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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Too-Late-Pfau Discovers Internet, Still Mum on Corruption

Pfau Seeks 'Broader Authority' to Expand E-Filing Across State
The New York Law Journal by Brendan Pierson  -  June 7, 2011

Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau yesterday asked for "broader authority" to expand the mandatory e-filing in state courts.

Her recommendation came in a report to Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature as mandated in 2009 legislation declaring that e-filing was no longer a "pilot" program. The report concluded that e-filing has proven to be "reliable, efficient, convenient and secure." The findings follow a call earlier this year by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman that the courts move "boldly and efficiently" into the 21st century with new technology (NYLJ, March 3). "The experience with electronic filing over the past twelve years, the needs and interests of attorneys and their clients, as well as of the court system, and the challenging fiscal landscape in which the justice system now operates and in which it will likely be operating in the coming years, all strongly support the need for legislation expanding e-filing in New York," Judge Pfau wrote in her report. "It is essential today that the court system, through new ways of thinking and operating, become more efficient and effective. E-filing is an extraordinary tool, ready at hand, that will assist courts to achieve these goals."  The state court system first introduced e-filing, which allows attorneys to file documents electronically without going to court, as a voluntary pilot program for certain cases in a handful of courts. Since then, the program has expanded to include commercial, tort and tax cases in the Supreme Court in 15 counties, including two—Broome and Erie—in which it is allowed in all cases; in the Surrogate's Court in five counties; in the Court of Claims in the Albany district; and in certain cases in the New York City Civil Court.

Last year, e-filing became mandatory in commercial cases in Manhattan Supreme Court. In February, it was introduced in commercial and tort cases in Westchester County. Mandatory e-filing began last week in Rockland County for virtually all case types except those excluded by statute. About 300,000 cases have been e-filed since the program's inception, according to Judge Pfau's report. The state court system counts about 4.5 million filings each year. The report included a draft of a bill that would allow Judge Pfau to expand the system further. The measure would give her the authority to implement mandatory e-filing in all criminal courts statewide, though she said in an interview that she would begin with a handful of courts best equipped to handle e-filing. It would also give her the authority to implement mandatory e-filing in all commercial, tort and contract cases in New York City; most matrimonial and election law proceedings in Livingston, Monroe, Rockland, Tompkins and Westchester counties, and three other counties to be determined; all cases in Surrogate's Court; certain petitions in Family Court; and no-fault cases involving compensation of medical services providers. Judge Pfau said in her report that e-filing "constitutes an extraordinary tool" and "it is time to move forward with boldness." But she said that the best way to achieve its benefits without dislocating the courts was to proceed in a "measured, careful fashion." She added that as administrative judge, she "is in the best possible position to assess all of the factors in determining where and how e-filing should go forward." Under the chief administrative judge's approach, self-represented litigants and attorneys who certify in writing that they do not have the knowledge or equipment needed to participate could opt out even in courts with mandatory e-filing. In addition, county clerks in affected counties would have to agree to mandatory e-filing in Supreme Court. The court system would also establish an advisory committee on e-filing.

Senator John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he intended to move the court system's bill into the Senate "as soon as possible."  "I want to see e-filing get done. I would prefer to see it get passed in the next two weeks," he said. "We need to move forward, smooth out the wrinkles as they come, and better modernize the practice of law in New York state."  Judge Pfau said in an interview that it was too soon to say how quickly the changes could be implemented. "This all takes time," she said. "Anything you do that's new takes resources, and that's obviously an issue for us. …This isn't going to be done overnight." Judge Pfau noted in her report that the federal courts, which introduced e-filing in 1995, have already made it mandatory in all cases, and that 41 states have e-filing to some degree. Courts where it is required have benefitted from greater efficiency and reduced financial burdens, she said.  Judge Pfau highlighted the convenience e-filing would afford individual attorneys and litigants. "Papers can be filed and filing fees paid at any time, whether the County Clerk's Office or the court is open or not, from almost anywhere," she wrote. "This gives attorneys additional time to respond to the requirements of their clients, yet meet deadlines. Attorneys in e-filed cases have access to the complete file, simultaneously by as many counsel as are working on a matter, at any time of any day of the week, and from virtually anywhere. This translates into efficiency in attorney work, as well as a savings on intra-office delivery expenses."  Judge Pfau also said that mandatory e-filing would have the effect of "leveling the playing field" between large firms, which have staffs to handle the costs of court filing, and smaller firms and solo practitioners, which often do not.  She said that a statewide mandatory e-filing program would save the courts "hundreds of millions of dollars" each year, assuming a savings of $40 per filed document. Actual savings could be much higher, up to $95 per document, according to the report.  The savings, Judge Pfau said in the interview, would come in the form of avoiding future costs by allowing the courts to take on an expanding case load without hiring new staff.  Daniel Bookstaver, a spokesman for the court system, said it was impossible to say what the initial costs of expanded e-filing would be. He said the costs would mostly come from paying for new technology, and would be much less than the savings.  "The cost is on the technology end, and it's not an enormous figure," he said.  |Brendan Pierson can be contacted at bpierson@alm.com.

7 comments:

court employee said...

So Jonathan Lippman wants to move forward with "boldness" ?!?!?

Why don't you move against corruption with such "boldness" ????

Everyone sees right through you, Jonathan- And you too, Ann.

Anonymous said...

OCA wants to move up and at it with all the new technology....but I have documents that say they have been...their employees send Weiner-mails all day long to each other and those outside of OCA..just got some today.
I guess OCA means... STATE COURT BUSINESS RELATED TECHNOLOGY, that the taxpayers demand for their boatload of NY State extractions of their hard working dollars ....and not OCA's unethical business of sending massive obscene pass-a-longs, during work hours on work computers using employee state monikers, going on for years and years and years!

Anonymous said...

More Pfau and Lippman diversion from corruption. Why isn't every court action recorded and available on the internet. Court proceedings are public, except for certain limited areas. Lippman and Pfau do nothing about the massive NY corruption and wasted appellate filings because Judges control transcripts and cover-up corruption and judicial misconduct from the bench. Corrupt vermin, Lippman and Pfau, can not be in charge of anything.

Anonymous said...

This Pfau is a clerk! Use the internet! Where has she been? Will this make it harder or easier to loose the files, a favorite dirty trick of the scum in the courts when they can't figure any other way to screw you? But Pfau/Lippman know all this only too well!

Jail4Judges said...

All Pfau is doing is playing with paper. Look at her ethics forms they make interesting reading.

Anonymous said...

hear no evil/corruption - see no evil/corrution and speak no evil/corruption and therefore there will be NO CORRUPTION and don't forget it!!!

court insider said...

Pfau is an empty skirt who does what she is told by her masters! This is really Lippman and the people behind him, it's all a big con! Don't get taken in by it!

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               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
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