Professor Vincent C. Alexander has just published an article in the N.Y.U. Journal of Legislation and Public Policy entitled, The CPLR at Fifty: A View from Academia. The article is based on remarks Professor Alexander delivered at NYU’s Dwight D. Opperman Institute of Judicial Administration on March 12, 2013, as part of a symposium on the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of New York’s Civil Practice Law and Rules (“CPLR”).
The CPLR has its roots in New York’s groundbreaking Field Code of 1848, but it has evolved into a multifaceted code that carries forward a few too many eccentric and arguably outmoded rules of procedure. The symposium participants, whose remarks are included in the publication, include U.S. Senior District Judge Jack B. Weinstein, who was one of the principal authors of the CPLR, former New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, NYU Law Professors Oscar G. Chase and William E. Nelson, and practitioner/author David L. Ferstendig.
The symposium reflects upon the creation of the CPLR, its strengths and weaknesses, and its place in the history of procedural reform. Professor Alexander provides an academic perspective, focusing on the teaching, scholarship and law reform opportunities that the CPLR provides. He argues that the New York courts, acting through the Chief Administrative Judge, Judicial Conference and CPLR Advisory Committee, rather than the Legislature alone, should be given the authority to amend the CPLR. Nevertheless, his article concludes:
[T]he CPLR has served the bench and bar of New York quite effectively for the past fifty years. It carries forward New York traditions that apparently are near and dear to the hearts of New York judges and attorneys, and there is value in that. It is a testament to the CPLR’s durability that, unlike the pre-1963 era of New York history, there have been no widespread calls for the overhaul of the New York procedure code. The CPLR may have some quirks, but on the whole, it is a coherent code of procedure . . . . The CPLR gives New York litigants a fair and reasonable means of having their disputes resolved on the merits. Such is the purpose of procedure.