2016 Annual Report of the State Reporter
1. Introduction. The New York State Law Reporting Bureau (LRB), established under article 14 of the Judiciary Law, edits and publishes all of the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Appellate Division, as well as selected decisions of the lower courts. These decisions are published in the New York Official Reports, which include the New York Reports, the Appellate Division Reports and the Miscellaneous Reports. Motion decisions of the Appellate Division and Appellate Term and additional lower court opinions are published only online. The Official Reports are published in print and online pursuant to a five-year commercial publishing contract, currently held by Thomson Reuters – West; consequently, Thomson Reuters Westlaw is the sole commercial source of the complete New York Official Reports through December 31, 2020. A free, public access version of the Official Reports is also available on the Law Reporting Bureau website at http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/.
The LRB operates under the direction of a State Reporter appointed by the Court of Appeals, with a designated Judge of the Court — currently Judge Leslie E. Stein, who replaced Judge Eugene F. Pigott, Jr. upon his retirement — serving as the Court's liaison to the LRB. This is a report of the LRB's activities in 2016.
2. Publishing activity. The LRB published in print and electronically 54,564 opinions, memoranda, abstracts and appellate motions in 2016 — a decrease of 1.1% from 2015.
A. Print publication. During 2016, the LRB prepared for publication two volumes of the New York Reports, 3d Series; 11 volumes of the Appellate Division Reports, 3d Series; and four volumes of the Miscellaneous Reports, 3d Series, for a total of 17 bound volumes, as planned. Two soft-cover interim volumes of the New York Reports, 3d Series, also were published.
In addition, 52 weekly advance sheets and six bi-monthly Cumulative Tables and Index pamphlets were issued. These advance sheets contained 10,554 full opinions, memorandum decisions, and abstracts of opinions not published in print; 19,405 pages of opinions, memoranda and abstracts; and 12,572 headnotes, allocated as follows:
Compared to the prior year, the number of opinions, memoranda and abstracts decreased 10%; pages decreased 9.7%; and the number of headnotes increased 1.8%.
B. Electronic publication. All decisions published in print also are published electronically. In addition, the LRB publishes the following decisions only electronically:
• Appellate term and trial court opinions not published in the printed Miscellaneous Reports. A total of 5,212 Appellate Term and trial court opinions were published only in electronic format in 2016, an increase of .7 % from the prior year.
• Motion decisions of the Appellate Division and Appellate Term. A total of 38,798 motion decisions were published electronically in 2016, an increase of 1.4% from the prior year.
3. Selection of lower court opinions. During 2016, a total of 5,958 Appellate Term and trial court opinions were submitted for publication consideration, a decrease of 1% compared to 2015. One hundred thirty-one opinions published on websites or in legal newspapers, or otherwise brought to our attention, were solicited from the authoring judges for publication.
Of the opinions submitted, the LRB accepted 470 for publication in the Miscellaneous Reports and 5,212 for online publication, for a total of 5,682 acceptances, an increase of approximately 1.1% compared to 2015. The overall acceptance rate is 90.1%, a decrease of 4.7% from the prior year.
4. Website usage. Usage of the LRB website grew again in 2016. A total of 1,138,060 visitors accessed the site, making 3,977,394 visits. Compared to the prior year, visitors increased by 10.96% and visits increased by 17.28%. The visits resulted in 35,388,108 page views, an increase of approximately 11.1%, based upon a comparison with the combined page view and requests for information reported in 2015.
5. Style Manual.
A total of 216 copies of the printed Official Reports Style Manual were distributed to judges, court staff and others in 2016. An additional 19,898 copies were downloaded from the LRB website.
The Style Manual was amended to update certain existing citation examples and to add some new style rules and examples.
6. Product development. The LRB continued to enhance its online services and website in 2016.
• A facet was added to the Official Reports on Westlaw permitting searches limited to New York’s Supreme Court, Commercial Division, which mirrors the Commercial Division database introduced on the LRB website in 2013. In addition, a content category was added to Westlaw permitting searches limited to Surrogate’s Court decisions.
