David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
Date: July 6, 2006
New York Courts to Make “Virtual” Case Files Available on the Internet
NEW YORK - The New York State Unified Court System is embarking on an ambitious initiative to make court records easily accessible on the Internet, starting with pilot projects in Manhattan and Broome County. In addition, other court information will be made available online, including for the first time ever, Family Court calendar information.
In Manhattan, the public will have free remote access to a “virtual” file of civil cases in Supreme Court, including pleadings, preliminary conference and other case-management orders, requests for judicial intervention, notes of issue, orders to show cause and notices of motion. (Due to volume, affidavits, exhibits and other supporting motion papers will not be scanned.) In addition to the online “virtual” case file, access will be provided simultaneously to case activity information, such as a record of all court appearances and the date of filing of all papers with the County Clerk. Procedures will be implemented to ensure the protection of sensitive or confidential information. The pilot will begin in September, allowing for prior notification and consultation with the bar.
The Broome County pilot, which begins this summer, will include both criminal and civil case files in Supreme Court. Subject to restrictions to protect privacy interests, the entire file in civil cases, including affidavits and other supporting motion papers, will be scanned and made available. Unlike the pilot in Manhattan, attorneys and members of the public will be required to register and use password to access court records.
“For the first time in its history,” said Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman, “the New York State court system will make case files available on the Internet, along with court decisions and dockets. This will mean an enormous boost in convenience and savings in time and money for litigants and their attorneys. At the same time, confidential information will be shielded from indiscriminate public scrutiny to protect individuals’ privacy rights. This ground-breaking initiative will help the courts keep pace with technology and provide open access to public records while safeguarding personal privacy.”
In addition to actual case files, the court system will also make the following information available on the Internet:
∙ Family Court calendars: Beginning next week, calendar information on pending Family Court cases throughout the state can be accessed by file or docket number. No names or personal identifying information will be posted.
∙ Appellate Division briefs: Also next week, briefs filed with the Appellate Division, Second Department, since January 2005 will be available online, with personal and confidential information redacted.
∙ Supreme Court case activity notices: This fall the court system will offer a free service in which attorneys and the public can sign up to receive an e-mail notice when a pending Supreme Court case undergoes any change in status (e.g., decision is issued, appearance is adjourned).
The changes are an outgrowth of a report by the Commission on Public Access to Court Records, a panel appointed by Chief Judge Judith Kaye to examine open access and privacy issues concerning court records and chaired by nationally renowned First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams. A working group, headed by Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Judy Harris Kluger and Office of Court Administration Chief of Operations Ronald Younkins, is overseeing the program to increase online accessibility to court records. As a result of this working group’s efforts, the court system already provides a considerable amount of information via the Internet, including detailed information on civil and criminal cases, court calendars for New York City Housing Court, and online decisions.