/The Changing Landscape for Business Disputes in Texas Justices Named to Inaugural Business Dispute Appellate Court

The Changing Landscape for Business Disputes in Texas: Justices Named to Inaugural Business Dispute Appellate Court

On June 11, 2024, Governor Greg Abbott appointed the three inaugural justices for the new Fifteenth Court of Appeals, which will hear appeals from business courts statewide.

Disputes involving businesses in Texas are changing. Newly formed business courts will open their doors on September 1, 2024, and will have jurisdiction over commercial disputes. And on June 11, 2024, Governor Abbott announced the appointment of the first justices for the newly created Fifteenth Court of Appeals, which will have exclusive intermediate appellate jurisdiction not only over appeals from business courts throughout the state, but also: (i) litigation brought by or against the State of Texas; and (ii) constitutional challenges to state statutes. Unlike other Texas Courts of Appeals with jurisdiction in specific counties, the Fifteenth Court of Appeals will have statewide jurisdiction.

Governor Abbott appointed Scott A. Brister as chief justice, along with Scott K. Field and April L. Farris. Chief Justice Brister previously served on the Supreme Court of Texas, the First and Fourteenth Courts of Appeals in Houston, and 234th Judicial District Court. Justice Field is judge of the 480th Judicial District Court in Williamson County and previously served as justice of the Third Court of Appeals in Austin. Justice Farris is a current justice on the First Court of Appeals in Houston, and is a prior assistant solicitor general of Texas. All three have prior experience at private law firms that represent clients in business matters.

As the sole members of the Fifteenth Court of Appeals until the expiration of their terms, these three justices will create original precedent that will bind future business courts. The new courts are intended to increase predictability and consistency in the application of Texas law to businesses across Texas. The trial-level courts will be available for litigants starting September 1, 2024, and likewise on that date, all eligible cases that were filed on or after September 1, 2023, and are then pending in the First through Fourteenth Courts of Appeals, will transfer to the Fifteenth Court of Appeals.

Corporate litigants should strongly consider this new forum, particularly given that even when a plaintiff chooses to sue in traditional district court, defendants will be able to remove certain cases to the business courts.

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