- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

Maryland circuit courts are designating judges to technology and complex business cases as part of a statewide effort to give such cases faster processing and higher priority in the judicial system.
The program, created through the state's judiciary system to avoid legislation, would require at least one judge of each circuit court to focus primarily on technology and business cases "of such a complex nature that they require specialized treatment and education to improve administration of justice," said Judge Steven Platt of the Prince George's County Circuit Court.
"Having one or two judges who primarily focus on these complicated business and technology cases would expedite cases for technology companies whose very survival depends on how quickly they can resolve a case," said Mr. Platt, chairman of the program's task force.
The restructuring in judges is set to begin Jan. 1 for courts in Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Prince George's, Montgomery and Frederick counties. Mr. Platt said judges assigned to the program have begun special training that includes technology and business law, economics and the workings of specific technology.
The judges would handle mostly technology-related cases, but also would take on litigation concerning real estate, contractual and copyright issues, Mr. Platt said.
Intricate business and technology cases on average take seven to 18 months to be resolved in Maryland courtrooms, the program's task force report says.
The task force has used current funds from the judiciary budget to finance the program, but Mr. Platt said the circuit courts could not begin the next phase of updating courtroom technology without an estimated $750,000 to $1 million.
"The General Assembly knows that when they can give us these additional funds, we are ready to start up our first phase of a more sophisticated courtroom," which would include equipment for electronic filing and for video conferences, Mr. Platt said.
Lawyers with the Maryland State Bar Association at first were skeptical about establishing a separate division for business cases, said Keith Truffer, a lawyer who serves on the litigation section.
"What trial lawyers feared was if you justified this business and technology division in the courts, you could do the same with any specialty issue and you would have an influx in specialty divisions," said Mr. Truffer, chairman for the litigation section.
"But lawyers definitely support a program like this where there is better record tracking on the issue and the judge is well-trained on the subject to move a case more efficiently and effectively."
The program started as part of a bill that Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, sent to the General Assembly in 2000 "to make Maryland more pro-business," Mr. Platt said.
Mr. Platt said the task force has based most of the program on New York's Commercial Division of the Supreme Court, which handles business cases in Westchester, New York, Erie, Nassau and Monroe counties, and Delaware's Court of Chancery, which hears business and corporate cases.


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