ALBANY, N.Y., April 10 (Reuters) - New York state court
administrators are seeking public comment on a handful of
proposed rules, including a measure that would make certain
types of electronically-filed court documents more accessible to
The proposal would remove a designation of "secure" from
certain e-filed documents, including requests for
judicial intervention, bills of costs and proofs of service.
Currently, any document labeled "secure" is not made available
to the public via the internet, though hard copies are available
at county courthouses for cases that have not been sealed.
The proposal "recognizes that the 'secure' designation is
not appropriate for certain types of documents...that are
designed for broad public notice and by definition do not
contain sensitive information" such as Social Security numbers,
health information and credit card and banking account numbers,
according to a memo released Monday by the Office of Court Administration.
Another proposal would give judges the authority to order
settlement conferences or take other action to move stalled
foreclosure cases forward.
Starting in late 2010, many plaintiffs began bringing
foreclosure actions without filing a proof of service and
attorney affirmation, according to a separate OCA memo.
"As a result, a substantial backlog of thousands of
foreclosure cases has built up over the last 15 months, leaving
many homeowners in a legal limbo," OCA Counsel John McConnell
wrote in the memo.
As early as June, the court system is planning to launch a
pilot program in Kings County that would identify inactive
foreclosure actions. Judges would then have the power to order a
settlement conference or refer the case to a special delinquency
calendar or a non-profit housing agency.
A third proposed rule would prohibit disbarred, suspended and
resigned attorneys from using an informal mediation program to
pursue fee disputes. Allowing disciplined and resigned attorneys
to bring claims under the Fee Dispute Resolution Program,
McConnell wrote in a memo, may be inconsistent with a program
rule excluding "claims involving substantial legal questions,
including professional malpractice or misconduct."
The proposal would prevent "the potential for disparate
treatment of similar cases around the state and resulting harm
to the (fee dispute) program's reputation," the memo reads.
Administrators also are seeking to implement a rule that
would allow judges to hold a party who violates an automatic
order in a matrimonial action in civil contempt.
Automatic orders, which were created by the legislature in
2009, are granted at the onset of a divorce proceeding to
prevent a husband or wife from dissipating marital assets. State
Supreme Court justices have been split over whether the remedy
of civil contempt is available when a spouse violates an
Comments on the foreclosure and fee dispute proposals must be
received by May 14. Comments on the matrimony and e-filing rules
are due by May 24.
(Reporting by Dan Wiessner)
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