The Commercial Division Advisory Council continued its revamp of the Commercial Division Rules on October 14, 2015, when it implemented amendments to 22 NYCRR § 202.70(b) and (c).  As we discussed in this blog when the amendments were proposed in April, the amendment to 22 NYCRR § 202.70(b) subjects actions to compel or stay domestic arbitration hearings and actions to affirm or disaffirm domestic arbitration awards to the same eligibility criteria as other matters.  Such actions must involve equitable and/or declaratory relief, or meet the monetary threshold of $500,000 in New York County, $200,000 in Nassau County, $150,000 in Kings County, $100,000 in Suffolk and Queens Counties and the Eighth Judicial District, and $50,000 in Onondaga and Albany Counties.  Those actions must also involve one of the commercial issues set forth in 22 NYCRR § 202.70(b), meaning the subject matter of the case must involve principal claims for: breach of contract or fiduciary duty, fraud, misrepresentation, business tort, statutory and/or common law violation where the breach or violation is alleged to arise out of business dealings, transactions governed by the Uniform Commercial Code, transactions involving commercial real property, shareholder derivative actions, commercial class actions, business transactions involving commercial banks and other financial institutions, internal affairs of business organizations, accounting and legal malpractice arising from commercial representations, environmental insurance coverage, or dissolution of business entities.

A noteworthy exception to the new rule concerns cases involving commercial matters that arise out of arbitration proceedings that took place outside of the United States.  This exception seems designed to encourage parties to litigate international arbitration disputes in the New York County Commercial Division International Arbitration Part (Justice Edward Ramos).  Indeed, the amendment to 22 NYCRR § 202.70(c) makes clear that such international arbitration matters are exempt from the monetary thresholds set forth in the Commercial Division Rules as long as the applicable arbitration agreement provides for the arbitration to be heard outside the United States.  The International Arbitration Part was established in September 2013, and since that time Justice Ramos has heard over a dozen international arbitration cases.  While the recent amendments to the Commercial Division Rules have focused on limiting the number of cases eligible for the Commercial Division’s docket, the Commercial Division Advisory Council has avoided applying those limitations to international arbitration cases.  These exemptions suggest that the Commercial Division is continuing its efforts to establish itself as a preferred venue for international arbitration disputes.