2015 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 LRB operates under the direction of a State Reporter appointed by the Court of Appeals, with a designated Judge of the Court — currently Judge Eugene F. Pigott, Jr. — serving as the Court's liaison to the LRB. This is a report of the LRB's activities in 2015.
2. Publishing Contract Awarded. The 2016-2020 Official Reports publishing contract was awarded to Thomson Reuters - West Publishing. West will print and sell the Official Reports advance sheets and bound volumes and be the exclusive publisher of the online version of the Official Reports on its WestlawNext service (now known as Thomson Reuters Westlaw). The contract provides a variety of benefits to the LRB and the courts at no cost to the state, including Official Reports print subscriptions for all judges of courts of record; online access to Official Reports databases on WestlawNext; computer equipment sufficient to outfit all LRB staff and support the LRB’s editorial operations and data management and preservation; and various services essential to the LRB’s automated editorial operations. The contract also requires that West Publishing expand the coverage of archival Official Reports decisions available on the LRB’s website to include the entire Second Series of Official Reports, dating to 1956. This enhancement will provide no-cost public access to the full official text of all Court of Appeals, Appellate Division and Miscellaneous decisions from 1956 to present. Coverage currently extends back to 1980.
3. Publishing Activity. The LRB published in print and electronically 55,197 opinions, memoranda, abstracts and appellate motions in 2015 — an increase of 1.4% from 2014 — all of which are publicly accessible on the LRB's website.
A. Print publication. During 2015, 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 11,739 full opinions, memorandum decisions, and abstracts of opinions not published in print; 20,577 pages of opinions, memoranda and abstracts; and 12,345 headnotes, allocated as follows:
Compared to the prior year, the number of opinions, memoranda and abstracts increased .25%; pages increased 1.34%; and the number of headnotes decreased 2.01%.
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 5,177 Appellate Term and trial court opinions were published only in electronic format in 2015, a decrease of 16.45% from the prior year.
• Motion decisions of the Appellate Division and Appellate Term. A total of 38,281 motion decisions were published electronically in 2015, an increase of 4.76% from the prior year.
4. Selection of lower court opinions. During 2015, a total of 5,923 Appellate Term and trial court opinions were submitted for publication consideration, a decrease of 16.74% compared to 2014. Two hundred thirty-four 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 442 for publication in the Miscellaneous Reports and 5,177 for online publication, for a total of 5,619 acceptances, a decrease of approximately 15.38% compared to 2014. The overall acceptance rate is 94.8%, an increase of 1.5% from the prior year.
5. Website usage. Usage of the LRB website grew again in 2015. A total of 1,025,689 separate visitors accessed the site, making 3,391,364 visits. Compared to the prior year, visitors increased by 7.66% and visits increased by 9.95%. The visits resulted in 28,678,233 requests for information and 17,496,970 page views.
6. Style Manual.
A total of 255 copies of the printed Official Reports Style Manual were distributed to judges, court staff and others in 2015. An additional 29,806 copies were downloaded from the LRB website.
The Style Manual was amended to update certain existing citation examples and to add some new examples. The changes are highlighted in the online version of the Manual.
7. Product development. The LRB continued to enhance its online services and website in 2015.
• The website’s legal research portal was redesigned and updated by removing obsolete links and adding links to numerous free legal research sources, including: Harvard Law School Free Legal Research Resources; rules of 11 courts/judicial districts; George Mason University School of Law Free Legal Research Sites; DRAGNET; US Supreme Court; The White House: Presidential Actions; the National Archives; Founder’s Constitution; State Liquor Authority Advisory Opinions; Department of Motor Vehicles Advisory Opinions; Workers’ Compensation Board Decisions; historic congressional bills, congressional committee reports, and congressional debates; and the NYCRR Digital Archive, which provides online access to the superseded pages (‘takeouts”) of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations for the years 1945 through 2001 in .pdf format.
• Projects were initiated to cosmetically upgrade the LRB website, update aspects of the website’s Official Reports citator, and adapt the website for responsive viewing from various types of devices.
8. Personnel. The LRB staff numbered 29 at the close of 2015.
• Deputy State Reporter Michael Moran retired after more than 35 years of service.
• Chief Legal Editor John Lesniak retired after more than 35 years of service.
• Law Reporting Assistant Nancy LaPorta retired after more than 25 years of service.
• Kathy LaBoda was promoted to Deputy State Reporter.
• Katie Breitenbach was promoted to Chief Legal Editor.
