Expanded Use of E-Filing Among Commission’s New Recommendations

By Christian Nolan

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Good evening Members,

The Commission to Reimagine the Future of New York’s Courts today announced recommendations for expanding the use of e-filing and proposals for enhancing remote court operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The announcement comes as the commission released two reports today. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore appointed the commission to examine regulatory, technological, structural and other innovations, and propose practical short- and long-range reforms. The commission is led by former New York State Bar Association President Henry M. Greenberg.

The commission is comprised of six working groups: trials, appellate practice, online courts, regulatory innovations, structural innovations and technology. Today’s reports were produced by the Structural Innovations Working Group chaired by New York Court of Appeals Associate Judge Leslie E. Stein and Westchester County Clerk Timothy C. Idoni, and its Technology Working Group led by Mark A. Berman, a partner at Ganfer Shore Leeds & Zauderer, and Sharon M. Porcellio, a member of Bond, Schoeneck & King.

Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks is permitted to institute e-filing in all classes of cases and venues in Supreme Court on a voluntary basis, as well as on a mandatory basis in many, but not all, classes of cases. To institute e-filing on a mandatory basis in these excluded types of cases, the chief administration judge must seek permission through an act of the state Legislature. As such, the Structural Innovations Working Group’s report is calling for current law to be amended to:

  • Extend the chief administrative judge’s ability to institute e-filing in all the state’s trial courts in civil matters.
  • Permit the chief administrative judge to implement voluntary or mandatory e-filing without limitation as to court or case type upon approval of the local county clerk and in consultation with various bar associations, institutional service providers, assigned counsel, unaffiliated attorneys, as well as various other participants and stakeholders in the legal process as appropriate.
  • Remove the limitation on the chief administrative judge’s discretion regarding mandatory e-filing in currently excluded case types, among them matrimonial matters, residential foreclosures, consumer credit actions, election law proceedings, mental hygiene law proceedings, Article 70 and Article 78 proceedings.
  • Institute e-filing provisions in the civil courts of lesser jurisdiction and in all courts of criminal jurisdiction.

The commission’s Technology Working Group examined how the court system can improve its transition to remote operations with the group designing a survey of judges, including town and village justices and their staffs, to inquire about their use of technology to perform their work remotely. Over 1,900 respondents completed the survey and a key finding revealed that far too many respondents reported using their own personal mobile devices rather than court-issued ones to conduct court business. Based on this and other responses, the Technology Working Group put forth the following recommendations:

  • The use of personal devices should be limited for court business. Instead, judges and court attorneys should be provided with court system-issued laptops, tablets or other mobile devices and required to use those devices to work remotely, effectively and securely.
  • Scanning functionality should be provided for remote judging, as well as printers for those judges who must work with paper.
  • As much as possible, judges and non-judicial staff should use email to communicate and avoid the practice of faxing to increase efficiency and reduce the use of paper.
  • The court system’s Division of Technology should develop statewide training to educate court system personnel on the efficient and secure use of mobile devices, as well as case and data management features and platforms that have been or will be implemented by the court system.

“The recommendations in these two reports are necessary steps for the further development and enhancement of New York’s virtual court system,” said Greenberg. “I am grateful beyond measure to the hard and inspired work of the commission’s working groups on structural innovations led by Judge Leslie Stein and County Clerk Idoni, and technology led by Mark Berman and Sharon Porcellio.”

The reports are available online at: https://www.nycourts.gov/LegacyPDFS/publications/pdfs/CommitteeReport-eFiling.pdf and https://www.nycourts.gov/LegacyPDFS/publications/pdfs/RemoteJudgingSurvey-FirstReport.pdf

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