We're excited to announce a new segment here on the ZR Per Diem Attorney Blog: The Legal Minute! It's a per diem spotlight series highlighting legal specialties, court rules and regulations, and other areas of expertise, shared by our per diems.
The "legal minute" is a program we originally introduced to our team. For 15 minutes (more like 45 minutes), we would take a pause in our calendar pit area to teach, learn and discuss legal procedure and topics with our Calendar, Billing and Reporting departments.
For the past year, we have used the Legal Minute to provide general background information on the courts we cover, including general court procedure and rules. We are now sharing this information with you as we believe this can be useful to any law office that has legal support staff handling a litigation calendar.
Below, we discuss the general litigation process in New York and how a case develops chronologically within the Unified Court System.
- Chronology of a Litigation Matter in NY
- Commencement of an Action
- The Preliminary Conference
- The Compliance Conference
- Pre-Trial Conferences
- Certification Conference
Chronological Order of Cases in NY Complaint -> Answer -> RJI & Request for PC/Motion
(After RJI filed, now you start going to court)
PC (deps/imes get scheduled) → CC → Status Conf → Certification Conf → PreTrial Conf/Settlement Conf → (Note of Issues filed) → Trial (Types of Trials - Jury Trial, Bench Trial, Admin Hearing)
Starting a Lawsuit
- In order to start a litigation in New York, a party/attorney files a Complaint.
- A Complaint is a legal document which provides the allegations and reasons why a person or a company decides to sue.
- A Complaint is usually accompanied by a Summons. The Summons notifies the defendant how much time they have to answer under NY Law, and gives them “Notice” of this suit.
- The Defendant has either 20 or 30 days to serve/file an Answer to the lawsuit, depending on the method of service.
- The Summons & Complaint as well as the Answer are known as the Pleadings.
The Preliminary Conference
- Once the Answer is received, the Plaintiff will usually file what is called an RJI (Request for Judicial Intervention) along with a Request for a PC.
- Once the Court receives the request, it will be assigned to a Judge or a Part and placed on the calendar for a PC.
- A Preliminary Conference is the first conference before the court.
- At the PC, the attorneys meet in court and agree to dates for discovery. The PC Order will include deadlines such as the date the Bill of Particulars is to be served as well as deadlines for written discovery responses and the scheduling of depositions (EBTs).
- Definition: Bill of Particulars (BP)- This details the allegations of the Complaint. The Complaint is very general and does little other than to answer some basic questions without detail - the who, what, where, and when, and sometimes why of the alleged causes of action. The BP tells us what injuries or damages were sustained by the incident, it will provide more personal, confidential information about the plaintiff, details about the location of the incident and provide the specifics of the occurrence.
The Discovery Process
- Once the PC is held, and sometimes prior to the PC, the parties serve each other with Discovery Demands, to which each side is required to respond to.
- There are many examples of different types of discovery demands, the most common being:
- Notice of Discovery & Inspection - where we ask for information and documents regarding the incident/or defenses to the charges.
- Demand for Witnesses
- 3. Demand for Photographs
- 4. Demand for Experts
- If a party objects to responding to any of the Demands made, he will object by letter, and that may result in motion practice, which is why we see discovery motions returnable before the court regularly.
The Compliance Conference/Status Conference
- The Compliance Conference is held several months after the PC to determine the status of discovery and how the case is progressing on both sides.
- The Compliance Conference will address any discovery disputes the parties may have, and memorialize in the CC Order what discovery is left to be conducted by the parties.
- Note: In some courts, there are more than one CC or Status Conference. In Queens, you will only ever have one CC, not multiple. But in Nassau and Westchester, it is very common to have multiple CCs or status conferences.
Pre-Trial Conference/Trial Conference
- Once discovery is complete, the plaintiff is required to file a Note of Issue (NOI).
- In some counties, there are “certification conferences” where the court conferences the case and grants permission for the plaintiff to file the note of issue
- The NOI is the document given to the court, along with the filing fee, to tell the court, the parties are ready to place this case on the trial calendar.
- The Court receives the NOI and scheduled a pretrial conference and/or a Trial date.
- Once the case is on the trial calendar, the parties usually start discussing settlement negotiations, mediation, or other ways to resolve the case.
- At the trial conferences, the Judges will often facilitate conversation to encourage parties to resolve matters without the need for a trial.
- If the parties are discussed in settlement negotiations or not, all parties have to appear for any scheduled trial.
- The Court will request a status and advise if the trial will be adjourned and marked “final” to actually proceed to trial at the next appearance.
- If the trial was already marked “final”, the case will proceed to a bench trial or for jury selection (if a demand for a jury was selected)
- Jury selection is done prior to any trial starting and it is common for the Court to make an attorney pick a jury on one or more days and then come back for the actual trial a few days later (but not always).
- All parties are expected to have their witnesses, proofs, and expert witness ready to appear for any trial