2018 Annual Report of the State Reporter
1. Introduction. The New York State Law Reporting Bureau (LRB) was established under article 14 of the Judiciary Law to officially report New York court decisions. 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 - serving as the Court's liaison to the LRB. All decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Appellate Division and selected decisions of the lower courts are edited and published in print and online versions of 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. This is a report of the LRB's activities in 2018.
2. Publishing activity. The LRB published in print and electronically 49,304 opinions, memoranda, abstracts and appellate motions in 2018. Publication of opinions, memoranda and abstracts increased by approximately 10% from 2017. The number of appellate motions published decreased by approximately 25% from that reported in 2017. 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 online 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/.
A. Print publication. During 2018, 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 11,846 full opinions, memorandum decisions, and abstracts of opinions not published in print; 21,028 pages of opinions, memoranda and abstracts; and 14,183 headnotes, allocated as follows:
Compared to the prior year, the number of opinions, memoranda and abstracts increased .32%; pages decreased 2.39%; and headnotes increased 8.33%.
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 6,137 Appellate Term and trial court opinions were published only in electronic format in 2018, an increase of 15.86 % from the prior year.
- Motion decisions of the Appellate Division and Appellate Term. A total of 31,321 motion decisions were published electronically in 2018, a decrease of 25.82% from the prior year. The large discrepancy is attributable to faulty calculation of 2017 motions published due to a flaw in the LRB's computation program.
3. Selection of lower court opinions. During 2018, a total of 7,070 Appellate Term and trial court opinions were submitted for publication consideration, an increase of 18.15% compared to 2017. One hundred sixty-seven opinions published on websites or in legal newspapers, or otherwise brought to the LRB's attention, were solicited from the authoring judges for publication.
Of the opinions submitted, the LRB accepted 453 for publication in the Miscellaneous Reports and 6,137 for online publication, for a total of 6,590 acceptances, an increase of approximately 14.7% compared to 2017.
4. Website usage. Usage of the LRB website remained strong in 2018. A total of 1,345,807 visitors accessed the site, making 3,504,746 visits. Compared to the prior year, visitors increased by 40.08% and visits increased by 3.03%. The visits resulted in 33,742,045 page views, an increase of approximately 10.22%, from 2017. Repeat visitors declined slightly to 18% of total visitors and there was a 6% increase in the average visit duration.
Users downloaded a total of 2,778 copies of the LRB's Electronic Resources User Guide (a tutorial in the use of the Official Reports on Westlaw and the legal research and writing tools provided on the LRB website).
The LRB's Twitter account (@NYOfficialRpts) grew from 395 to 641 Followers.
5. Style Manual.
- A total of 564 copies of the printed Official Reports Style Manual were distributed to judges, court staff and others in 2018. An additional 16,555 copies were downloaded from the LRB website.
6. Product development. The LRB enhanced its online services and website in 2018.
- The Legal Research Portal on the LRB website was expanded to include a section dedicated to legal writing resources covering plain English, clarity in writing, grammar, punctuation and diction.
- A joint LRB/West Publishing project was initiated to enhance access to and functionality of the Official Reports on the new Westlaw Edge platform.
- The LRB added electronic updates to its intranet versions of the 2017 Style Manual's Style Notes and the Cases and Captions Manual.
7. Personnel. LRB staff numbered 30 at the close of 2018.
- Law Reporting Assistant Lori Drumm resigned from the LRB.
- The following staff joined the LRB: Steven DeBraccio (Legal Editor); and Brandon Kennedy (Law Reporting Aide).
- The following staff were promoted: Lauren Grygiel (Law Reporting Assistant); Susan Gorman (Law Reporting Aide); Joey Smith (Law Reporting Aide); Angie Alvarez-Smith (Law Reporting Assistant); Kimberly Concilla (Senior Law Reporting Assistant) and Josette Altobelli (Senior Law Reporting Assistant).
- 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.
- An evacuation drill of Centennial Hall was successfully completed.
- Maintenance inspections of the Automated External Defibrillation (AED) equipment were conducted monthly.
- Enhancement of emergency notification systems was initiated for the LRB's Development Room.
