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State court administrators have raised the monetary threshold for cases filed in the Commercial Division of Manhattan Supreme Court to $150,000 from $100,000. Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau ( See Profile) said she issued the administrative order raising the minimum threshold at the request of Commercial Division judges in Manhattan “to help them manage their calendars.” The order, dated Jan. 5, was approved by the four presiding justices of the Appellate Division. Justice Eileen Bransten ( See Profile), one of seven judges assigned to Manhattan’s Commercial Division, said the judges sought the change because, “We were getting too many cases that didn’t really have the gravitas of a Commercial Division case.” However, she said in an interview that she does not really expect to see a significant reduction in her caseload, which is approaching 400. “If that [$150,000] is the threshold, people will find a way to meet the threshold,” she said. The threshold is exclusive of monetary damages, interest, costs, disbursements and counsel fees claimed in actions. Robert L. Haig of Kelley Drye & Warren, a long-standing proponent of the Commercial Division, said Manhattan’s commercial parts have become a victim of their own success. “The whole issue is a testament to the popularity of the Commercial Division,” Mr. Haig said of the new monetary threshold. “It is a nice problem to have.” But Mr. Haig was among several practitioners who questioned whether the higher threshold would reduce significantly the numbers of cases being diverted to regular parts in Supreme Court. “It would not be surprising that some cases that used to be $100,000 [in claimed damages] will become $150,000 cases,” Mr. Haig said. Lauren J. Wachtler of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp said she believes the bulk of the claims brought in the Commercial Division already are for more than $100,000 or $150,000. “I don’t think it will have a practical effect, but we shall see in these economic times,” Ms. Wachtler said. “Perhaps $150,000 is not what it used to be.” Ms. Wachtler said the courts have experimented with different thresholds from time to time, once eliminating them entirely. Commercial Division Justice Charles E. Ramos ( See Profile) said there is a “steady influx of cases coming out of the calamity on Wall Street” that will probably more than make up for the actions diverted to regular parts by the increase in the monetary threshold. “What was an inventory of complicated cases now has become an inventory with a lot of complicated cases,” Justice Ramos said. “They are coming more fast and more furious.” Cases stemming from the economic slump typically seek “enormous” damages, according to Justice Ramos. He estimated that the median claim is in the “seven figures.” He noted that filings surrounding the collapse or withdrawal of financing for construction projects have become especially more numerous. Goal of Specialized Court David Bookstaver, spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, said the office had no estimate of how the higher threshold would affect the number of cases handled by the Commercial Division in Manhattan. There are currently 2,045 cases pending in the Manhattan part, up from 1,544 in November 2007, according to Mr. Bookstaver. The higher threshold was an attempt to “get back to the type of case the commercial court was designed to handle and that was especially true in New York County,” Mr. Bookstaver said. “It was not only complex litigation, but complex litigation with a high monetary value.” Mr. Bookstaver said OCA does not have an estimate for average damages sought in Commercial Division claims. The $100,000 threshold in Manhattan was already the highest of the 10 commercial parts that have been established in Supreme Courts in the most populous areas of the state. Commercial parts in Albany County or in the Syracuse and Rochester areas have the lowest monetary thresholds, at $25,000. No other threshold increases were made. Monetary Thresholds In the Commercial Division*

• New York County, $150,000 • Kings County, $75,000 • Nassau County, $75,000 • Westchester County, $75,000 • Eighth Judicial District (Buffalo area), $50,000 • Queens County, $50,000 • Suffolk County, $50,000 • Albany County, $25,000 • Onondaga County, $25,000 •Seventh Judicial District (Rochester area), $25,000 *Exclusive of punitive damages, interest, costs, disbursements and counsel fees. Source: State Office of Court Administration

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