Chief Justice Lee, Chancellor Lyle Launch New Court to Business & Legal Community

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Sharon Lee and Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle launched the state’s first Business Court to the business and legal communities at a gathering in downtown Nashville Thursday.

The event brought together more than 120 leaders in the business and law arena at the Baker Donelson Center to learn how this initiative will enhance the quality of the business environment in the state. It was hosted by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Tennessee Business Roundtable, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Tennessee Business Partnership.

“Keeping businesses here in Tennessee and bringing in new ventures means more jobs for Tennesseans,” Chief Justice Sharon Lee said in remarks Thursday. “This has long-term benefits and is good for all Tennesseans.”

Tennessee is not alone in launching a court dedicated to handling business disputes.  Twenty-six other states, including many southern states that vie with Tennessee for economic development opportunities, have stand-alone business courts.

“In order to compete with our neighbors and other states for these investments, we needed a business court,” Chief Justice Lee said. 

One of the challenges was finding the resources to launch such an effort.

“I tend to be conservative when it comes to dollars, especially tax dollars,” Chief Justice Lee said.

So, the Supreme Court turned to existing resources and designated a Davidson County Chancery Court to serve as the Business Court pilot project, which will hear cases and identify best practices for development of similar future courts. As plans for the court began to take shape, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle stepped in to handle details.

“She has all the qualifications that a business court needs. Her expertise and experience throughout this project – as well as the support and respect of the business bar – are strong indicators of a successful future for this endeavor,” Chief Justice Lee said.

Chancellor Lyle has 20 years of experience as a state court judge and 34 years in the legal profession, including years of experience in business litigation as an attorney and judge.

“The ultimate satisfaction for me is the work,” Chancellor Lyle said. “I genuinely enjoy the kind of specialized work required for business cases, such as construing contract provisions, studying the details of financial transactions, customization of case litigation plans, coring down into the facts and claims, the conflict management, the legal analysis, and writing up my findings of fact and conclusions of law.”

Chancellor Lyle will continue a regular docket in Davidson County in addition to handling businesses cases that choose the Business Court as their forum.

“The bench and bar should be indebted to Chancellor Ellen Lyle for her willingness to volunteer her Court. In due course, the Business Court concept has great potential for businesses and courts across the state,” said Lew Conner, Counsel with Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, and former Court of Appeals Judge.

The Business Court will begin taking cases May 1. Plans are in place for an advisory commission that will fine tune the rules for the court, which, although located in Davidson County, has procedures in place to permit transfers of cases from anywhere in the state that meet certain requirements. The Supreme Court has long-term plans to expand the Business Court concept to other jurisdictions in Tennessee.

More information about the Business Court is available here.