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Black wooden paragraphJustice Felix Frankfurter was well-known for having written, “Litigation is the pursuit of practical means, not a game of chess.” Indianapolis v. Chase Nat’l Bank, 314 U.S. 63, 69 (1941). New York’s Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) strongly embodies this sentiment, preferring adjudication on the merits whenever feasible. Indeed, it was designed this way. Consider, for example, Article 20 of the CPLR, which is devoted entirely to “Mistakes, Defects, Irregularities, and Extensions of Time.” Contained therein are CPLR 2001 and 2004, which permit courts to disregard a gamut of defects as “infirmities” or “irregularities” so long as no party is substantially prejudiced and the defect is not jurisdictional. The former provides that “at any stage of an action, including the filing of a summonsand complaint … the court may permit a mistake, omission, defect or irregularity, including the failure to purchase or acquire an index number or other mistake in the filing process … to be corrected upon such terms as may be just, or, if a substantial right of a party is not prejudiced, the mistake, omission, defect, or irregularity shall be disregarded … .” The latter, that “the court may extend the time fixed by any statute, rule or order for doing any act, upon such terms as may be just and upon good cause shown, whether the application for extension is made before or after the expiration of the time fixed.” Together, both “put[] procedure in perspective by reminding bench and bar that procedure is a means, not an end.” David D. Siegel and Patrick M. Connors, New York Practice, §5 (6th ed. 2018).

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