NEW YORK, June 7 (Reuters) - It's cheaper, faster and
greener, and if New York court officials get their way,
electronic filing could become the standard for filing and
serving cases statewide.
In the report -- which was delivered last week to Chief
Judge Jonathan Lippman, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the
legislature -- Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau called on
lawmakers to pass proposed legislation that would allow for the
gradual expansion of e-filing in New York, a move that could
result in "hundreds of millions of dollars" of savings to the
The legislation would allow Pfau to mandate e-filing in
criminal and Surrogate's Court cases, and in all commercial
cases in New York City, regardless of the amount of damages
sought. It would also allow her to mandate e-filing in tort
cases and contract cases city-wide, and in most matrimonial and
election-law proceedings in Livingston, Monroe, Rockland,
Tompkins, and Westchester counties, as well as three other
counties that have yet to be determined.
"When a technology is available that clearly can markedly
improve the efficiency with which the courts conduct business,
it would be irresponsible in these challenging times were the
courts to fail to make the greatest possible use of the
technology -- particularly when the technology brings benefits
to all it affects," the report says.
New York has had a relatively slow start with e-filing,
beginning with a pilot program in 1999. Twelve years later,
some 300,000 cases have been filed through the New York State
Courts Electronic Filing System. Approximately 4.5 million
cases are filed each year in New York state courts.
In May 2010, mandatory e-filing began in New York County
Supreme Court in newly-filed commercial cases. Mandatory
e-filing of commercial and tort cases was introduced in
Westchester County Supreme Court in stages, starting this past
Feb. 1. It became mandatory in Rockland County Supreme Court on
June 1 in all types of cases, except those expressly excluded
by state statute.
Other jurisdictions around the country have moved much more
quickly, the report said. E-filing is now authorized in 41
states, and it is already mandatory for all civil cases in
neighboring Connecticut. E-filing is available in all federal
district and bankruptcy courts, a spokesman for the federal
New York City Bar Association President Samuel W. Seymour
welcomed Pfau's proposal.
"The City Bar has for years urged increased use of e-filing
as good for litigants, lawyers and the courts. We urge swift
legislative approval of expanded e-filing," he said in an
New York State Bar Association President Vincent Doyle III
said the association's House of Delegates adopted a report and
resolution in 2007 that recommended moving toward e-filing in
all of the state courts in all parts of the state.
"We view Judge Pfau's report and the proposed legislation
[as] very consistent with that," Doyle said. "It's something
that has to be done gradually, so the attorneys in the state
and the parties can get acclimated to the process. It is the
wave of the future and we think the courts and county clerks
should be moving toward that."
(Reporting by Jennifer Golson)