A New Judicial System

The Formation of the Court of Appeals

By the 1840s, it had become apparent that the court system set up under the 1777 constitution was no longer adequate to the needs of the State. The first constitution had carried forward the colonial court system with the major exception of the court of final appeal, the House of Lords in London. In its place, the Court for the Trial of Impeachments and Correction of Errors (commonly called the Court of Errors) was established consisting of the members of the New York Senate together with the Judges of the New York Supreme Court or the Chancellor, depending on the court order from which the appeal was taken. For instance, if the appeal was from an order of the Court of Chancery, the Chancellor was given an opportunity to justify his decision although he did not have a vote in the final judgment of the Court of Errors.

The jurisdiction Court for the Trial of Impeachments and Correction of Errors was split apart. A new constitutional provision governing impeachments was adopted that provided that placed the power of impeachment in the New York Assembly and created a Court for the Trial of Impeachments to be composed of the President of the Senate, the Senators, or the major part of them, and the Judges of the Court of Appeals, or the major part of them.

The New York State Constitution of 1846 created a new court of final appeal, the Court of Appeals, to replace both the Court for the Correction of Errors and the Court of Chancery. The Court of Chancery’s jurisdiction was merged with the common law jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Judicature, in a court thereafter known as the New York the Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeals set up in 1847 consisted of eight judges, four of whom were elected in State-wide elections and four chosen annually from among the Supreme Court justices with the shortest time left to serve. These justices were selected from the first, third, fifth and seventh judicial districts one year and from the second, fourth, sixth and eight judicial districts the following year.

Because of the merger of equity and common law jurisdictions, the practice and procedures of the courts had to be replaced. A new Code of Practice and Procedure (called the Field Code) was enacted in 1847.


Further Reading

The New York Court of Appeals. There Shall Be a Court of Appeals.

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