Chief Judge Rowan Wilson: By Taking on More Cases, New York’s Court of Appeals Will Regain its Former Glory

By Jennifer Andrus

January 17, 2024

Chief Judge Rowan Wilson: By Taking on More Cases, New York’s Court of Appeals Will Regain its Former Glory


By Jennifer Andrus

Recalling a time when New York’s Court of Appeals heard hundreds of cases and was viewed as one of the most prestigious in the country, Chief Judge Rowan Wilson vowed to return the court to its former glory.

“I would like to get back to that,” he said.

Wilson was the keynote speaker at a dinner of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction at the association’s Annual Meeting in New York City on Tuesday.

Wilson noted that the Court of Appeals in 2021 heard only 81 cases and that last year, the court received only 600 motions for appeal instead of the more than 1,000 that was once typical.  Reacting to the decline in caseloads at the Court of Appeals, the New York State Bar Association held a panel discussion on the situation in May 2023.

The chief judge said the court must dramatically increase its caseload to regain its stature. To do that, he is encouraging attorneys and presiding justices of the appellate courts to send the court more motions for appeal.

Under the new chief judge, court days have already gotten longer, with arguments sometimes going past 7 p.m. Wilson says he will continue to allow arguments to go later when necessary. “More time may be needed for a case in answering our questions because it is better for the case,” he said.

He is also considering allowing two judges of the Court of Appeals to review each criminal appeal, which would presumably lead to the decision to review more criminal cases.

Wilson also encouraged attorneys to send the court amicus briefs on issues and cases, saying it will help the judges identify and better understand the issues at the center of each case.

“We want to do this for public cases [from the New York Attorney General] and in some private party cases. We want open collaboration with all of you and are prepared to listen to the people who are on the ground about what they need,” he said.

We Are All One Court 

Wilson also addressed changes in the management of the Court of Appeals under his leadership including the practice of elevating an appellate justice to sit on the Court of Appeals in the event a Court of Appeals judge is recused.

“We are all judges and we are part of the same system. You are all good enough, and often appellate judges have more trial experience than current members of our court,” he said. ” It builds camaraderie between judges, creating connections and making us a better court.”


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