ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In the transition from paper to computer records, state courts have expanded electronic filing of civil cases to New York City, Long Island and 10 upstate counties with free public access to most information.
“It makes the world an easier place to navigate and it saves time and money and trees,” said James Paulino, an attorney in Rochester. “It brings litigation to the 21st century.”
More than 620,000 cases and 4 million documents have been filed, according to the Office of Court Administration. Several more counties are expected to go online this year, followed eventually the rest of the state. Criminal cases will follow.
Electronic filing now applies to civil cases in state Supreme Court, New York’s chief trial court, in 17 counties, as well as Surrogate’s Court estate and probate cases in 15 counties.
The transition, begun in 1999 with a pilot project, now has 41,447 New York attorneys registered as users, plus 2,023 filing agents and about 4,900 others.
Attorneys now are registered automatically when they renew their New York law licenses. Those who lack computer knowledge or equipment can opt out.
Electronic filing also saves lawyers from paying postage, rushing to meet mail deadlines and having to file service affidavits to prove the opposing party received documents, said Paulino, who chairs the state Bar Association’s subcommittee on electronic filing. “Every attorney I speak with loves it.”
Unlike New York, the federal courts have a computer filing system that charges for reading documents online, Paulino said.
“Access to the system should be free,” he said. “Our courts should be open, and electronic filing is not a money maker for the state.”
New York’s gradual rollout now includes Court of Claims filings for New York City, Long Island and greater Albany. The 2012 amendments to the law authorize court officials to extend it statewide and to add six counties’ criminal and family courts in a pilot program.
Exempt by law so far from mandatory e-filing are matrimonial, mental hygiene and election law cases and lawsuits challenging state agency decisions.
Surrogate’s Court records are not publicly available online, requiring a courthouse visit, and officials are analyzing how to handle family and criminal court records, said Jeffrey Carucci, statewide coordinator for the electronic records project.
“We have the ability to seal and secure documents just the way we would in a county clerk’s office,” he said.
New York eCourts: