Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Governor Paterson's Judicial Legacy

With Governor David Paterson's announcement that he will not seek reelection in the wake of claims that he was involved in efforts to persuade a woman not to press assault charges against one of the Governor's aides, it is worthwhile to take a step back from the political frenzy to examine the Governor's judicial legacy. The legacy is impressive.

First, there is the appointment of Jonathan Lippman as Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals to replace Chief Judge Judith Kaye. Shortly after the appointment, and soon after the new Chief Judge had participated in a few of the Court's rulings, I wrote in May, 2009, "The early signs suggest that he will be more liberal than Chief Judge Kaye, and not hesitant to dissent."

Time has borne out that early conclusion. A recent article in The New York Times, "Top Judge Sets Liberal Course for New York," provides a valuable analysis of Chief Judge Lippman's voting patterns over the past year in a wide range of civil and criminal cases. That article can be found here.

The Governor has also had a profound effect on the Appellate Division, First Department. Under the State Constitution positions on the Appellate Division are filled by a gubernatorial appointment from among persons elected to sit as trial judges on the state Supreme Court. By my count, Governor Paterson has made seven appointments to the First Department since April 2008. Anecdotal evidence from attorneys suggests that the First Department has become more liberal as a result of those appointments.

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