A bill that would expand New York’s electronic filing program for certain papers in civil litigation in supreme and other courts is expected to receive the governor’s signature by the end of the week.
The legislation will enable Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau to select four upstate counties instead of one — including Monroe and Livingston — for participation in mandatory e-filing.
Monroe, Livingston, Rockland and Tompkins counties were included in legislation approved last year as part of a major expansion of an experimental e-filing program originally implemented in New York County. The law made the program permanent, eliminating restrictions on categories of cases and permitting its use statewide in Supreme and Surrogate’s Courts and the Court of Claims.
Judge Pfau must consult with the affected county clerks before mandatory e-filing can be instituted in each county.
Ronald Younkins, chief of operations, Office of Court Administration emphasized that the change “doesn’t mean mandatory e-filing is effective immediately.”
Younkins said discussions are continuing between the courts, county clerks and bar associations to prepare for state e-filing implementation. He said the Office of Court Administration has set up an implementation committee and provides continuing legal education courses to the bar associations to better help affected parties to prepare.
Younkins said much of the discussions have concerned internal processes, the flow of papers and ensuring local needs are met since the processes are a little different in each county.
In June, Justice Thomas Van Strydonck, administrative judge of the Seventh Judicial District, which includes Monroe and Livingston counties, announced appointments to the E-Filing Implementation Committee, being led by Monroe County Clerk Cheryl Dinolfo and Supreme Court Justices Kenneth R. Fisher and Matthew A. Rosenbaum.
Monroe County will start this fall with commercial and medical malpractice cases.
This week’s legislation authorizes any cases in Supreme Court on the civil side, except those involving election or matrimonial law, and Article 78 and Article 81 matters.
The new legislation also modifies reporting requirements approved last year which obligate the chief administrative judge to furnish annual reports on the e-filing program beginning April 1, 2011. The reports must include recommendations for expanding mandatory e-filing to other counties after “a year or so of successful experience with the program in the pilot counties.”
New rules adopted Aug. 18 by the Office of Court Administration require attorneys involved in certain cases to be better prepared at preliminary conferences in cases likely to include e-discovery. A February report to Judge Pfau and Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman showed a strong consensus among New York lawyers and judges that the court system should act immediately to ensure e-discovery is handled as expertly, expeditiously and inexpensively as possible.
Jeremy R. Feinberg, statewide special counsel for the Commercial Division of Office of Court Administration, said one of the purposes of the new rules is to help judges tackle e-discovery issues early in a case.
Section 202.12(b) of the Uniform Rules for the New York State Trial Courts requires counsel for all parties in cases likely to include electronic discovery to be sufficiently versed in matters related to their clients’ technological systems, so that they may competently discuss all issues related to e-discovery for their case. Counsel may bring in a client representative or outside expert to assist in such discussions.
A similar clause has been added to Rule 1 of section 202.70(g) of the Rules of Practice for the Commercial Division. Feinberg explained that some lawyers were showing up for preliminary hearings and not focused on e-discovery issues at all.
“We’re hopeful that this is going to help judges and lawyers and their clients resolve e-discovery disputes more cost efficiently and effectively than before,” Feinberg said.
The measure also clarifies that statutory authorization for use of fax transmission as a means of filing papers, another feature of the early e-filing program, should be limited to papers in the Court of Claims. It permanently authorizes the use of credit cards to pay court fees and other court obligations.