Kafker keynote, judges' panel highlight Third Annual "ComCom" Conference

Thursday, May 17, 2018
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Hon. Scott L. Kafker, of the Supreme Judicial Court, delivers the Third Annual Complex Commercial Litigation Conference's keynote on May 10.

Federal and state judges joined some of the area’s most accomplished business litigators for the Third Annual Complex Commercial Litigation Conference on May 10, a day marked by topical conversation specific to this defined area of practice. Held at the Hyatt Regency Boston, the event opened with a keynote address by Hon. Scott L. Kafker of the Supreme Judicial Court, and continued with panel discussions focused on intellectual property, bankruptcy and business litigation cases.

Kafker’s 2017 appointment to the SJC came after he spent more than 15 years on the Court of Appeals, and he noted that complex commercial matters account for a very small percentage of the annual caseload in both forums. As such, the veteran judge said complex commercial litigators who streamline their arguments are more likely to find a receptive audience in these venues.

“If you want to successfully appeal complex commercial cases in the SJC and the Appeals Court, try to make them as non-complex as possible,” Kafker said. “Do not let us get lost in commercial complexities, or at least commercial minutiae.”

Kafker also said he places high importance on complex commercial expertise, which he successfully lobbied to expand during his three-year tenure as chief justice of the Appeals Court. With three recent appointees and new Chief Justice Mark V. Green linked by their commercial backgrounds, Kafker said the Appeals Court’s ability to handle such cases has improved dramatically. Kafker then noted the comparative lack of former business litigants on the SJC, whose judges largely trained in criminal law before moving to the bench.

Following Kafker’s remarks, the day's slate of panels concluded with “Perspectives from the Bench,” featuring judges from each of the forums in which local commercial litigators practice. Panelists included Hon. Karen F. Green of the Massachusetts Superior Court, Hon. Kenneth W. Salinger of the Superior Court’s Business Litigation Session, Hon. Indira Talwani of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and Hon. Paul A. Chernoff (ret.) of Brody Hardoon Perkins & Kesten.

Led by moderator Lindsay M. Burke, Esq., of Kenney & Sams PC, the four judges discussed their methods for involving junior attorneys in commercial proceedings, and offered recommendations on overcoming what jurors may perceive as dry subject matter to present compelling cases.

The conference was co-sponsored by the MBA’s Complex Commercial Litigation and Business Law sections.