Maryland State Bar Association Proposes an Overhaul to Maryland’s Business & Technology Courts

Kelley Drye Client Advisory

A Maryland State Bar Association task force has issued a comprehensive Report and Proposed Recommendations calling for sweeping changes to improve the effectiveness of the state’s Business & Technology Case Management Program (“BTCMP”). Implementation of the task force’s recommendations would lead to a wide-ranging overhaul of Maryland’s Business and Technology Courts, which were established to specialize in complex business disputes and matters involving technology or intellectual property issues.

The task force reported that the relatively low volume of business and technology cases, which varies significantly by county, has made it difficult to sustain efforts to implement and maintain the BTCMP. Further, the task force reported significant concern among those involved in the program with the lack of decisions from the Maryland’s appellate courts addressing business and technology issues.

In its January 31, 2017 report, the task force identified several factors limiting the current effectiveness of the BTCMP, including:

  • non-uniformity in the program as administered in the various Maryland Circuit Courts;
  • inconsistency in forms and case management procedures;
  • lack of coordination of, and accessibility to, information;
  • lack of coordination of, and accessibility to, opinions; and
  • lack of coordination of, and accessibility to, resources.

The report outlines three alternative recommendations to address these issues. The most comprehensive recommendation is for the BTCMP to be completely restructured to designate three to four judges statewide as Business and Technology Court judges. These judges would only hear business and technology court cases. This would be a profound overhaul of the current system, in which each of the Maryland Circuit Courts is responsible for the management of its respective Business and Technology Court judges. Currently, those judges preside over a broad docket including cases not tied to business or technology issues. Under this proposal, the judges designated to serve on the BTCMP would meet at least quarterly to streamline administrative procedures and discuss relevant legal issues. The proposal would also create an advisory board responsible for conducting a thorough review of the BTCMP every three years. The advisory board would consist of seven members, including sitting BTCMP and appellate judges, former judges, practitioners, and business and community leaders.

A less sweeping recommendation calls for the BTCMP to appoint a statewide program coordinator, while leaving the appointment of Business and Technology Court judges to the individual Maryland Circuit Courts. The program coordinator would be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the BTCMP in the various Circuit Courts; reviewing applications of litigants to the BTCMP; and assigning cases to the BTCMP. This recommendation also calls for the creation of an advisory board.

Finally, if the first two alternate proposals are rejected, the report recommends the creation of an advisory board.

The recommendations now go to the Maryland legislature, which has the sole authority to modify the BTCMP.

For more information on this advisory, please contact:

William S. Gyves
(212) 808-7640