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A business session in Suffolk County, Mass., Superior Court to handle complex and lengthy commercial litigation will begin as a pilot program on Oct. 1, with a similar session possible in Worcester County, Mass., later this year, Superior Court Chief Justice Suzanne DelVecchio said this week. “This is not a separate business court, but would address the needs of the business community within the court system,” the chief justice told the Boston Bar Association (BBA) Council at its meeting Tuesday. “We’re responding to an obvious need that’s been placed before us, and we’re off and running.” The BBA had previously recommended such a plan. The goal of setting aside a courtroom to hear business cases — involving both corporations and individuals — is to develop a “predictable body of law governing business disputes, and to provide a steady, efficient forum for the resolution of business litigation,” said the chief justice. Soon, the Worcester Bar Association will vote on whether to support a business litigation session in the Worcester Superior Court in Fitchburg, Mass., which DelVecchio said she also is prepared to initiate as a pilot project. “The Bar there is concerned about losing business to Boston, so it looks like something very exciting is on the horizon, if the Worcester Bar votes for it,” she said. DIVIDED VIEWS Support for a complex business session has been divided in the Boston legal community. At a June Bar-bench conference sponsored by the chief justice, the Massachusetts Bar Association staunchly opposed a separate business court sitting, arguing it would drain resources from the Superior Court as a whole. On the other hand, a BBA task force strongly recommended a business session similar to the planned pilot program. The Suffolk business session will replace a courtroom sitting that until now has been devoted to prisoner-initiated civil litigation. DelVecchio said there is legislative funding in place to move those matters to the court’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program to free up a courtroom for lengthy business trials. “So we’re really not losing any [regular] civil sessions as a result of this,” explained the chief justice. “The prisoner cases will be screened, then sent to ADR, and tried in court only as necessary.” ADVISORY BOARD About a dozen Boston area lawyers and judges will be named to an advisory group to follow the progress of the business session. A similar board will be named in Worcester County if a business session comes to pass there. “We have to have some evaluation in place. I don’t want that to take place a year from now, but as we go along,” said DelVecchio. One judge will be assigned to the business court session for two years, although no appointment has yet been made. The chief justice said she will ask for volunteers from the roster of Superior Court judges before making the judicial assignment. Other states in which complex commercial cases are being heard in a designated court session include some parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois, and North Carolina.

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