Amended ComDiv Rule 6: The Practice of Law at Your Fingertips (literally)
December 03, 2020
The New York Commercial Division continues to be a beacon of innovation with a recent amendment to ComDiv Rule 6, now requiring bookmarking and hyperlinking within briefs and affidavits filed with the court. The amendment is no doubt welcome news to an overburdened (and underbudgeted) court system already well-known for its efficient administration of justice.
Gone are the days when the recipient of a legal brief — whether judge, law clerk, or other court personnel — would be compelled to get up from one’s desk, walk down the hall, and check the stacks for this or that case citation. Gone, even, are the days when a judge or her staff would be compelled to pore through banker’s boxes of documents to confirm this or that record citation. The advent of e-filing, online-research databases, e-discovery software, and other document-management systems have long since rendered such practices obsolete.
Now, with the advent of Amended ComDiv Rule 6, judges and their staff will literally have at their fingertips the entirety of the factual and procedural record, as well as all the case law and statutes, supporting the arguments presented in the document they happen to be reading on their computer screen. As one judge put it in the ComDiv Advisory Council’s memo proposing the amendment: “This is going to be easy.”
My colleague and fellow blogger, Viktoriya Liberchuk, first reported on this amendment, in proposed form, back in January of this year. At the time, we referenced the Advisory Council’s contention that hyperlinks would be particularly helpful with respect to the complex commercial cases that tend to make up the ComDiv’s docket. To wit:
In the interest of remaining a leader in the efficient and effective administration of justice in complex commercial cases, the [Advisory Committee] recommends that the current e-filing and bookmarking requirements be extended to require or encourage hyperlinking to other sources in appropriate cases.
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The case for making greater use of this simple yet powerful technology in judicial filings is obvious and compelling, and it presents an opportunity for the Commercial Division to continue its innovation and leadership in the smart adaptation of technology in aid of the efficient administration of justice.
ComDiv Rule 6 (Form of Papers) — which concerns font size, margins, and other formalities — formerly required “bookmarks providing a listing of the document’s contents and facilitating easy navigation by the reader within the document.” In other words, briefs and affidavits filed in compliance with the the rule prior to amendment allowed a judge and her staff to jump instantly from specific points of fact or law outlined in a table of contents to the corresponding substantive content within the body of the document itself.
Amended ComDiv Rule 6, which went into effect a couple weeks ago on November 16, goes a step or two further by:
- requiring that “[e]ach electronically submitted memorandum of law or other document that cites to another document previously filed with NYSCEF shall include a hyperlink to the NYSCEF docket entry for the cited document”;
- allowing judges the discretion to require that “electronically submitted memoranda of law include hyperlinks to cited court decisions, statutes, rules, regulations, treatises, and other legal authorities in either legal research databases to which the Court has access or in state or federal government websites”; and
- otherwise encouraging parties “to hyperlink such citations unless otherwise directed by the Court.”
Lest the luddites among us be left lumbering in the electronic ether, Amended ComDiv Rule 6 defines and distinguishes “bookmark” and “hyperlink” at the outset.
[A] hyperlink means an electronic link between one document and another, and a bookmark means an electronic link permitting navigation among different parts of a single document.
In other words, whereas the former rule allowed for instant navigation within the brief or affidavit at hand, the rule as amended allows for instant navigation to documents and resources outside the brief or affidavit as well. As the Advisory Council puts it:
Hyperlinks … enable the reader of one document to access another document discussed or referred to in the text of the first document in seconds, with a single mouse-click.
Hence, the practice of law at your fingertips.