The New York Court of Appeals is the highest court in the Unified Court System of the State of New York. The Court of Appeals consists of seven judges: the Chief Judge and six Associate Judges who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate to 14-year terms. The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals also heads administration of the state's court system, and thus is also known as the Chief Judge of the State of New York. Its 1842 Neoclassical courthouse is located in New York's capital, Albany.
|New York Court of Appeals|
|Location||Albany, New York|
|Authorized by||New York State Constitution|
|Appeals to||Supreme Court of the United States|
|Judge term length||14 years|
|Number of positions||7|
|Currently||Anthony Cannataro (acting)|
|Since||September 1, 2022|
In the Federal court system, and most U.S. states, the court of last resort is known as the "Supreme Court". New York, however, calls its trial and intermediate appellate courts the "Supreme Court", and the court of last resort the Court of Appeals. This sometimes leads to confusion regarding the roles of the respective courts.
Further adding to the misunderstanding is New York's terminology for jurists on its top two courts. Those who sit on its supreme courts are referred to as "Justices" – the title reserved in most states and the Federal court system for members of the highest court – whereas the members of New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, are simply called "Judges".
Appeals are taken from the four departments of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division to the Court of Appeals. In some cases, an appeal lies of right, but in most cases, permission (or "leave") to appeal must be obtained, either from the Appellate Division itself or from the Court of Appeals. In civil cases, the Appellate Division panel or Court of Appeals votes on petitions for leave to appeal; in most criminal cases, however, the petition for leave to appeal is referred to a single Justice or Judge, whose decision whether to grant or deny leave is final. In some criminal cases, some appellate decisions by an Appellate Term or County Court are also appealable to the Court of Appeals, either of right or by permission.
In a few cases, an appeal can be taken from the court of first instance to the Court of Appeals, bypassing the Appellate Division. Direct appeals are authorized from final trial-court decisions in civil cases where the only issue is the constitutionality of a federal or state statute. In criminal cases, a direct appeal to the Court of Appeals is mandatory where a death sentence is imposed, but this provision has been irrelevant since New York's death-penalty law was declared unconstitutional.
Decisions from the Court of Appeals are binding authority on all lower courts, and persuasive authority for itself in later cases. Every opinion, memorandum, and motion of the Court of Appeals sent to the New York State Reporter is required to be published in the New York Reports.
Administration of the courtsEdit
The New York State Unified Court System is a unified state court system that functions under the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals who is the ex officio Chief Judge of New York. The Chief Judge supervises the seven-judge Court of Appeals and is chair of the Administrative Board of the Courts. In addition, the Chief Judge establishes standards and administrative policies after consultation with the Administrative Board and approval by the Court of Appeals. The Chief Administrator (or Chief Administrative Judge if a judge) is appointed by the Chief Judge with the advice and consent of the Administrative Board and oversees the administration and operation of the court system, assisted by the Office of Court Administration. The eleven-member New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct receives complaints, investigates, and makes initial determinations regarding judicial conduct and may recommend admonition, censure, or removal from office to the Chief Judge and Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals promulgates rules for admission to practice law in New York. (The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division is responsible for actual admissions.) The New York State Reporter is the official reporter of decisions and is appointed by the Court of Appeals.
- For a complete list of chief judges, see List of chief judges of the New York Court of Appeals.
- For a list of associate judges, see List of associate judges of the New York Court of Appeals.
