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|
|Since||January 21, 2016|
|Jurist term ends||December 31, 2028|
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.
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.
|Judge||Born||Took office /
Length of service
|Term expiration /
|Appointing governor||College||Law school||Party|
|Janet DiFiore, Chief Judge||August 9, 1955||January 21, 2016
6 years, 6 months
|December 31, 2025||Andrew Cuomo (D)||LIU Post||St. John's||Democratic|
|Jenny Rivera||December 1960 (age 61)||February 11, 2013
9 years, 6 months
|February 11, 2027||Andrew Cuomo (D)||Princeton||NYU||Democratic|
|Michael J. Garcia||October 3, 1961||February 8, 2016
6 years, 6 months
|February 8, 2030||Andrew Cuomo (D)||Binghamton||Albany||Republican|
|Rowan D. Wilson||September 3, 1960||February 6, 2017
5 years, 6 months
|December 31, 2030||Andrew Cuomo (D)||Harvard||Harvard||Democratic|
|Madeline Singas||1966 (age 55–56)||June 8, 2021
1 year, 2 months
|June 8, 2035||Andrew Cuomo (D)||Barnard||Fordham||Democratic|
|Anthony Cannataro||July 1965 (age 57)||June 8, 2021
1 year, 2 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|
|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.