The “Preliminary Conference” in New York Practice

Litigation in New York courts is governed by rules set forth in the New York Civil Practice Law & Rules (CPLR), “Uniform Rules”, local/judges’ rules, and case law.

Generally, in the New York Supreme Court – which, contrary to what its name implies, is the lowest trial-level court in the state court system – the Preliminary Conference (“PC”) is the first time the case has deadlines that are imposed by the Court itself (as opposed to, for example, the CPLR, which, e.g., sets the deadline for serving the complaint once it has been filed). If one thinks of litigating a lawsuit as building a house, the PC (and resulting Order) is arguably analogous to the house’s foundation.

The timing, procedure, and other mechanics of the Preliminary Conference are codified in Section 202.12 of the Uniform Civil Rules for the Supreme Court and the County Court (codified at Title 22 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, 22 NYCRR 202.12).

.Section 202.12 provides, inter alia, that the following matters to be considered at the PC include:

  1. simplification and limitation of factual and legal issues, where appropriate;
  2. establishment of a timetable for the completion of all disclosure proceedings, provided that all such procedures must be completed within the timeframes set forth in subdivision (b) of this section, unless otherwise shortened or extended by the court depending upon the circumstances of the case;
  3. Where the court deems appropriate, it may establish the method and scope of any electronic discovery;
  4. addition of other necessary parties;
  5. settlement of the action;
  6. removal to a lower court pursuant to CPLR 325, where appropriate; and
  7. any other matters that the court may deem relevant.

22 NYCRR 202.12(c).

The result of the Preliminary Conference is an Order – referred to, unsurprisingly, as a “Preliminary Conference Order”, with which the parties must comply. The specific form used may vary by county and case type (e.g., medical malpractice PC Orders are typically more involved than, say, those for motor vehicle accident, premises liability, or employment discrimination matters). The various forms used by the courts are compiled here.

The PC Order, in addition to including various discovery deadlines, will also set a “Compliance Conference”, where the parties will again meet at court and discuss what, if any discovery, remains outstanding.