The newest rule to affect Commercial Division practice doesn’t usher in so much of a sea change as it does codify an already trending practice among the judges’ parts: individual time slots for hearings.
Litigators who regularly appear in the Commercial Division may already know that many of the judges assign specific times for oral argument. But a new order signed Wednesday by the Office of Court Administration makes time assignments a statewide practice—as of September 2.
The new order, one of many affecting the Commercial Division this year, is intended to ensure efficiency in the court and minimize the wait time lawyers can bill to clients.
Under a general calendar call system, delays are almost unavoidable. Attorneys may sign in with the clerk only to see the other side has not yet shown up, leading to a wait period and a place in the back of the line.
“This is entirely for the business community,” said Justice Eileen Bransten, who sits on an advisory group tasked with recommending changes to streamline procedure in the division. “It allows attorneys to know when to come, what time they’re going to be heard, and know not to have to hang out and therefore charge clients.”
Bransten is one judge who has long enforced this practice. She said she notices little deviation among the attorneys: “They’re anxious to be heard and they’re very good about keeping time,” she said.
Under the order, judges have discretion in selecting how much time to assign to each oral argument. All parties, including those who may not be directly involved in the matter at hand, must appear at the assigned date and time unless excused by the court. Attorneys notified of a schedule appearance must let all other parties know by email.
“We’re always glad to see the adoption of common sense policies that save the court and counsel time,” said Pamela Gallagher, an associate at Gallet Dreyer & Berkey who co-chairs the New York County Lawyers’ Association’s Supreme Court committee. “We’re pleased that the rule will be extended to all Commercial Division parts.”
The signed order is the second officials have released this week affecting the Commercial Division, and among more than a dozen changes approved in the last year to make New York’s business court a more attractive marketplace for counsel and their clients.