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Discussion Forum: Declining Caseload Trends In The Court Of Appeals

Discussion Forum: Declining Caseload Trends In The Court Of Appeals

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Longtime members of the NYSBA Committee on Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction, Thomas Newman and James Pelzer, recently published an article appearing in the Albany Law Review ( entitled “Declining Dispositions of the Court of Appeals.” The authors’ research shows that, since 1985, when the Legislature amended the Court’s jurisdiction so that the great majority of appeals could only be taken to it by permission, the number of cases decided annually by the Court of Appeals has declined. During the remainder of Chief Judge Wachtler’s tenure from 1986 to 1992 its annual caseload fell from the 700s to an average of 345 as appeals previously taken as of right worked their way through the Court. During the tenures of Chief Judges Kaye (1993-2008) and Lippmann (2009-2015) the annual caseload averaged 220 and 233, respectively. During the tenure of Chief Judge DiFiore, the Court’s dispositions fell year after year, from 225 in 2016, to 142 in 2017, 136 in 2018, 108 in 2019, and 96 in 2020. The year 2021 recorded the lowest number of appeals the Court of Appeals decided only 81 cases on the merits.

On March 2, 2023, the Committee on Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction will host a searching discussion by the bench and the bar about whether the number of cases currently being heard and decided by Court of Appeals fulfills the Court’s constitutional role and adequately serves the public interest. The discussion will be prefaced by a brief presentation by the article’s co-author, James Pelzer, who will review the trend of the Court’s caseload based on the statistics reported in the annual reports of its Clerk. 

Mr. Pelzer’s presentation will be followed by a panel discussion, led by a neutral moderator (TBD). Panelists will include:

Former Court of Appeals Judge Robert Smith

Former Appellate Division, First Department Justice Angela Mazzarrelli

Albany Law School Professor Patrick Connors

Experienced Appellate Attorney (Civil) Brian Shoot, Esq.

Experienced Appellate Attorney (Criminal) William Kastin, Esq.

The moderator will ask the panelists a series of questions aimed at getting answers from different perspectives about whether the number of cases currently receiving Court of Appeals merits review adequately serves the Court’s constitutional role and the public interest. The moderator will also probe adjacent issues about the several avenues for obtaining merits review, and their importance to serving these goals.

Recommended Reading (Partial List):

Declining Dispositions of the Court of Appeals, Thomas A. Newman .and James Pelzer,

Albany Law Review (2022) (

Criminal Leave in the Court of Appeals: A Case of Implicit Bias?, Eugene F. Pigott Jr.,

Albany Law Review (2022).

If the System Is Not Working Let’s Fix It: Why Seven Judges Are Better than One for Deciding Criminal Leave Applications at the Court of Appeals, Alan J. Pierce,73 ALB.

L. REV. 765, 765, 767 (2010).

Start Date:
  • May 2, 2023
Start Time:
  • 2:00 PM
End Time:
  • 4:00 PM
  • Albany
  • Virtual Participation
  • New York State Bar Association
    1 Elk Street
    Albany, NY 12207
  • Hybrid
Product Code:
  • CAJ5223
Non-Member Price: Free
Sponsoring Committee Group
  • Committee On Courts Of Appellate Jurisdiction