Celebrating the Art & Architecture of the Courts

December is Art & Architecture Month, and, as a part of its mission, the Society has developed programs that celebrate art and architecture in the State’s courthouses and how art has been used to depict justice. As December rounds out the Society’s 20th anniversary year, these past programs continue to inspire and enlighten.

Understanding the Work of the NY Federal State & Tribal Courts & Indian Nations Justice Forum with Justice Mark A. Montour

Recently appointed Appellate Division Justice Mark Montour discusses his pioneering role as the first Native American jurist in NYS as well as the work a collaborative group of federal, state, and tribal nation courts and representatives in ensuring Native Americans have equal access to justice.

This is a segment from a Dispensing Justice from a Distance Series Interview from March 24, 2021. Watch the full interview here: https://history.nycourts.gov/about_period/dispensing-justice-montour/

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Equal Justice in the New York State Courts

To close out our series Every Month is Black History Month, we are revisiting the important work of the court system in providing equal justice to all New Yorkers.

In January 2021, our series highlighting the individual stories of judges during the pandemic Dispensing Justice from a Distance virtually brought together Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives Hon. Edwina G. Mendelson and interviewer and NYU Law Professor Troy A. McKenzie. Judge Mendelson and Prof. McKenzie’s discussion included how the pandemic has necessitated serious changes to help all New Yorkers receive their day in court.

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George Boyer Vashon: New York’s First African American Attorney

In 2021, the Society is celebrating Black History Month every month, spending the year looking back at the impact of Black New Yorkers on the legal history of the state.

George Boyer Vashon (1824-1878) was admitted to the New York Bar on January 11, 1848, thereafter practicing in Syracuse. He became New York’s first African American attorney, after having been rejected on the grounds of race by the Bar of his native Pennsylvania in 1847. He was admitted to the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1867.

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Chief Judge Janet DiFiore Announces the Lemmon Slave Case Exhibit Debut

During her biweekly video message, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore this week announced the debut of The Lemmon Case: 1852-1860 — A Prelude to the Civil War, a traveling panel exhibit intended to educate the public on the role of the New York courts in paving the way for the abolition of slavery, and the subsequent freeing of eight enslaved young women and children who sailed into New York harbor with their owners from Virginia. The exhibit began a 90-week tour to 45 courthouses around the state at the Westchester County Courthouse on November 1st.

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Eunice Hunton Carter

In 2021, the Society is celebrating Black History Month every month, spending the year looking back at the impact of Black New Yorkers on the legal history of the state.

Eunice Hunton Carter was the real-life heroine who inspired a character on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. She was only the second woman in the history of Smith College to receive a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in four years. She then went on to earn a law degree from Fordham School of Law and start her own practice.

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Fanfare for a Great Mentor: Remembering Chief Judge Lawrence H. Cooke

Eddie Roth was a law clerk to Chief Judge Lawrence H. Cooke from 1982-84. He and fellow law clerk Jeanne Philips-Roth married in 1987. He now serves as a legal advisor to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. He originally published this essay for friends and family on his Facebook page in September 2014, as a centennial tribute to Chief Judge Cooke.


October 15 marks the 107th anniversary of the date of New York Chief Judge Lawrence H. Cooke’s birth. He was a jurist of great distinction, and a person of unsurpassed decency, integrity and good cheer. I write to remember him, and to share some observations about what it meant to me to have known him.

I first met Judge Cooke in the Spring of 1981. I was 22 years old, and just completing my second year at Fordham Law School. He was Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals and had invited me to interview for a clerkship position that would begin following my graduation.

The interview was conducted in his home chambers at the Sullivan County Courthouse, in Monticello, New York, about 100 miles north and west of New York City. Each of the seven judges of the Court of Appeals maintain chambers in their hometowns. The judges would converge on Albany for two-week sessions, to confer and hear argument. During the three weeks in-between sessions, and over the summer, they would return to home chambers to work on writings and ready themselves for the next session, and so forth.

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People v. Sanger & the Birth of Family Planning Clinics in America

October 16, 1916 marks the day when the first birth control clinic opened in the United States by Margaret Sanger in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY — that was 105 years ago, yet the topic still resonates today. Take a deep dive on the history of family planning clinics in the nation from our extensive article from Judicial Notice Issue 9, written by Maria T. Vullo.

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Sojourner Truth: First African American Woman to Win a Lawsuit

In 2021, the Society is celebrating Black History Month every month, spending the year looking back at the impact of Black New Yorkers on the legal history of the state.


Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was an African American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She was born into slavery in upstate New York, and with her infant daughter escaped to freedom in 1826. New York began to legislate for abolition of slavery in 1799, adopting emancipation legislation on July 4, 1827. The law did not provide for a specific date of collective emancipation. Rather it legislated staggered dates of freedom based on age and gender on the theory that the work force should not be overburdened. Sojourner obtained her freedom on July 4, 1827.

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