• The LRB website (http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/), introduced in 2000, was substantially updated to provide a modern look and improve its responsiveness, accessibility, usability and navigability. The changes, among other things, facilitate accessibility by persons with disabilities and ensure the website’s compatibility with a range of devices (desktop computers; tablets such as iPad and Surface; and smart phones such as iPhone and Galaxy). In addition to providing free public access to the decisions of New York courts, the website features a unique Legal Research Portal (http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/research.htm) that contains links to a comprehensive collection of free online legal research sources.
• The LRB’s Legal Research Portal added links to the following content: American Law Sources Online (ALSO), a comprehensive, uniform compilation of links to freely accessible online sources of primary and secondary law for the United States and Canada, as well as commentary and legal practice aids; New York Court of Claims decisions; the new Model Colloquies published by the court system’s Criminal Jury Instructions Committee; the City Record Online; New York City Green Book; and UCS Administrative Orders.
• The LRB website’s Advanced Search function was updated to offer users the option of sorting search results either by party name or by decision date (in reverse chronological order).
• All Appellate Division and Appellate Term motion index pages from January 2016 to present were reorganized to facilitate browsing and improve aesthetics, and a program was developed and implemented to facilitate effective research of Court of Appeals Criminal Leave Applications using the LRB’s Advanced Search function.
• The Official Reports Service, which provides archival coverage of Official Reports decisions, was augmented to provide free access to all officially published New York State court decisions from January 1, 1956 to present. Coverage previously extended back to 1980. The Service, which is hosted by West under provisions of the publishing contract, is available at no cost to the public on the LRB website. Use of the Official Reports Service more than doubled in the wake of the expansion of coverage and the August upgrade of the LRB website.
• An Electronic Resources User Guide was posted on the LRB website. The guide assists researchers in locating and efficiently using the electronic resources available on the LRB website and the Official Reports on Westlaw.
• An LRB Twitter account was created. The LRB tweets recent postings of appellate decisions and Court of Appeals New Filings, in addition to other LRB news. Twitter currently supplements RSS feeds as a tool to provide website users with prompt access to new content or news as it is posted.
• In an article entitled “State Legal Information Census: An Analysis of Primary State Legal Information” (Sarah Glassmeyer, JD MLS, Harvard Library Innovation Lab), New York was one of three states recognized as being the most open publishers of case law. Against the backdrop of the nationwide access to justice crisis and the need for available and affordable legal self-help resources, the article surveyed state-provided legal information websites. New York’s ranking for case law was predicated upon the LRB website’s provision of free (no cost) and open (fewest restrictions on or barriers to use) access, which was determined in reference to 14 identified factors that obstruct public access of legal information.
7. Personnel. The LRB staff numbered 30 at the close of 2016.
• Wendy Harbour joined the LRB as a Law Reporting Aide, and Sara Patterson joined the LRB as a Legal Typist.
• Principal Stenographer Donna McMillen retired from the LRB.
• Law Reporting Assistant Milagros Figueroa transitioned from the LRB to a position as Principal Stenographer at the Court of Appeals.
• Portraits of past State Reporters and other official reporters were hung throughout Centennial Hall, and an original portrait of William Johnson, the second Reporter (1806-1823), which was donated by Mr. Johnson’s family, was hung in the foyer of the LRB’s offices.
• Evacuation and Emergency Procedures were recirculated to staff as part of an annual reminder protocol. Additionally, Floor Warden responsibilities were reissued to the designated floor wardens.
• Maintenance inspections of the Automated External Defibrillation (AED) equipment were conducted on a monthly basis.
9. Equipment. The LRB acquired the following new equipment to replace obsolete/outdated assets and disposed of unnecessary equipment:
• New printers supplied to the LRB by West Publishing pursuant to the 2016-2020 Official Reports publishing contract were installed office wide.
