New York Court of Appeals
Seal of the New York Court of Appeals
Established1847 (1847)
JurisdictionNew York
LocationAlbany, New York,
United States
Authorized byNew York State Constitution
Appeals toSupreme Court of the United States
Judge term length14 years
Number of positions7
Chief Judge
CurrentlyRowan Wilson
SinceApril 18, 2023

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 courthouse is located in New York's capital, Albany. The court of appeals was found in 1847.


In the Federal court system, and all other 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.

Further adding to the confusion 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".[citation needed]


A room with ornate brown wooden paneling and oil portraits on the walls. At the left seven people wearing black robes sit behind a similarly decorated wooden bench, elevated slightly from the red-carpeted floor. On the right are several people in suits sitting at chairs behind tables. In the rear is a large window with red drapes.
The Court sits in Albany. Here it hears oral arguments in a 2009 case over the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn.

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 by the court can be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States but only in cases containing a point of federal or consitutional law.

Decisions from the Court of Appeals are binding authority on all lower courts, and persuasive authority for itself in later cases.[1] 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.[2][3]

Administration of the courts

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.[4] In addition, the Chief Judge establishes standards and administrative policies after consultation with the Administrative Board and approval by the Court of Appeals.[4] 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.[4][5][6] 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.[7][8] The Court of Appeals promulgates rules for admission to practice law in New York.[9] (The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division is responsible for actual admissions.[10]) The New York State Reporter is the official reporter of decisions and is appointed by the Court of Appeals.[3]


Judge Born Joined Term ends Mandatory retirement[a] Appointed by Law school
Rowan D. Wilson, Chief Judge (1960-09-03) September 3, 1960 (age 63) February 6, 2017 (as Associate Judge)
April 18, 2023 (as Chief Judge)
December 31, 2030[b] Kathy Hochul (D)[c] Harvard
Jenny Rivera (1960-12-08) December 8, 1960 (age 63) February 11, 2013 February 10, 2027 December 31, 2030 Andrew Cuomo (D) NYU
Michael J. Garcia (1961-10-08) October 8, 1961 (age 62) February 8, 2016 February 7, 2030 December 31, 2031 Andrew Cuomo (D) Albany
Madeline Singas (1966-06-06) June 6, 1966 (age 57) June 8, 2021 June 7, 2035 December 31, 2036 Andrew Cuomo (D) Fordham
Anthony Cannataro (1965-07-03) July 3, 1965 (age 58) June 8, 2021 June 7, 2035 December 31, 2035 Andrew Cuomo (D) NYLS
Shirley Troutman (1959-09-15) September 15, 1959 (age 64) January 12, 2022 December 31, 2029[b] Kathy Hochul (D) Albany
Caitlin Halligan (1966-12-14) December 14, 1966 (age 57) April 19, 2023 December 31, 2036[b] Kathy Hochul (D) Georgetown
  1. ^ All judges must retire on December 31 of the year that they turn 70.
  2. ^ a b c Judge reaches the mandatory retirement deadline before the end of their term.
  3. ^ Originally appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) as Associate Judge. Subsequently appointed by Governor Kathy Hochul (D) as Chief Judge.


A three-story light-colored stone building. In the front a pedimented central pavilion with six Ionic columns projects. Between the second and third stories of the main facade there is a large molded cornice.
The 1842 courthouse of the New York Court of Appeals in Albany, Henry Rector, architect

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.[11] In case of a vacancy, a judge was temporarily appointed by the Governor,[12] and at the next odd-year state election a judge was elected for the remainder of the term.[13] 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.[14] 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[15] and two by the minority.[16] 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.

A view of the courthouse's neoclassical portico

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[17] 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.[18] The Second Division was continued through 1890.[19] In 1891, the State Constitutional Commission, headed by William B. Hornblower drafted an amendment to abolish the Second Division.[20]

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.

Notable cases

The Court of Appeals has decided some of the most important cases in American jurisprudence.[21]

Conflict of laws

Statutory interpretation



Criminal law


See also


  1. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 2015-01-26. Retrieved 2023-03-23.
  2. ^ Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 149.
  3. ^ a b Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 153.
  4. ^ a b c Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 130.
  5. ^ Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 131.
  6. ^ "Office of Court Administration". New York State Office of Court Administration. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
  7. ^ Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 132.
  8. ^ Gibson & Manz 2004, pp. 133–134.
  9. ^ Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 135.
  10. ^ 22 NYCRR § 520.1
  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
  12. ^ 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
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ "The special election" (PDF). New York Times. May 17, 1870.
  15. ^ Elected were Democrats William F. Allen, Charles A. Rapallo, Martin Grover and Rufus W. Peckham, Sr.
  16. ^ Elected were Republicans Charles J. Folger and Charles Andrews. Defeated were Charles Mason and Robert S. Hale.
  17. ^ A "designation" is an appointment that does not require confirmation by the State Senate.
  18. ^ "Commission of Appeals: Organization of the Second Division on the Court" (PDF). New York Times. January 24, 1889.
  19. ^ "Court of Appeals Work: Probability that the Second Division will be Retained" (PDF). New York Times. December 17, 1890.
  20. ^ "The Court of Appeals: The Commission wants the Second Division Abolished" (PDF). New York Times. January 25, 1891.
  21. ^ "Legal History by Era". Historical Society of the New York Courts. Retrieved September 8, 2014.

Further reading

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