In an effort to provide businesses with a more efficient way to resolve their legal disputes, West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Rick Thompson has asked that the Legislature study during the coming months the creation of a chancery court, with jurisdiction limited to business litigation, such as those in Delaware, Mississippi, Tennessee, and New Jersey.
In an article by Justin D. Anderson in yesterday’s (Charleston) Daily Mail, Thompson explained that such a court would show businesses that West Virginia is serious about their needs. He pointed out that three of the four states with chancery courts were in the top 20 in Forbes’ 2007 list of “The Best States for Business.” Delaware was number 11, Tennessee was number 13, New Jersey was number 19, and the fourth state, Mississippi, was number 43. West Virginia was number 50, which may explain Thompson’s interest.
Thompson, who is also chairman of the House Rules Committee, introduced a resolution that would create the interim study in advance of legislation to be introduced next year. Alternatively, he proposed the use of special masters specializing in business law, who could advise circuit court judges in cases involving business litigation. The creation of a new court would require a constitutional revision, and thus a statewide election, while the Legislature could authorize the use of business law special masters.
Anderson’s article also noted the Delaware chancery court’s well-known role in "setting the parameters of corporate law," as shown, for example, by the 2005 litigation brought by shareholders of the Walt Disney Company as a result of Michael Ovitz’s $130 million severance package. For further reference, there are several excellent blogs that concentrate on Delaware business litigation, including Francis G.X. Pileggi’s Delaware Corporate and Commercial Litigation Blog and Morris James LLP’s Delaware Business Litigation Report.