9. Equipment. The LRB acquired the following new equipment to replace obsolete/outdated assets and disposed of unnecessary equipment:
- LRB network administrators coordinated purchase of a backup staff PC with the publisher.
- Two laptop computers were purchased to replace obsolete laptops used for remote access to the LRB network and off-site presentations.
10. Editorial and office technology. The LRB employed various computer solutions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of office and editorial functions. In addition, the LRB developed programs and adapted internal processes to accommodate current and prospective conversion of appellate court documents to Microsoft Word format and the LRB's migration to a full Microsoft environment and Windows 10 operating system.
- The LRB Microsoft Conversion Team continued development of the structure and functionality of the new LRB Database that will centralize and replace the current databases: a new initial processing application was deployed in a test environment, specifically focusing on the functionality of the caption and table of cases processing box, creation and movement of HTML and LRB files, and automated SQL server data entry; and data entry commenced to populate necessary judge and court information in the LRB Database structure.
- LRB staff collaborated extensively with Appellate Division, First and Third Department, staff relating to those Courts' conversion to Word. Sample Word templates of various decision documents were submitted by the Courts, and tested by the LRB, which diagnosed problem areas and provided feedback to the Courts. The Third Department commenced submission of Word documents in hand down lists in June; the First Department anticipates initial submission of Word documents in 2019. The LRB completed user case studies for the Second and Fourth Departments to prepare for their prospective conversions to Word.
- The Technology Team developed an initial plan and a projected timetable for transition of the LRB to the Windows 10 operating system by January 1, 2020. LRB network administrators created a Windows 10 image, rolled out two Windows 10 test PCs to enable administrators and developers to check Windows 10 compatibility with the LRB's current programs, and recompiled the LRB's WordPerfect macros for compatibility with the Windows 10 environment.
- LRB network administrators received training for use of the Microsoft System Center Configuration.
- Discussions were opened with OCA concerning the timing and functional effect of the LRB website's conversion to a Drupal platform.
- In connection with preparation of the Court of Appeals substantive Arcanum, all 2018 internal reports sent by the Court in Word format were converted to WordPerfect format to facilitate the LRB's editorial work.
- A refresher demonstration for LRB attorneys on caching Internet citations was presented, as were Westlaw training sessions for editorial support staff that focused on accessing the New York Official Reports version of decisions and conducting basic searches inside the New York Official Reports content category.
- Various outdated links were updated on the Legal Research Portal and commercial link checking software was tested to implement routine link verification.
- The Legal Research Portal and History pages on the LRB website were updated to accommodate the header/footer style and modernized for improved responsiveness, functionality, and aesthetics.
- A new LRB webpage was created to accommodate OCA changes to the Site Search functionality of all court system websites.
- The functionality of the webform used to make changes related to the LRB's citation services was updated.
- The statutes macro used for creating Table of Statutes entries was updated.
- A new shared mailbox (LRBOpinions@nycourts.gov) was created to facilitate solicitation of trial court opinions in connection with Appellate Division affirmances based on decisions of courts below.
11. Continuing Legal Education (CLE). LRB attorneys presented and attended various CLE programs in 2018.
- LRB presented a CLE program ("New York's Official Common Law: Publication and Legal Research and Writing Resources") at Bronx County Family Court sponsored by the Judicial Institute. The program, offered on a continuing basis to courts, bar associations and others, provides 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.
- In addition, the LRB presented the following CLE and informational programs: a "Lunch and Learn" CLE program ("New York's Official Common Law: Publication and Legal Research and Writing Resources") at the Judicial Institute in White Plains; a CLE program ("Review of Attorney Disciplinary Proceedings") for LRB, Board of Law Examiners and Court of Appeals attorneys at the Court of Appeals; a CLE program ("New York's Official Common Law: Publication and Legal Research and Writing Resources") at the Court of Appeals; and, as part of the Court of Appeals New Clerks' orientation program, an overview of LRB operations and the interaction between the LRB and the Court during the editorial and publication processes.
- The LRB provided an instructional guide for the Judicial Institute's annual New Judges School on submission and publication of opinions and use of online Official Reports material and other research and writing resources on the LRB website.