• New computers and monitors, also provided by West, were received and prepared for a 2017 rollout to staff.
• The LRB surplused 30 pairs of unused desktop speakers.
• Mobile devices for the LRB’s Technology Team were upgraded.
10. Editorial and office technology. In response to the recent retirements and other departures of managing/programmer members of the LRB’s technology team, a collaborative model for managing LRB technology operations was implemented. The core team, comprising Chief Legal Editor Katie Breitenbach (management), Eric Harrell, Nicole Kappes, Eric Van Hall, Chris Velez (technology) and Kayleigh Gekakis and Matt Dunn (editorial), is charged with assuring the effective functioning of the LRB’s daily technical operations, implementing OCA-directed projects and developing the LRB’s internal technology capabilities and the public website. The core team will work closely with product managers and LRB staff to adapt current automation to new programs, such as Microsoft Office, and to improve the functioning of and users’ experience with current processes.
• The LRB continued preparations for the Unified Court System’s conversion to Microsoft Office:
A new LRB default database structure is under construction, which will provide the foundation for the LRB’s eventual transition of all LRB processes to MS Office and for content and functionality enhancement of the LRB website. The LRB Database will form the central component of the LRB’s future technology infrastructure, and will be the primary repository of all data currently used in editorial and other LRB operations.
User case studies were commenced and provide the first step in adapting the LRB’s current processes to Microsoft Word. The studies require joint user/programmer review and documentation of existing procedures, which will enable programmers to develop more stable Word macros than their WordPerfect counterparts, eliminate any obsolete macros, and incorporate new steps that currently are performed manually by users.
A Word to WordPerfect symbol conversion macro was designed by LRB programmers, facilitating the initial processing of judicial decisions submitted to the LRB in Word format. While Word documents currently comprise only a small percentage of the trial court decisions submitted, the symbol conversion macro will figure prominently in initial processing for all trial and appellate courts until Word eventually replaces WordPerfect throughout the court system.
Members of the LRB’s Technology Team assumed working roles in the Office of Court Administration’s “WordPerfect to Word Committee,” which is charged with planning and overseeing implementation of the Unified Court System’s Microsoft conversion project. The project has significant court system-wide ramifications for the production, use, preservation and retention of all documents created by the courts and UCS agencies and will require wholesale revision of related automated processes (macros, templates, forms, email integration, etc.). Eric Harrell and Eric Van Hall participate in weekly meetings of the state-wide Committee; they joined with Matt Dunn in preparing the year-end status memorandum for the Committee’s 2016 progress report.
• The LRB continued to employ computer solutions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of office and editorial functions. The following projects were completed or introduced in 2016:
Browsers were upgraded office-wide to Internet Explorer 11.
A link to a spreadsheet of the LRB’s print library collection was added to the LRB’s intranet home page. This document contains all the titles in the LRB’s collection, author, edition and similar information, and the location of each item in Centennial Hall.
The LRB Bulletin Board, developed and rolled out in 2015, continued to demonstrate its value as the most efficient and effective means for circulating editorial notes and style clarifications and updates. In April alone, 13 topics were posted; a new forum — Captions & Table of Cases — was added; and a new subforum — Identification of Short/MLA Table Entry — was added to the Court of Appeals forum, which replaces a collection of worksheets used by Court of Appeals civil motion processors to aid in differentiating “Short” and “Table” motions.
Electronic legal research Tips of the Week continued to be circulated to staff, providing shortcuts and suggestions to expedite research on the LRB’s website and Thomson Reuters Westlaw. The Tips are emailed weekly to staff and posted cumulatively on the LRB’s Electronic Bulletin Board, which is accessed through LRB’s intranet home page.
Migration to a new SQL server was completed and Symantec End Point protection was updated for all LRB PCs and laptops to enhance security from cyber threats.
A new Outlook account (LRBpublications@nycourts.gov) was created to assist with management of Official Reports subscriptions and Style Manual distribution.