|Judge||Born||Took office /
Length of service
|Term expiration /
|Appointing governor||College||Law school||Party|
|Jenny Rivera||December 1960 (age 61)||February 11, 2013
9 years, 7 months
|February 11, 2027||Andrew Cuomo (D)||Princeton||NYU||Democratic|
|Michael J. Garcia||October 3, 1961||February 8, 2016
6 years, 7 months
|February 8, 2030||Andrew Cuomo (D)||Binghamton||Albany||Republican|
|Rowan D. Wilson||September 3, 1960||February 6, 2017
5 years, 7 months
|December 31, 2030||Andrew Cuomo (D)||Harvard||Harvard||Democratic|
|Madeline Singas||1966 (age 55–56)||June 8, 2021
1 year, 3 months
|June 8, 2035||Andrew Cuomo (D)||Barnard||Fordham||Democratic|
|Anthony Cannataro (acting Chief Judge)||July 1965 (age 57)||June 8, 2021
1 year, 3 months
|June 8, 2035||Andrew Cuomo (D)||Columbia||New York Law School||Democratic|
|Shirley Troutman||1959/1960 (age 62–63)||January 12, 2022
|December 31, 2029||Kathy Hochul (D)||SUNY Buffalo||Albany||Democratic|
Vacancies and pending nominationsEdit
|Seat last held by||Vacancy reason||Date of vacancy||Nominee||Date of nomination|
|Janet DiFiore||Retirement||August 31, 2022||–||–|
The Court of Appeals was created by the New York State Constitution of 1846 to replace both the Court for the Correction of Errors and the Court of Chancery, and had eight members. Four judges were elected by general ballot at the State elections, the other four were chosen annually from among the Supreme Court justices. The first four judges elected at the special judicial state election in June 1847 were Freeborn G. Jewett (to a term of two and a half years), Greene C. Bronson (to a term of four and a half years), Charles H. Ruggles (to a term of six and a half years), and Addison Gardiner (to a term of eight and a half years). They took office on July 5, 1847. Afterwards, every two years, one judge was elected in odd-numbered years to an eight-year term. In case of a vacancy, a judge was temporarily appointed by the Governor, and at the next odd-year state election a judge was elected for the remainder of the term. The Chief Judge was always that one of the elected judges who had the shortest remaining term. Besides, the Court had a Clerk who was elected to a three-year term.
In 1869, the proposed new State Constitution was rejected by the voters. Only the "Judicial Article", which re-organized the New York Court of Appeals, was adopted by a small majority, with 247,240 for and 240,442 against it. The Court of Appeals was wholly re-organised, taking effect on July 4, 1870. All sitting judges were legislated out of office, and seven new judges were elected by general ballot at a special election on May 17, 1870. Democrat Sanford E. Church defeated Republican Henry R. Selden for Chief Judge. The tickets for associate judges had only four names each and the voters could cast only four ballots, so that four judges were chosen by the majority and two by the minority. Martin Grover was the only sitting judge who was re-elected. The judges were elected to a 14-year term, which most judges did not complete, since the Constitution mandated the retirement of the judges at the end of the calendar year in which they reached the age of 70. In case of a vacancy due to death or resignation, a judge was appointed by the Governor until a successor was chosen at the next State election. To replace retiring or appointed judges, all substitutes were elected to full 14-year terms.
In 1889, a "Second Division" of the Court of Appeals was established temporarily to help to decide the large number of cases. Its seven members were designated by Governor David B. Hill, chosen from the New York Supreme Court's General Term benches. Chief Judge was Daniel L. Follett. Among its members were Alton B. Parker and Joseph Potter. The Second Division was continued through 1890. In 1891, the State Constitutional Commission, headed by William B. Hornblower drafted an amendment to abolish the Second Division.
A constitutional amendment adopted in November 1899 permitted the Governor, at the request of a majority of the judges of the Court of Appeals, to designate up to four justices of the Supreme Court to serve as associate judges of the Court of Appeals until the Court's calendar was reduced below two hundred cases. This goal was reached only in 1921, and henceforth no more Supreme Court justices were designated under the amendment of 1899 to serve on the Court of Appeals.
Jacob D. Fuchsberg and Lawrence H. Cooke were the last judges elected by general ballot at the State election in November 1974. Afterwards the judges have been nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the New York State Senate.
The Court of Appeals has decided some of the most important cases in American jurisprudence.
Conflict of lawsEdit
- Babcock v. Jackson (Fuld, J.): holding that the law of the jurisdiction governs that has the strongest interest in the resolution of the particular issue presented.
- Riggs v. Palmer (Earl, J): used the "social purpose" rule of statutory construction, the process of interpreting a will.
- Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon (Cardozo, J.): was both a minor cause célèbre at the time and an influential development in the law of contract consideration.
- Jacob & Youngs v. Kent (Cardozo, J.): held that expectation damages arising from a breach of contract are limited to the diminution of the property's value if the undoing of the breach was an economic waste.
- Boomer v. Atlantic Cement Co. (Bergan, J.): the court granted an injunction against the cement plant for nuisance, but permitted the plant to pay permanent damages after which the court would vacate the injunction. In essence, the court permitted the plant to pay the net present value of its effects and to continue polluting.
- Berkey v. Third Avenue Railway Co (Cardozo, J.): held that the Third Avenue Railway Co was not liable for the debts of the subsidiary. It was necessary that the domination of the parent company over the subsidiary was required to be complete, in order for the parent company to be treated as liable for the debts of the subsidiary. It was needed that the subsidiary be merely the alter ego of the parent, or that the subsidiary be thinly capitalized, so as to perpetrate a fraud on the creditors.
- Meinhard v. Salmon (Cardozo, J.): held that managing partner in a joint venture had a fiduciary duty to inform the investing partner of an opportunity that would arise after the scheduled termination of the partnership.
- Walkovszky v. Carlton (Fuld, J.): refused to pierce the veil on account of undercapitalization alone.
- People v. Molineux (Werner, J.): held that using 'evidence' of an unproven previous act of murder against the defendant in a subsequent unrelated trial violated the basic tenet of presumption of innocence, and, therefore, such evidence was inadmissible
- People v. Onofre (Jones): held that it is not the function of the penal law to provide for the enforcement of moral or theological values.
- People v. Antommarchi (Simons, J.): affirming the statutory rights of a defendant to be present during any sidebar questioning of a prospective juror concerning his or her impartiality.
- People v. Goetz (Wachtler, CJ): held that 1) The defense of justification, which permits the use of deadly physical force, is not a purely subjective standard; the actor must not only have the subjective belief that deadly physical force is necessary, but those beliefs must also be objectively reasonable. 2) The mere appearance of perjured testimony given before the Grand Jury is not sufficient to sustain a dismissal of an indictment.
- People v. Scott (Hancock, J.), held that the protections against unlawful search and seizure in the state constitution are broad enough that, contrary to the open-fields doctrine affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Oliver v. United States, a landowner can assert a reasonable expectation of privacy against a warrantless search of all property, not just that within the curtilage of the house, as long as they have made some effort to exclude the public such as posting or fencing the property or gating roads. New York is one of five states where courts have declined to adopt the doctrine.
- People v. LaValle (G.B Smith, J.): The current statute of capital punishment in the state of New York was unconstitutional as it violated article one, section six of the state constitution.
- Devlin v. Smith: The Court held that a duty to third parties "exists when a defect is such as to render the article in itself imminently dangerous, and serious injury to any person using it is a natural and probable consequence of its use." The Court further held that scaffolding to be used in the painting of a courthouse was an inherently dangerous article.
- Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital (Cardozo, J.): established principles of informed consent and respondeat superior in United States law
- MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co. (Cardozo, J.): helped signal the end of the law's attachment with privity as a source of duty in products liability. This is the foundational doctrine underlying nearly all modern product liability lawsuits.
- Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. (Cardozo, J.): was important in the development of the concept of the proximate cause in tort law.
- Martin v. Herzog (Cardozo, J.): holding that the unexcused violation of a statutory duty is negligence per se and a jury does not have the power to relax the duty that one traveler on the highway owes under a statute to another on the same highway.
- Chysky v. Drake Bros. Co. (McLaughlin, J.): The Court held that a plaintiff cannot recover from a defendant based on implied warranty when she does not have contractual privity with him; thus, a plaintiff cannot recover from a defendant who sold her employer food unfit for consumption, because the defendant's implied warranty extended only to the employer.
- Tedla v. Ellman (Lehman, J.): the court held that because the violation occurred in a situation not anticipated by the drafters of the statute and was in keeping with the spirit of the statute, it did not constitute negligence.
