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Opening Courts with an e-filing system in place? Nope.May 26, 2020

The daily news stated something interesting yesterday and I will quote it:

“For the courts, the silver lining to the pandemic may be that it is pushing officials to update an antiquated system that still relies mainly on paper filings and in-person courthouse appearances.

“People can be set in their ways and sort of don’t like change,” said Marks. “If there’s one way to characterize the last few months, it would be change. Necessity is the mother of invention.”

I for one have been a fierce critic of the way the NY court system runs. For 17 years, what I have seen is a system that in part exists to keep people employed. I suppose everyone needs employment and if PCs, CC’s, SC’s and any other type of appearance can achieve that, then I do not want to be the one that prevents new attorneys, per diems and court staff from not earning a living. I for one would rather see the “PC” and “CC” replaced with a case management conference, followed with a conference order if a case does not have sufficient movement in 12 months after an RJI is filed. I tend to think the parties can probably chart their own course based on the premise that we have clients who want “justice”.

Perhaps a 5 minute discovery calendar at 8:30 AM by zoom could handle most rudimentary discovery disputes? Winner uploads the order. Works well in Fla. Motions by appointment in non motion submission jurisdictions? Limit these to 15-30 minutes depending on the complexity.

But what I think is absolutely necessary before we take the re-opening experiment any further is to implement and mandate e-filing. To tell me that we are going to allow 100,000 mailed in covid-filled paper summonses with checks in a litany of actions does not work. It is dangerous and backwards. I harken to say that in the four states I pracitcer in, only NY still uses paper for filings at all. In reality, the paper system stopped working 15 years ago when e-filing debuted federally. OCA did not read the memo and perhaps our stubbornness and lack of imagination allowed this to happen

I would have hoped in the 2-3 months we have been closed, OCA would have been replacing the paper filing of the lower courts with e-filing. At the very least, I would like a press conference that says they are doing this. Lack of a message leads me to believe that that is not happening, and now we have what I fear is a complete mess. How about keep the courts closed until July, get e-filing right and we can probably have a much smoother and healthier court opening? Why rush when we cannot have in person motion conferences and jury trials?

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