A programming solution was developed to resolve anomalies with the LRB website’s advanced search function for certain Court of Appeals criminal leave applications.
An office-wide upgrade from the 2013 version of MS Office 365 to the 2016 version was completed.
A draft of an MS Expression Web User Guide was completed to assist staff with correction of decisions posted on the LRB website and editing of internal procedures that are posted on the LRB’s intranet.
Centralized Skype for Business (S4B) was rolled out for the LRB group. Among other things, S4B is integral to the daily trouble shooting process for editorial and decision processing programs.
Processing procedures for Appellate Division decisions were revised to incorporate measures that prevent recurring errors in particular types of captions. The revised procedure saves significant time and effort in correcting captions at other stages of the publication process, while adding minimally to time required to complete initial processing.
Development of modified or replacement applications was initiated to process the following decisions that courts recently began submitting with changed formats: Appellate Division, First Department, motions and attorney disciplinary decisions and Appellate Term, Second Department, decisions.
Kayleigh Gekakis assisted members of OCA’s Office of Legal Information with incorporation of Official Reports materials in the Westlaw Navigator Pages that the Office of Legal Information provides for judges and court staff on the Unified Court System intranet.
11. Continuing Legal Education (CLE). LRB attorneys attended and presented various CLE programs in 2016.
• Members of the LRB's staff attended: “Emerging Appellate Issues Regarding Special Immigrant Juveniles,” “Update on Evidence,” “The Court of Appeals’ Role in Attorney Admissions in New York,” “Ethics for Court Attorneys and Law Clerks,” “Recent Developments in New York Practice,” “Modern Trends in New York Criminal Law: Recurring and Emerging Issues in the New York Court of Appeals in This (and Likely the Next) Decade,” “The Seven: About the Court, by the Court,” “Immigration Consequences in Criminal and Family Court,” “Westlaw Updates,” “New Rules for Attorney Disciplinary Matters and Pitfalls of Practice,” “Lexis Updates,” and “Addressing the Individualized Needs of Criminal Defendants.”
• Assistant State Reporter Cara Brousseau presented a CLE program at Centennial Hall and Court of Appeals Hall: “Survey of Attorney Disciplinary Proceedings” covering public disciplinary decisions reported in the Official Reports during the period from November 2013 through October 2015.
• The LRB presented a CLE program on “Preparation of Opinions for Publication in the Official Reports” to new Judges’ Clerks and Central Staff members at Court of Appeals Hall. Faculty members were Bill Hooks, Kelli Flansburg, Maureen Clements and Katie Breitenbach.
• The LRB developed a Continuing Legal Education program to provide instruction in the processes employed in editing and publishing decisions, the online tools supplied by the LRB to assist in efficient research of New York law and the drafting of decisions and reports, application of the Official Style Manual, and effective use of online versions of New York’s Official Reports on Westlaw and the Law Reporting Bureau’s website. The program is designed to be adapted for particular audiences, including court attorneys and local bar associations for those in private practice. The program was presented to the Appellate Division, Third Department (Sept.), and First Department (Oct.). Presentations to other courts and to the Albany County Bar Association are planned for 2017.
12. Professional and volunteer activities. LRB staff members participated in various professional activities, community events and charitable causes.
• Eric Harrell and Nicole Kappes attended monthly OCA LAN Committee meetings.
• Eric Harrell attended an OCA Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager training session; the OCA SCCM Creating Applications, Programs and Queries session; the Windows 10 Orientation to the Training Notebook session; the Division of Technology OCA SCCM “Operating System Deployment and Task Sequences” training; OCA’s training sessions for Operating System Deployment Part II and System Center Configuration Manager; and a New Horizons course entitled Automating Administration with Windows Powershell.
• As part of the orientation program for recently appointed Chief Judge DiFiore and Judge Garcia, Bill Hooks presented an overview of LRB operations and the interaction between the LRB and chambers during the editorial and publication processes.
