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Appellate Division, Second Department hearing cases at a record pace

September 4, 2019 Rob Abruzzese
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Justice Alan Scheinkman took over as presiding justice of the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department in Jan. 2018 and in less than two years he has made a significant impact on the speed at which cases are churning through the Monroe Street court.

In an editorial published by the New York Law Journal on Tuesday, Presiding Justice Scheinkman noted that even though the court currently has two vacancies, it has managed to increase the number of perfected cases disposed of by approximately 35 percent, from 2,786 in 2017-2018 to 3,717 in 2018-2019.

In addition, the court increased its day and submission calendars from 3,593 cases in the 2017-2018 court year to 3,822 in the 2018-2019 year.

“These significant increases are attributable to the hard work and great effort devoted by the court’s justices and the court’s non-judicial staff, and have been achieved despite two vacancies in the court’s judicial complement and the retirement of senior, key staff members,” Scheinkman wrote.

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The roughly 3,000 case backlog was also cut into over the past year, according to Scheinkman, as the outflow of dispositions exceeded the intake of new appeals. He went on to say that the total number of appeals ready to be calendared has dropped for the first time in over a decade.

“In September and October 2018, we created three specialty benches to hear complicated and involved cases in the designated case types of commercial, matrimonial and land use appeals,” Scheinkman said. “From October 2018 through March 2019, the court added four cases to each regular sitting, bringing the number of cases on each day calendar to 24. The court also increased the number of limited-issue appeals being considered without oral argument on submission calendars.”

With an estimated one-third of the court’s cases dealing with foreclosures, Presiding Justice Scheinkman said that the court has put forth a collective effort to reduce the number of appeals by reducing case law conflicts. The result, he said, has been to establish clearer guidelines in recurring situations in addition to special foreclosure calendars.

To explain how the court is operating more smoothly than it has in over a decade, Presiding Justice Scheinkman pointed to six major efforts the court has undertaken since he’s taken over, including mandatory mediation, settlement notifications, how it handles supplemental records, improved technology, updated rules for appearances of counsel, and new motion policies.

Mandatory mediation started in Nov. 2018 and there were 125 mediation conferences between then and June 2019, with a total of 28 cases settled. Presiding Justice Scheinkman noted that he hopes the modest 22 percent success rate improves over time, but that percentage would still make a big impact on the court’s case backlog.

He also warned attorneys about the new settlement policy, whereby the court must be notified immediately if there is any oral or written agreement reached that may render determination of the case unnecessary, and said that sanctions have been issued in one case already for failure to notify the court.

“Once a settlement is reached, the court is to be notified so that the case can be put on hold and unnecessary work on the matter can be avoided,” Scheinkman said. “Of course, if the settlement falls through, the appeal will be readily restored to active status, without losing its place on line.”

Presiding Justice Scheinkman stressed that he would like to see the court cut down on the number of motions filed there each year and noted that the Second Department has more than twice as many motions filed each year as the First Department. He said while motions on important issues are expected, he wants to see fewer filed merely to have deadlines extended.

“While a considerable number of motions involve important issues, such as motions for stays pending appeal, other motions, such as a third or fourth motion for the extension of time to file a reply brief, may be readily avoided,” he wrote. “The court expects that the bar will respect and comply with the deadlines fixed in the statewide Practice Rules of the Appellate Division and will seek variances only in exceptional circumstances.”

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  1. TommyFalco123

    Justice Scheinkman has been presiding over TERRIBLE decisions, faster though they may be. Don’t be proud of your record here, sir, particularly in regards to foreclosures. You are giving it all up to the banksters.