20 Years: Supreme Court Commercial Division

By: Samantha Yu | Managing Editor

The New York State Supreme Court Commercial Division celebrated 20 years in November 2015. When then-Chief Judge Judith Kaye established the first Commercial Division of the Supreme Court in 1995, it was one of the first state courts focusing entirely on business cases. The number of Commercial Division judges has grown from four to over 25 throughout New York.

In response to the increase in commercial cases, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman founded a Task Force, which is co-chaired by former Chief Judge Kaye and commercial practitioner Martin Lipton of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The goal of the Task Force is to recommend the ways the Commercial Division can retain its quality, reliability, and visibility. The Task Force is comprised of judges and attorneys from private practice, government agencies, corporations, and academia. It issued a report in June 2012 recognizing the importance of the Commercial Division, as well as recommending areas the Commercial Division should focus on: “(1) revising the docket of the Commercial Division, (2) providing additional support for the Commercial Division judges, (3) reforming the procedures by which cases are assigned to and managed by the Commercial Division, (4) facilitating early resolution of Commercial Division cases, (5) supporting international arbitration of commercial cases, and (6) addressing long-term strategic goals for the Commercial Division.”[1]

In response to the last recommendation, Chief Judge Lippman appointed a statewide Advisory Council that consisted of over 40 judges and attorneys to implement long-term strategic goals for the Commercial Division in March 2013. Proposals that have been implemented consist of: increased monetary thresholds for Commercial cases; limitations on privilege logs, which were costly and usually caused delayed resolutions of cases; limitations on the number of interrogatories; and a pilot program for mandatory mediation. Mandating mediation between parties is particularly important because of its cost effectiveness. Most Commercial Division cases are extremely complex and thus, lead to costly litigation expenses. Mediation often resolves cases before the trial phase, which saves clients money and time. Moreover, the Commercial Division has also adopted a new rule that allows accelerated adjudication, allowing for a shorten litigation when both parties in a case (except for class actions) to consent.

The influence of the New York Supreme Court Commercial Division has reached other states such as Indiana, Illinois, and North Carolina. Commercial litigation will always be a growing field and state courts have taken the initiative to ensure that specialty courts are available to handle the influx of those cases.


[1] Timothy S. Driscoll, The New York State Supreme Court Commercial Division: Past, Present, and Future, American Bar Association, http://www.americanbar.org/publications/blt/2014/10/keeping_current_driscoll.html.


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