Legislation expanding e-filing introduced at request of NY’s top administrative judge moving rapidly through legislature

I noted as a special focus of Issue 5:21 of the e-newsletter the huge amount of legislative interest and activity on e-filing. At almost the same time of that edition, NY’s Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau was delivering her report urging legislation be adopted to expand the use of e-filing in the state’s courts. The report, eFiling in the New York State Courts: Report of the Chief Administrative Judge to the Governor, the Chief Judge, and the State Legislature, was created in fulfillment of a legislative request for information on the state’s existing system and its status. The report included draft legislative language that has now been introduced as AB 8368 and SB 5635.

A bit of background is in order (from the author’s memo attached to the legislation introduced):

E-filing was first authorized by the Legislature as a pilot project 12 years ago for select civil cases in Supreme Court in certain counties. [The general jurisdiction trial court in New York is called the Supreme Court -BR]. Over the next decade the Legislature revisited the experiment several times, expanded case categories and venues in which e-filing could be used on a voluntary basis, and repeatedly extended sunsets for the program. In 2009, on the program’s 10th anniversary, the Legislature made the voluntary e-filing program permanent while, for the first time, authorizing a pilot program in mandatory e-filing in certain case types and venues, subject to automatic opt-outs for pro se litigants and for attorneys without the equipment or technical wherewithal to participate in the program. [AB 8956 & SB 6003 of 2009]. Based partly on successful experience with the 2009 statute, in 2010 the Legislature further expanded mandatory e-filing to additional classes of civil proceedings in certain counties. [AB 10987 & SB 7806 of 2010].

To date, the Legislature has authorized mandatory e-filing in commercial cases over $100,000 in New York and Westchester Counties; in tort cases in Westchester County; and in any class or classes of civil cases (other than CPLR Article 78 proceedings, Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 cases, matrimonial actions and Election Law proceedings) in Supreme Court in Livingston, Monroe, Rockland and Tompkins Counties. In practice, and in accordance with this authorization, mandatory e-filing is now operational in New York, Westchester and Rockland Counties.

AB 8368/SB5635 would expand mandatory e-filing in Supreme Court civil cases and introduce it in both the Surrogate’s Court and the New York City Civil Court. The bills would also allow exploration of introduction of e-filing in criminal and Family Courts.

AB 8368 was filed June 14 and made it through committee and a full floor vote by June 20, less than a week after introduction. It is now in the Senate Rules Committee while the Senate counterpart (SB 5635) is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.