New York Court Watcher

Vincent Martin Bonventre, the Justice Robert H. Jackson Distinguished Professor at Albany Law School, inaugurated New York Court Watcher in May 2008. Court observer Bonventre offers research and commentary on the United States Supreme Court, the New York Court of Appeals, and other federal and state courts on a wide range of public law issues.

Since its inception, New York Court Watcher has published several hundred commentaries. Virtually all of them are based on original research. Voting patterns of Justices and judges, as well as decisional patterns of the courts on which they sit, are a staple of the commentaries. Courts, Justices and judges, and the politics surrounding them--as well as practiced by them--are examined from a realistic and practical perspective. That is, legal realism as opposed to formalism. From the perspective of a political scientist as well as a lawyer.

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In the previous post, we saw how studies of Neil Gorsuch’s judicial record prior to his nomination by President Trump for the Supreme Court showed him to be among the most politically conservative members of the federal judiciary. We also saw how his record immediately following his appointment, the last couple of months of the Supreme Court’s 2016-17 term—the spring of 2017—reflected the very same strong politically conservative leanings. In fact, together with Justice…
President Trump’s first appointee, Neil Gorsuch, took his seat on the Supreme Court in the spring of 2017. By that time, judicial scholars–both political scientists and law professors–had studied his record on the federal appeals court from which he was elevated. Based on his voting patterns as an appellate judge, Gorsuch’s position among the other federal judges on the ideological spectrum had been mapped. Similarly, once he was nominated, his ideological place on the Supreme…
In the last post, we looked at two dissents that protested majority decisions at New York’s highest court that overturned convictions because of errors having nothing to do with guilt or innocence, and where there was no suggestion that the alleged error by the trial judge had caused any prejudice to the defendant. (See Part 4b.) Now we turn to the other two previously previewed dissents that protested majority decisions that upheld convictions, despite serious…
In the last post, we looked at two dissents that protested majority decisions at New York’s highest court that overturned convictions because of errors having nothing to do with guilt or innocence, and where there was no suggestion that the alleged error by the trial judge had caused any prejudice to the defendant. (See Part 4b.) Now we turn to the other two previously previewed dissents that protested majority decisions that upheld convictions, despite serious…
John Marshall HarlanDissented in Plessy A strong dissenting opinion is something to celebrate. (See e.g., discussion in Part 4a.)But, of course, it is often reason for considerable disappointment that it was not the court’s majority. Oliver Wendell Holmes“The Great Dissenter” Indeed, sometimes there is cause for outright dismay, exasperation, and bewilderment that the majority failed to embrace the dissent’s wisdom, fairness, candor, or other emphatic virtue. A few recent dissenting opinions at New York’s…
John Marshall HarlanDissented in Plessy A strong dissenting opinion is something to celebrate. (See e.g., discussion in Part 4a.)But, of course, it is often reason for considerable disappointment that it was not the court’s majority. Oliver Wendell Holmes“The Great Dissenter” Indeed, sometimes there is cause for outright dismay, exasperation, and bewilderment that the majority failed to embrace the dissent’s wisdom, fairness, candor, or other emphatic virtue. A few recent dissenting opinions at New York’s…
There are famous dissents that were right when written and were ultimately vindicated in cherished landmarks. John Marshall Harlan’s dissent, condemning “separate but equal” in Plessy v. Ferguson, became the law of the land in Brown v. Board of Education. Louis Brandeis’s dissent in Olmstead v. United States, where he urged a less cramped understanding of search and seizure protections, was adopted by in Katz v. United States. Hugo Black’s dissent in Betts v. Brady, arguing…
There are famous dissents that were right when written and were ultimately vindicated in cherished landmarks. John Marshall Harlan’s dissent, condemning “separate but equal” in Plessy v. Ferguson, became the law of the land in Brown v. Board of Education. Louis Brandeis’s dissent in Olmstead v. United States, where he urged a less cramped understanding of search and seizure protections, was adopted by in Katz v. United States. Hugo Black’s dissent in Betts v. Brady, arguing…
In the last two posts, we looked at the sharp drop in criminal appeals (Criminal Leave Applications [CLA’s]) granted at the Court of Appeals in the past few years and at the frequency–and rarity–of grants by each of the Judges. Now let’s see how the Court has been deciding those appeals and how each Judge has been voting: pro-prosecution versus pro-accused. We saw that the Judges collectively granted 36 criminal appeals last year. Of …
We previously looked at the stark disparity among the Court of Appeals Judges in the number of CLA’s (Crimnal Leave Applications) they granted last year. Some Judges had comparatively high numbers. Others very low. These figures underscore what is well known by attorneys who practice before New York’s highest court, as well as by those who have worked there and by those who study it. Getting permission to argue a criminal appeal before the Court…