• Bill Hooks and Cara Brousseau attended the annual meeting of the Association of Reporters of Judicial Decisions in Columbus, Ohio, from August 3 through August 7. There were a variety of presentations involving the official publication of court decisions and issues of significance to official reporters.
• Members of the LRB staff completed an editing project in connection with a book of Chief Judge Judith Kaye’s most notable decisions to be published by the Historical Society of the Courts of New York.
• Eric Harrell and Eric Van Hall attended OCA’s weekly MS Word Conversion Working Committee meetings and presented to the Committee on the topics of File Merlin – software that assists with converting files from one format, such as Word, to another, such as WordPerfect; and the capabilities of .XML – the markup language that the LRB uses to store and transmit court decisions – within MS Word.
• The LRB will provide editorial support for the drafting of the New York Guideline Evidence Code that is being compiled by the Chief Judge’s Advisory Committee on Evidence. The Code will comprise the rules of New York evidence accompanied by explanatory notes and serve as a non-binding New York evidence “guideline” for the bench and bar.
• An LRB team including Kristen Quaresimo, Kayleigh Gekakis, Jackie Bunce, Maureen Clements, Heath Hardman, Christopher Velez and Jennifer Davidick participated in the 2016 CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge 3.5 mile race in downtown Albany.
• The LRB received an Award for Excellence based upon per capita giving to the State Employees Federated Appeal campaign. Milagros Figueroa chaired the annual SEFA campaign for the LRB.
• The LRB continued its annual holiday tradition of "adopting" families through the Ronald McDonald House. Gifts donated and purchased through staff contributions were delivered to the Ronald McDonald “Family Room” in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at Albany Medical Center. Jackie Bunce and Lauren Grygiel coordinated the collection and delivery.
13. Visits and visitors. Among visits made in 2016:
• John Caher, OCA’s Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications, met with Bill Hooks to record a session for the Unified Court System’s Amici Podcast Series concerning the operations of the Law Reporting Bureau and the role of the State Reporter. The podcast is available at http://www.nycourts.gov/admin/amici/.
• Bill Hooks, Kathy LaBoda and Cara Brousseau attended the investitures of Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Associate Judge Michael Garcia at the Court of Appeals.
• Representatives from Lexis visited the LRB to discuss the bid process in connection with the 2016-2020 Official Reports Publishing Contract.
• Bill Hooks, Kathy LaBoda and Cara Brousseau attended Law Day Ceremonies at the Court of Appeals.
• Associate Judge Michael Garcia visited Centennial Hall and toured the LRB offices in June.
• Michael Convertino, the lead architect for the Centennial Hall renovation, and a party of OGS representatives toured Centennial Hall in September.
• Chief Judge DiFiore, accompanied by Clerk of the Court John Asiello, toured Centennial Hall and addressed a gathering of LRB staff in September.
• In October, former Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals Albert Rosenblatt and students from his NYU Law School Constitutional Law class toured Centennial Hall and met with Bill Hooks.
• In November, Bill Hooks and Cara Brousseau attended an informal ceremony marking the final oral arguments heard by Senior Associate Judge Eugene F. Pigott, Jr. before his December 31, 2016 retirement.
• In December, Bill Hooks and Cara Brousseau attended a farewell ceremony for Judge Eugene F. Pigott, Jr. at Court of Appeals Hall.
• In December, representatives from West Publishing visited the LRB to discuss implementation of the 2016-2020 Official Reports Publishing Contract and the status of other joint projects.
14. Organization. Of significance in 2016:
• Founders Day, April 7, marked the 212th anniversary of the enactment of legislation creating the system of official law reporting in New York.
• A meeting of the LRB's management group was held in January to review the LRB's progress in completing its 2015 objectives and to set objectives for 2016.
• Weekly technology team meetings were held to formalize information sharing between and among LRB management and network and programming staff.
• In addition to monthly management meetings, a series of institutional knowledge meetings were held to memorialize various aspects of LRB policy, history and operations that have never been formally documented.