• Eric Harrell was promoted to Principal PC Analyst.
• Principal Programmer Wesley Chest transitioned from the LRB to a position as
Senior Associate Computer Applications Programmer at the Court of Appeals.
• Eric Van Hall was promoted to Associate Computer Applications Programmer.
• Cara Brousseau joined the LRB as the Assistant State Reporter.
• Lauren Grygiel joined the LRB as a Law Reporting Aide.
• Christopher Velez joined the LRB as a Computer Systems Programmer.
• Christopher Di Donna and Jaclyn Bunce joined the LRB as Legal Editors.
• Evacuation and Emergency Procedures were recirculated to staff as part of an annual reminder protocol. Additionally, Floor Warden responsibilities lists were reissued to the designated floor wardens.
• Maintenance inspections of the Automated External Defibrillation (AED) equipment were conducted on a monthly basis.
10. Equipment. The LRB acquired the following new equipment to replace obsolete/outdated assets and disposed of unnecessary equipment:
• The LRB set in full production LRBNET1, a new server that supports a significant portion of the LRB’s automated jobs, and acquired a new SQL server from the publisher to house LRB databases.
• The LRB auctioned surplus computer equipment on eBay and distributed the equipment to the successful bidder. Proceeds are payable to the State.
11. Editorial and office technology. The LRB continued to employ computer solutions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of office and editorial functions. Projects completed or introduced in 2015 include:
• Development of BugNet website, an open source issue tracking and project management solution.
• Deployment of Microsoft Skype for Business to LRB staff.
• Continued development of plans for the Word transition project and to monitor critical technology functions, and established a training protocol for a new Computer Systems Programmer.
• Creation of an LRB Technical Wikipedia, a centralized database and information source for the programs and macros that power the LRB’s automated processes.
• Implementation of joint LRB Tech/Management Team projects to reevaluate and update electronic review/quality control measures for decisions posted online; to deploy review processes for decisions converted from Word to WordPerfect format for compatibility with LRB publication programs; to redesign LRB macros to accommodate the transition from Westlaw Classic to WestlawNext and to resolve recurring errors in documents converted from Word to WordPerfect; and to develop and apply measures to maximize use of and cost-effective deployment of the LRB’s current servers.
• Development and implementation of a content intake/distribution monitoring system designed to identify anomalies in decisions and motions received electronically from the courts and rectify any problems prior to website publication and distribution into the editorial stream. This extra step at the inception of our process will reduce labor and time expenditures for website corrections and document corrections during the editorial and proofreading stages.
• Continued development of a programming solution for converting Word documents to WordPerfect in connection with the court system’s and LRB’s eventual conversion to Microsoft Word.
• Kristen Quaresimo, Kayleigh Gekakis, Heath Hardman and Matt Dunn began work on a project to review archival Official Reports data for eventual publication on the LRB website. The data, provided by West Publishing, comprises digital files of all decisions published in the First through the current Series of Official Reports, dating back to the 1840s.
• Cara Brousseau lead a team, comprising Kathy Hughes, Christopher Di Donna and Lauren Grygiel, in developing a database of print library materials within Centennial Hall and those materials only available at the State Library and/or online. Among other things, the database will catalog for easy reference the specific locations within Centennial Hall where print sources are stored.
12. Continuing Legal Education (CLE). LRB attorneys prepared for presentation and attended various CLE programs in 2015.
• Members of the LRB's staff attended: “Introduction to Lexis Advance,” “Advance Legal Research Using Lexis Advance,” “2014 Ethics Update: Analysis of Key Decisions and Opinions,” “Land Use, Zoning and the State Environment Quality Review Act,” “Raise the Age: A Forum on the Recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice Report,” “Scientific Materials Discovery in New York,” “Introduction to WestlawNext,” “Surrogate’s Court – An Insider’s View,” “Exploring the Origins of the Justice System in New York,” “U.S. Supreme Court Roundup 2014-2015 Term,” “Selected Shorts in Legal Ethics,” “Civil Confinement in New York after Donald DD: A Clinical and Legal Perspective” and the Hugh R. Jones Memorial Lecture at Albany Law School entitled “Thoughts on Being a Judge.”
• LRB attorneys prepared the following CLE presentations: Preparation of Opinions for Publication in the Official Reports; and Survey of Attorney Disciplinary Decisions (2014-2015).
13. Professional and Volunteer activities. LRB staff members participated in various professional activities, community events and charitable causes.