- Akins v. Glens Falls City School District (Jasen, J.): The Court held that the Baseball Rule, an exception to tort law under which spectators at sporting events cannot hold teams, players or venues liable if they are injured by a ball leaving the field as long as some protected seating was available, is still valid under comparative negligence, the first time it was challenged under that doctrine.
- Trimarco v. Klein (Fuchsberg, J): held that custom and usage is highly relevant evidence related to the reasonable person standard but it does not per se define the scope of negligence.
- Birnbaum, Edward L.; Belen, Ariel E.; Grasso, Carl T. (2012). New York Trial Notebook (6th ed.). James Publishing. pp. 1–23. ISBN 978-1-58012-104-0.
- Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 149.
- Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 153.
- Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 130.
- Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 131.
- "Office of Court Administration". New York State Office of Court Administration. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
- Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 132.
- Gibson & Manz 2004, pp. 133–134.
- Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 135.
- 22 NYCRR § 520.1
- McKinley, Jesse; Weiser, Benjamin (2022-07-11). "New York's Top Judge Is Moving On: 'I've Made My Contribution'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-07-11.
- Elected were: 1849 Freeborn G. Jewett, 1851 Alexander S. Johnson, 1853 Charles H. Ruggles, 1855 Samuel L. Selden, 1857 Hiram Denio, 1859 Henry E. Davies, 1861 William B. Wright, 1863 Henry R. Selden, 1865 Ward Hunt, 1867 Martin Grover, 1869 John A. Lott
- Appointed were: 1851 Samuel Alfred Foot in place of Greene C. Bronson resigned, 1853 Hiram Denio in place of Freeborn G. Jewett resigned, 1862 Henry R. Selden in place of Samuel L. Selden resigned, 1865 John K. Porter in place of Henry R. Selden resigned, 1868 Lewis B. Woodruff in place of John K. Porter resigned, and Charles Mason in place of William B. Wright deceased
- Elected were: 1853 Hiram Denio for 4 years, 1855 George F. Comstock for 6 years, 1865 John K. Porter for 6 years, 1869 Robert Earl for 2 years
- "The special election" (PDF). New York Times. May 17, 1870.
- Elected were Democrats William F. Allen, Charles A. Rapallo, Martin Grover and Rufus W. Peckham, Sr.
- Elected were Republicans Charles J. Folger and Charles Andrews. Defeated were Charles Mason and Robert S. Hale.
- A "designation" is an appointment that does not require confirmation by the State Senate.
- "Commission of Appeals: Organization of the Second Division on the Court" (PDF). New York Times. January 24, 1889.
- "Court of Appeals Work: Probability that the Second Division will be Retained" (PDF). New York Times. December 17, 1890.
- "The Court of Appeals: The Commission wants the Second Division Abolished" (PDF). New York Times. January 25, 1891.
- "Legal History by Era". Historical Society of the New York Courts. Retrieved September 8, 2014.
- Galie, Peter J.; Bopst, Christopher (2012). The New York State Constitution (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-986056-2. LCCN 2011051555.
- Gibson, Ellen M.; Manz, William H. (2004). Gibson's New York Legal Research Guide (PDF) (3rd ed.). Wm. S. Hein Publishing. ISBN 1-57588-728-2. LCCN 2004042477. OCLC 54455036.
- Lincoln, Charles Z. (1906). The Constitutional History of New York. Lawyers Co-operative Publishing. OCLC 1337955.
- "New York State Constitution". New York State Department of State.
- "The Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York".
- New York State Court of Appeals
- Court of Appeals in the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations
- Slip opinions from the New York State Office of Court Administration
- Slip opinions from the New York State Law Reporting Bureau
- New York Slip Opinion Service from the New York State Law Reporting Bureau
- New York Official Reports Service from West
- Slip opinions from the Cornell Legal Information Institute
- New York State Unified Court System
- New York Court of Appeals index of politicians by office held or sought from Lawrence Kestenbaum