- Members of the LRB's staff attended: "Recent Developments in New York Practice"; the Hugh R. Jones Memorial Lecture, which featured retired Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals Susan Phillips Read delivering "Musings on Stare Decisis in New York's Court of Last Resort"; "Matrimonial Update and Implicit Bias"; "Legislative History Resources"; "Recent Developments in Criminal Law"; "Diversity, Inclusion and Elimination of Bias"; "Court of Appeals Practice, 101"; "Estate Planning, Administration and Probate Proceedings"; "A 2018 Ethics Update: An Analysis of Key Decisions and Opinions"; "The Role and Ethical Responsibilities of the Attorney for the Child and Raise the Age Issues in Family Court"; and "Westlaw Next Training."
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.
- State Reporter William J. Hooks made a presentation to the Advanced Legal Research class at Seton Hall University Law School (Professor Charles Cole) on the official reporting of judicial decisions and implications for legal research.
- Deputy State Reporter Cara J. Brousseau attended and presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Reporters of Judicial Decisions in Toronto, Canada. The meeting provides a variety of educational programs involving the official publication of court decisions and other issues of significance to official reporters.
- Guide to New York Evidence: The sixth installment of the Guide, totaling 12 evidence rules and accompanying notes, was edited, formatted and returned to the Chief Judge's Advisory Committee on Evidence. Completed portions of the Guide are published online at http://nycourts.gov/judges/evidence/index.shtml.
- Historical Society of the New York Courts: The LRB completed editorial work on the Oral Histories of William C. Thompson, a retired Justice of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the Second Judicial Department; Court of Appeals Judge George Bundy Smith; Milton Mollen, Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department; and attorneys Robert Fiske, Jr., Roy L. Reardon, and Helaine M. Barnett. Oral Histories of various Judges and other notable individuals associated with New York courts are available for viewing at http://www.nycourts.gov/history/legal-history-new-york/history-oral-histories.html.
- In May, an LRB team including Kristen Gerace, Jackie Biernacki, Kayleigh Gekakis, Maureen Clements, John Keller, Joey Smith and Chris Velez participated in the 2018 CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge 3.5-mile race.
- The LRB participated in the annual State Employees Federated Appeal (SEFA) fund-raising campaign to benefit charitable organizations.
- The LRB continued its 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 neonatal intensive care unit at Albany Medical Center.
13. Visits and visitors. Among visits made in 2018:
- State Reporter William J. Hooks, Deputy State Reporter Cara J. Brousseau and Assistant State Reporter Katherine G. Breitenbach attended the State of the Judiciary address and the Diversity Day ceremony at Court of Appeals Hall.
- Former Associate Judge of the Court of Appeals Albert Rosenblatt and students from his New York University Law School Constitutional Law class toured Centennial Hall and discussed LRB operations and official reporting of decisions.
- State Reporter William J. Hooks and Deputy State Reporter Cara J. Brousseau attended Law Day Ceremonies at the Court of Appeals.
- Clerk of the Court Robert Mayberger and Consultation Clerk Janis Cohen from the Appellate Division, Third Department, met with State Reporter William J. Hooks and Deputy State Reporter Cara J. Brousseau to discuss the policy and best practices for resolving privacy issues in published decisions.
- State Reporter William J. Hooks met with Acting Supreme Court Justice Gerald Lebovits to discuss legal writing and official reporting of judicial decisions.
- Michael Convertino, the lead architect for the Centennial Hall renovation, toured the site with a group of colleagues and interns.
- Presiding Justice Alan Scheinkman from the Appellate Division, Second Department, visited Centennial Hall to discuss the editing and publication of Second Department memoranda.
- West Publishing representatives Keri Vanderwarker and Yvonne Guillotte visited the Law Reporting Bureau to discuss the Official Reports on Westlaw and strategies for highlighting Official Reports content in Westlaw training and CLE programs.
14. Organization. Of significance in 2018:
- Founders Day, April 7, marked the 214th anniversary of the enactment of legislation creating the system of official law reporting in New York.