• Legal Editor Heath Hardman was admitted to the New York State Bar.
• Eric Harrell and Nicole Kappes attended periodic OCA LAN Committee meetings.
• Eric Harrell became a member of the OCA AD (Active Directory) Maintenance Committee.
• Nicole Kappes became a member of the SharePoint working committee.
• Eric Harrell attended a week-long training session on “Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012.”
• As part of the orientation for newly appointed Judge Stein and her chambers staff, Bill Hooks presented an overview of LRB operations and the interaction between the LRB and chambers during the editorial and publication processes.
• Nicole Kappes attended a week-long training session on “Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012.”
• Legal Editor Kayleigh Gekakis completed a consultation with West personnel to enhance WestlawNext training sessions for Unified Court System users. Among other things, Kayleigh developed and submitted to West a revised version of West’s current training outline, a proposed handout for training sessions, and a proposed custom page for court users that will facilitate effective use of Official Reports content on WestlawNext.
• Bill Hooks attended the annual meeting of the Association of Reporters of Judicial Decisions in Nashville, Tennessee. He completed his term as past president and member of the Executive Board and will continue to serve as an advisor to the Board indefinitely.
• Eric Harrell attended a technical meeting of network administrators hosted by the Division of Technology to discuss issues raised by court system network administrators statewide.
• Legal Editor Kayleigh Gekakis commenced a weekly WestlawNext “tips” digest that provides suggestions to effectively use WLN editorial tools and to efficiently navigate the Official Reports on WLN and access other content required by LRB editors.
• An LRB team including Kristen Quaresimo, Katie Breitenbach, Kayleigh Gekakis, Maureen Clements, Lori Drumm, Milagros Figueroa and Heath Hardman participated in the 2015 CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge 3.5 mile race in downtown Albany.
• Milagros Figueroa chaired the State Employees Federated Appeal campaign for the LRB.
• The LRB received an Award for Excellence based upon per capita giving to the State Employees Federated Appeal campaign.
• 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 Ronald McDonald “Family Room” in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at Albany Medical Center. Cindy DeViddio, Maureen Clements and Lauren Grygiel coordinated the collection and delivery.
14. Visits and visitors. Among visits made in 2015:
• Representatives from Lexis and West visited the LRB to discuss the bidding process for and potential changes to the 2016-20 Official Reports Publishing Contract.
• Bill Hooks and Kathy LaBoda attended the State of the Judiciary address by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman at the Court of Appeals.
• Bill Hooks and Kathy LaBoda attended the investitures of Judge Stein and Judge Fahey at the Court of Appeals.
• Retired State Reporter Frederick Muller visited the LRB offices and toured Centennial Hall.
• Bill Hooks, Kathy LaBoda, Cara Brousseau and Katie Breitenbach attended a retirement ceremony for Clerk of the Court Andy Klein at Court of Appeals Hall.
• Bill Hooks presented an overview of LRB operations to Annamaria Maciocia, Esq., Plattekill Town Justice and Director of the Marist College Paralegal Program, and her class of research and writing students.
• Cara Brousseau and Bill Hooks attended an informal ceremony marking the final oral arguments heard by Chief Judge Lippman before his retirement.
• Representatives from West Publishing visited the LRB to discuss implementation of the 2016 – 2020 Official Reports Publishing Contract.
• Bill Hooks, Kathy LaBoda and Cara Brousseau attended a farewell ceremony for Chief Judge Lippman at Court of Appeals Hall.
• Bill Hooks, Kathy LaBoda and Cara Brousseau attended the Court of Appeals Lecture Series program, “Dancing with the Law: Counsel, Choreography & Copyright,” presented by Randall R. Craft, Esq.
15. Organization. Of significance in 2015:
• A meeting of the LRB's management group was held in January to review the LRB's progress in completing its 2014 objectives and to discuss objectives for 2015.
• A management/tech team meeting was held in January to review progress on pending projects, including conversion of LRB macros to accommodate the Word transition, update project timetables and discuss new initiatives.
• Founders Day, April 7, marked the 211th anniversary of the enactment of legislation creating the system of official law reporting in New York.
• Weekly technology team meetings were initiated to formalize information sharing between and among LRB management and Network and Programming staff. Katie Breitenbach, Eric Harrell, Eric Van Hall, Nicole Kappes and Christopher Velez meet briefly each Monday morning to discuss the status of pending projects and planned new projects and to review the prior week’s technology developments.