Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I've just started using New York's e-filing system, and I am pleased to report that many of the things that the federal courts' system gets horribly wrong are corrected here in the Empire State. Civil Procedure geeks (like me) are fond of e-filing because in theory it simplifies the experience. With the stroke of a key you can commence an action, or make a motion, or whatever. The constraints of time and space are abolished! The reality is somewhat more complicated. Although filings need no longer be made during business hours, the process of document preparation can still be a chore, and there is a downside to being able to push filings to the very limit of the clock.

Here's what New York gets right: the process is not mandatory. This is huge. The interface is helpful. Links and buttons and the like are clearly marked, and the next step in the process is apparent at each step. Your user name and password are the same throughout the system-- I have a different user name and password for each of the four federal district courts, and it makes me nuts. The New York system lets me view documents for free. No doubt that will change, but it shouldn't-- the cost to the system is de minimus, and among the virtues of e-filing are supposed to be low cost and transparency.

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