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BBA training session creates experts in e-filing

July 31, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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The legal community has adapted faster to technology in the last four months than it has in the last 10 years and to ensure that everyone is keeping up with the latest developments, the Brooklyn Bar Association hosted a continuing legal education seminar on Thursday on e-filing in the Surrogate’s Court.

With over 23,000 people in New York State having died due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Surrogate’s Court is likely going to be busier than usual settling estates. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore predicted this back in May, when she pushed resources toward the court in an effort to expand its virtual operations.

Part of that expansion of operations included bringing e-filing to Kings County faster than expected. To help people adapt more quickly, Thursday’s CLE was organized by the Surrogate’s Court Committee and its chair Pamela Walker, as well as the Trusts and Estates Section, chaired by James Cahill Jr. and Daniel Antonelli.

“We’re in such a transformative time right now and Brooklyn was not on the list to become an e-filing county just yet, but here we are in the thick of things,” said Pamela Walker. “This was moved up a lot faster than originally planned, but here we are, and we will get through this. In a few more weeks, we’ll all be experts.”

Veronica Schmachtenberg has worked for the Unified Court System since 1992 and is the supervisor of the NYS Courts Electronic Filing Resource Center.

The BBA arranged for Veronica Schmachtenberg, the supervisor at the NYS Courts Electronic Filing Resource Center (NYSCEF), to teach members of the Brooklyn Bar Association the basics of e-filing in the Surrogate’s Court. She explained the Uniform Court Rules, recent updates to procedures and a full demonstration of the e-filing system itself.

“We invited Ronnie Schmachtenberg, the supervisor of Court Resource Systems, and she is here from the NYS-certified e-filing section,” said Pamela Walker. “For this CLE, Ronnie really focuses on first-time e-filers. She explains all of the tricks of the trade and gives a good understanding of the common issues.”

Schmachtenberg has worked with the Unified Court System since 1992. She has served as a commercial division part clerk for more than 12 years, and since 2011 as the supervisor of the Resource Center. As supervisor, she coordinates and develops training programs for court employees across the state and conducts training sessions for bar associations and private attorneys and their staff.

“All e-filing is simply another way of getting your papers to the courts 24/7,” Schmachtenberg said, trying to put everyone at ease.

Schmachtenberg quickly demystified the system for anyone unfamiliar with it as she went through the e-filing site line by line.

By sharing her screen, Veronica Schmachtenberg was able to take BBA members through the Surrogate’s Court E-filing system screen by screen.

Each county in New York has its own Surrogate’s Court and Brooklyn and Manhattan each have two. Schmachtenberg warned people practicing in different courts to check for the protocols on each individual court’s website the first time they use is e-filing system, as they each have slightly different rules.

“Rules and Legislation is a really important section to cover,” Schmachtenberg said. “I included an attachment in the material and I find it a good idea to visit the rules before you start filing.

“Section 207.4-A covers the basics and explains what’s mandatory. If you open the rules it will tell you definitions, what working copies are, what hard copies are. Most importantly, it’s going to cover signatures.”

She also deliberately took everyone through the forms section, pointing out important forms and how to find them.

“SC-2 form is an important form to know,” she said. “It’s a cover page. In most of our Surrogate’s Courts, most of them require you to file this form as your very first document. It’s just a cover page saying exactly what you are filing. You have to fill this out and file it as your first document.”

The BBA does not typically host CLEs in July and August. However, it made an exception because the COVID-19 pandemic meant that this training couldn’t wait a few more months. As Jen Bryan pointed out, the BBA will go back to hosting regular CLE in September, likely via Zoom.

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