New York Court of Appeals

New York Court of Appeals
New York Court of Appeals
NY Court of Appeals emblem.svg
Seal of the New York Court of Appeals
Established 1847
Jurisdiction New York New York, United States United States
Location Albany, New York
Authorized by New York State Constitution
Decisions are appealed to Supreme Court of the United States
Judge term length 14 years
Number of positions 7
Chief Judge
Currently Jonathan Lippman
Since February 11, 2009
The 1842 courthouse of the New York Court of Appeals in Albany, Henry Rector, architect
A view of the courthouse's neoclassical portico

The New York Court of Appeals is the highest court in the U.S. 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 to 14-year terms. The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals is also the head of the State's court system's administration, and is thus also known as the Chief Judge of the State of New York. The present Chief Judge is Jonathan Lippman. The 1842 Neoclassical courthouse is located in New York's capital, Albany.



New York State Unified Court System

Court of Appeals
Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Supreme Court
Court of Claims
Surrogate's Court
New York City Courts (Civil, Criminal)
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New York, unlike most other U.S. states, calls its trial and intermediate appellate courts, the "Supreme Court." New York's Supreme Court is not the court of last resort. This sometimes leads to confusion.

Another source of confusion is the title of the jurists who sit on these courts. In most states and the federal court system, members of the highest court are titled "Justices." In New York, the members of the Court of Appeals are titled "Judges," while those sitting on the bench of the State Supreme Court are titled "Justices."


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.[1] In case of a vacancy, a judge was temporarily appointed by the Governor,[2] and at the next odd-year state election a judge was elected for the remainder of the term.[3] 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.[4] 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[5] and two by the minority.[6] 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[7] 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.[8] The Second Division was continued through 1890.[9] In 1891, the State Constitutional Commission, headed by William B. Hornblower drafted an amendment to abolish the Second Division.[10]

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 appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the New York State Senate.


Appeals are taken from the four departments of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division to the Court of Appeals; decisions from the Court of Appeals are binding throughout the state.

Unlike the situation in almost all U.S. jurisdictions, in which the jurisdiction's highest court officially admits new lawyers to the state's bar, the Court of Appeals has no role in bar admissions. Instead, the Appellate Division is responsible for bar admissions.


Name Appointed Term expiration Appointing Governor Law School Attended
Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman 2009 2015 David Paterson, Democrat New York University School of Law
Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick 1994 2012 Mario Cuomo, Democrat St. John's University School of Law
Judge Victoria A. Graffeo 2000 2014 George Pataki, Republican Albany Law School
Judge Susan Phillips Read 2003 2017 George Pataki, Republican University of Chicago Law School
Judge Robert S. Smith 2004 2014 George Pataki, Republican Columbia Law School
Judge Eugene F. Pigott, Jr. 2006 2016 George Pataki, Republican University at Buffalo Law School
Judge Theodore J. Jones 2007 2015 Eliot Spitzer, Democrat St. Johns University School of Law

Notable Cases

The Court of Appeals has decided some of the most important cases in American jurisprudence. [1]

Conflict of Laws

  • 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.

Statutory Interpretation


  • 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.

Criminal Law

  • 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. 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 Rail Road 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.
  • 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.

See also


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ The special election in NYT on May 17, 1870
  5. ^ Elected were Democrats William F. Allen, Charles A. Rapallo, Martin Grover and Rufus W. Peckham, Sr.
  6. ^ Elected were Republicans Charles J. Folger and Charles Andrews. Defeated were Charles Mason and Robert S. Hale.
  7. ^ A "designation" is an appointment which does not require confirmation by the State Senate.

External links

Coordinates: 42°39′08″N 73°45′14″W / 42.652319°N 73.753946°W / 42.652319; -73.753946

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