment 2 would allow the creation of a statewide business court with a statewide jurisdiction for use under certain circumstances. The court's judges would be appointed by the governor, approved by a majority vote of the Senate and House judiciary committees, and serve a term of five years. Judges could be reappointed for any number of terms under the measure. 

  • A "yes" vote supports amending the state constitution to establish a state business court and establish procedures and rules for judicial selection, term length, and judge qualifications for the court  

  • A "no" vote opposes amending the state constitution to establish a state business court and establish procedures and rules for judicial selection, term length, and judge qualifications for the court

The idea behind Amendment 2 is that by removing certain cases to a business court, where judges have specialized expertise in complex commercial litigation, that it would take less time to resolve these cases, thereby lowering litigation costs for all applicants. The use of business courts would also lead to a regular docket less clogged with complex business cases and thereby improving the civil justice process for everyone else. The main point of contention appears to be the appointment of judges versus the election of judges. Those favoring appointment likely point to the expertise required to facilitate litigation of these complex areas of law whereas those favoring election are concerned with accountability to voters, not political interests. 

Georgians for Lawsuit Reform (galawsuitreform.com/) is leading the campaign in support of Amendment 2. Georgians for Lawsuit Reform describes itself as “nonpartisan and nonprofit” and as "an organization focused on ensuring a fair, balanced, and efficient legal climate for all Georgia citizens." According to Georgians for Lawsuit Reform, citing a lack of confidence in Georgia's civil justice system, Amendment 2 would "directly address that lack of confidence by improving judgment predictability, increasing speed, and prioritizing judicial expertise in complex commercial litigation."

Bill Clark, director of Political Affairs at the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association (gtla.org/index.cfm), supports the idea of a business court but wanted judges to be elected not appointed. Clark said, "They just do complex business litigation, and so it allows those judges to focus on the issues that are important to the two parties, and hopefully bring resolution to the two parties."  However, Clark went on to add, “We think the people ought to be involved in making the decision as to who are these judges, and then holding them accountable, through periodic elections.”

Democratic State Senator Jennifer Jordan, a lawyer who said she has represented clients in an existing Metro Atlanta business court, is in favor of establishing a business court system. But like Clark, Jordan said business court judges should be elected. “What we don’t want to do is create this concierge court system for businesses that the taxpayers are going to fund,” she said.

Georgia has two local business courts that have been implemented as pilot programs in Fulton County and Gwinnett County. The Fulton County business court has been operating since October 2005 and expanded to serve Gwinnett Superior and Gwinnett State Courts in July 2016. The purpose of the business court is "to provide judicial attention and expertise to certain complex business cases and to facilitate the timely and appropriate resolution of such disputes."

The vote to place Amendment 2 on the ballot received some bipartisan support in the Georgia State Senate with 11 Democrats voting in favor and 7 opposing. The Republican vote was 35 votes in favor with no opposition. The vote in the Georgia House of Representatives was more along party lines with only 11 Democrats in support compared to 109 Republicans. Fifty-one (51) Democrats opposed the measure. 

Sources:

CON 

Unnecessarily expands the power of the Governor and the General Assembly. Creates a statewide business court rather than business courts at the local level.

  • Since "business courts" can already be established locally and presided over by local judges, I do not favor surrendering this authority to state rather than local control – David Hudson, Georgia Press Association 

  • Threatens to create a concierge court system for businesses that taxpayers fund stacked with friends of the Governor– Galvanize Georgia

  • Opposed by State Rep Bee Nguyen.

  • Opposed by Dekalb Strong, Necessary Trouble Indivisible, Voter GA

PRO

Creates a streamlined court process for business disputes.

  • You free up the court system, and you have a judge that knows business issues --Chris Clark, Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

  • Makes GA courts more efficient and timelier, and less expensive for ordinary citizens -- Mary Margaret Oliver, State Rep.  

  • Supported by Georgians for Lawsuit Reform.

  • Supported by Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and State Legislators Mary Margaret Oliver, Elena Parent