New York’s Courts and the People Behind Them

in The Origins and Development of American Legal History in New York City (1609-1865)
Lesson 4

Created by Dr. Aaron Welt,  
Judith S. Kaye Teaching Fellow

NYS Common Core Grades 11 & 12:
United States History and Government
Participation in Government and Civics

This series of five lesson plans is designed to familiarize upper-level high school and college students with the early history of American law, with a specific focus on New York City. These lesson plans utilize online resources provided by the Historical Society of the New York Courts and aim to introduce students to the major events and turning points that help us understand how American law, courts, and the criminal justice system developed in early US history. The lesson plans are divided chronologically and thematically, but are meant to be instructed in conversation with one another. For each of the outlined class activities, students should write down their answers to submit to the instructor. 

This lesson plan meets the following guidelines of New York State’s Common Core Social Studies Framework (2017):


  • Foundations of American Democracy: 12.G1d



The Historical Society’s website contains a wealth of related resources, including descriptions of cases and biographies of judges who decided the cases. 

“Duely and Constantly Kept”: A History of the New York Supreme Court, 1691-1847 and Inventory of its Records, 1797-1847
“Duely and Constantly Kept” — 2023 Update
A Joint Publication of the Historical Society of the New York Courts, New York Court of Appeals and the New York State Archives

Chief Judges Timeline
A Timeline of Chief Judges & Their Associate Judges on the New York Court of Appeals

New York Attorneys General


Crime and Criminal Justice in Antebellum New York City
Lesson 3
The Civil War, Race, and the Law in New York City 
Lesson 5




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