Wednesday, March 26, 1997
Philadelphia Bar Education Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Good morning, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. My name is Andrew Susko and I am a partner with the law firm of White and Williams with its main office located here in Philadelphia, Pa. It is my privilege to represent the Pennsylvania Defense Institute before this Committee. I am here on behalf of PDI President James Zeszutek, Esquire, of Pittsburgh who is unable to be here today.

The Pennsylvania Defense Institute (PDI) is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the United States. Organized in 1969, the PDI has over 1,200 members including lawyers, executives of insurance companies, self-insurers and independent adjusters from across the state of Pennsylvania. PDI members include lawyers who are actively engaged in the practice of civil law and devote a substantial portion of their time on litigated matters to the defense of damage suits on behalf of individuals, insurance companies and corporations. The organization also has non-lawyer members and includes full time executives and managerial or supervisory employees of insurance companies, self-insurers and corporations who individually devote a substantial portion of their time to claims administration or to matters with a direct impact upon claims administration.

The PDI supports the concept of a specialized business court to provide a separate judicial forum for resolving disputes between businesses. We believe such a court would be beneficial to both the interests of businesses located in Pennsylvania generally and the interests of our members in particular. We support the concept of a business court for the reasons detailed below.

First, a Commerce Court will serve as a statement that the General Assembly recognizes that our legal dispute resolution system should be uniquely responsive to Pennsylvania businesses. With Delaware as a nationally recognized leader and model, other states have adopted the solution of a business or chancery court. In addition to Delaware, specialized courts have been created in Illinois, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Additionally, other states are considering special business dispute resolution forums including Michigan, California, Ohio, Texas, Florida and others. The creation of a Commerce Court will serve as a statement that Pennsylvania recognizes the needs of Pennsylvania businesses in having effective access to a specialized court.

Second, a specialized court promises efficiency in dispute resolution. That efficiency in dispute resolution comes from the specialization of the court itself and the expertise and experience the court will possess and develop over time. Improving the administration of justice and eliminating court congestion and delays in civil litigation are stated purposes of the PDI. We believe a separate court for businesses will further these purposes.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, a Commerce Court will bring to business disputes reliability, predictability and, in short, a greater degree of certainty in business dispute resolution. In a ever increasingly specialized professional world, the practice of law has been no exception. The last two decades have seen a great trend toward specialization of the legal profession in both the private and public sectors. Additionally, our court system has already turned to specialization and separate courts for dispute resolution including Family Court, Orphans Court, and the Trial Courts of the Civil and Criminal Divisions. Specialization is not only logical, but offers a judicial forum uniquely qualified and sensitive to the needs of a particular group of litigants.

For all of the above reasons, the PDI supports the concept of a separate specialized Commerce Court. Senate Bill 570 is currently under review by the governing board of the Pennsylvania Defense Institute and the PDI will provide its specific comments, if any, in writing to the Committee.

I appreciate the opportunity to be here today on behalf of the Pennsylvania Defense Institute and to support this very important legislative initiative. If you have any questions for me, I am happy to answer them now or at any time in the future. If I can be of any assistance, I am available to the Committee.