Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: March 24, 1999

Seal of the Unified Court System
www.nycourts.gov
Court System Targets Civil Backlogs and Cases Against New York City
NEW YORK - Reducing delays and backlogs in the civil caseload will be the target of the Unified Court System's Comprehensive Civil Justice Program, a wide-ranging set of initiatives designed to enhance the quality and efficiency of the civil litigation system in New York announced today by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman. The program features an innovative, new civil case management system and the creation of centralized court parts for cases brought against the City of New York. This latest court initiative is being introduced amid an alarming disparity that has developed in recent years - the State's civil caseload has increased dramatically, while the number of judges handling them has not kept pace with the burgeoning dockets.

A key focus of the new program is a coordinated effort with the City of New York to bring to trial thousands of tort cases in which New York City is a defendant. These cases historically have lagged far behind the average disposition time of non-City cases. For example, of all trial-ready cases involving the City, 44 percent are pending over 15 months (the court system's established time frame for a case to be disposed), compared to 17 percent of non-City cases. Further, the number of older cases in which the City of New York is a defendant has risen 26 percent over the last three years. To expedite the adjudication of these cases, centralized court parts will be created in one location to handle cases involving the City, and the City has agreed to assign additional attorneys Citywide to try these cases.

The lynchpin of the Civil Justice Program is a system of differentiated case management, in which all cases are screened from the onset and assigned to a specific track - expedited, standard or complex - with designated time frames for milestone events. The same judge handles a case from beginning to end, closely monitoring adherence to case time frames and deadlines. By having judges retain full control of their cases from filing to disposition, the program takes advantage of the benefits of the Individual Assignment System, including promoting active, continuous treatment of cases, increasing attorney compliance with judicially established time frames and maximizing judges' accountability for their caseloads.

Complementing the creation of a differentiated case management system and centralized court parts for the disposition of cases against New York City, the Civil Justice Program features other significant reform measures, which fall within the following broad areas:
- Specialized Treatment of Cases. Specialized treatment of commercial cases and guardianship cases to be expanded, and new reform measures to streamline matrimonial litigation to be instituted.
- Simplified, Streamlined Procedures. Legislative and administrative initiatives to be introduced to simplify civil practice, including uniform local rules in each judicial district, legislation to provide judges more flexibility in addressing dilatory litigation and regulating civil deposition practice, and new jury rules.
- Alternative Approaches to Resolving Civil Matters. Court-annexed ADR programs to be expanded around the state to increase available dispute resolution options.
- Technological Advances. Technological innovations, ranging from electronic filing of court papers to a universal case management program, to be integrated into civil case processing.

"The Civil Justice Program is the latest in a long list of court initiatives focusing on making the courts more effective and accountable to the public," said Chief Judge Kaye. "Although it may not get banner headlines, the day-to-day business of civil litigation affects hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in our increasingly litigious society. For too long, civil courts have tolerated costly delays and inefficiencies. This is simply unacceptable. New Yorkers deserve fair and timely treatment of their cases from a responsible and forward-looking court system. I am confident that the Civil Justice Program, like our Family, Criminal, Matrimonial and Housing Programs, will help to make the courts more responsive to the growing numbers of individuals who turn to the courts for relief."

Chief Administrative Judge Lippman added, "The centerpiece of the Civil Justice Program will be a comprehensive case management system that screens cases from the onset and tailors the treatment of cases to their level of complexity. Judges will be able to more rigorously monitor all stages of civil litigation and move cases forward to resolution. The program will also focus on reducing the backlog of cases against the City of New York by centralizing their disposition in specialized court parts. The expedited resolution of such cases will reap benefits for both litigants and taxpayers. I would like to thank Corporation Counsel Michael Hess for his cooperation in this critical new program."

New York City Corporation Counsel Michael Hess stated, "I am pleased that the court system is undertaking this important initiative. To ensure that sufficient resources are available to support the expeditious disposition of tort cases involving the City, I will assign more staff attorneys from my office to work full-time in trying these matters. The City is extending its full cooperation and commitment to making this program a success."

The changes proposed under the Civil Justice Program will be open to a 60-day public comment period, during which time members of the bar and the public will be invited to submit feedback. Comments should be addressed to:
Michael Colodner, Counsel
Office of Court Administration
25 Beaver Street
New York, NY 10004
Copies of the "Comprehensive Civil Justice Program Report" can be obtained by calling (212) 428-2500. It has also been posted on the court system web site at http://ucs.ljx.com.

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