REPORT PROPOSES CHANGES IN CIVIL CASE MANAGEMENT
The "Comprehensive Civil Justice Program 2005: Study and Recommendations," a report prepared by First Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau, was released in February. The report was the result of a year-long statewide review of the impact of the Comprehensive Civil Justice Program (CCJP), implemented in 2000 to overhaul civil case management. The report concludes that the CCJP has been "an unqualified success," resulting in dramatic decreases in the time it takes civil cases to reach disposition. The report also offers proposals for continued advancements in civil case management.
Recognizing that timely resolution of cases is key to providing litigants with effective justice, the core component of the CCJP is the implementation of Differentiated Case Management (DCM), which matches judicial and nonjudicial resources to the needs of each case. Before DCM, the average time to reach resolution in a civil case was 606 days. Under DCM, that figure is now 380 days, a 37 percent decrease, accomplished without any decrease in annual filings. The report also found that "courts are not only resolving cases more quickly, but resolving them in greater numbers." Since DCM, judges disposed of nearly 110,000 more cases than were filed.
Under DCM, a case is actively managed from the time it is first assigned to a judge. Standards and goals apply according to a tracking system based upon the complexity of a case. On the expedited track, discovery must be completed within eight months of the filing of the Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI). On the standard and complex tracks, the discovery time frames are 12 months and 15 months, respectively. Each track has an additional 15-month period for a case to reach disposition. According to the report, these time frames have reduced the life span of new cases, eroded existing backlogs of old cases and given judges greater control over case progress. The report also found that the legal community has adjusted well to the court's oversight of litigation and the DCM time frames. While heralding the significant accomplishments achieved over the last five years, the bulk of the report focuses on recommendations for achieving additional efficiencies in case management, including the following:
- Replacing the current bifurcated system of standards and goals - with one standard for the time period covering discovery, and another through the end of trial - with a single time frame from RJI to resolution, giving judges, at their discretion, more flexibility to adapt discovery schedules to the needs of each case.
- Reducing overall standards and goals for all case-types: 20 months from RJI to resolution for expedited cases; 24 months for standard cases; and 27 for complex cases, with an extended track of 32 months for exceptionally complex cases (including discovery within 20 months).
- Creating a model guardianship part to allow consolidation before one judge of the multiple proceedings concerning an incapacitated person and to maximize the use of social services.
- Establishing a child-centered model custody part to promote resolution of custody disputes in a manner that minimizes the negative impact on children, which would incorporate mediation, stress management and counseling and provide links to appropriate services.
- Applying DCM to tort cases against New York City, which represent 25 percent of the pending civil caseload in New York City.
- Opening specialized parts for medical malpractice cases to encourage more efficient resolution of these matters.
The complete report can be found at: www.nycourts.gov/reports.
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