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Business has been booming in Florida’s year-old business court, which is soon to expand. Florida joins a number of other states that have created specialized business courts, including New York, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Orange County Circuit Judge Thomas B. Smith, who helped start the court, says a court with a higher degree of experience in complex commercial matters was needed, and one partner who appears before the business court regularly finds one key benefit is consistency. Business has been booming in Florida’s year-old business court, so much that a new judge and full-time staff attorney are coming on board to help handle the heavy workload. The fledgling Orlando, Fla.-based business court also recently raised the level of monetary claims from $15,000 to $150,000 to keep smaller claims from clogging the docket. Court officials say that since its inception in January 2004, the Orange County Complex Commercial Litigation Division has had a huge workload for the lone judge handling it all. To date, 1,109 cases have come before Judge Renee Roche. Of those, 661 — or 66 percent — have closed. That closure rate is perhaps the court’s key bragging point, said Orange County Circuit Judge Thomas B. Smith, who helped start the court. “The most impressive statistic is the number of cases that had been hanging on for years. We reassigned these cases [to the new court] and they got quickly resolved,” Smith said. “There have literally been a few cases where checks changed hands right in front of [the judge].” Florida joins a number of other states that have also created specialized business courts, including New York, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Smith said that Florida needed a court that had a higher degree of experience in complex commercial matters like antitrust and intellectual property cases. Also, he felt a specialized court could help recruit companies to Florida. “We want to attract high-quality business to Florida. And we want them to know that if they have to go to court, we’re going to offer them a high quality of service,” said Smith, a former business litigator. The new staff attorney will be added in December. The new judge will come on board in January. Smith said that the new help will alleviate some of the pressure on Roche, who, he said, “was terribly overworked.” “We knew from day one that we had a workload for two judges,” Smith said. Attorney Jerry Linscott, a partner in the litigation group at Baker & Hostetler in its Orlando office, has seen first-hand the benefits of having a business court. “It’s been wonderful,” said Linscott, who served on a committee that helped develop the new court. Linscott has had seven cases of his own in the new court. One was resolved by way of a dismissal, one is set for trial and the others are pending. Linscott said that one of the key benefits of the court is getting some consistency from judges. In civil court, he noted, there are typically eight to 10 judges who are inconsistent and unpredictable in their rulings. “As you know, businesses like predictable results. And at least we can get some predictability when you have two judges agreeing,” Linscott said.

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