New York Law: A View from the Bench

By Michael J. Garcia

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Our legal history is a great New York narrative: Leading jurists, a vibrant bar, and a unique docket combine, generating prominence and influence well beyond our borders. As guest editor of this special section of the New York State Bar Association Journal, my goal was to create a forum for judges of diverse backgrounds and varied experiences to tell their part of the story. The topics are designed to capture a broad array of themes and to foster a deeper understanding of New York’s judicial system – both in terms of where we come from, and where we want to go.

We begin with a historical view, highlighting giants of the New York judiciary and discussing landmark decisions of state constitutional law. We then underscore the global reach of our state jurisprudence, examining New York’s preeminence in commercial litigation and the role of New York law in federal court. Finally, we turn to the trusted role of a judge’s law clerk, and to the critical importance of diversity in the New York judiciary.

Credit for this remarkable achievement is due to many distinguished lawyers and judges. First, my thanks to NYSBA President Henry M. Greenberg and the outstanding Journal staff. NYSBA has flourished under Hank’s leadership, spearheading historic initiatives, promoting equal access to justice, and demonstrating an unparalleled commitment to diversity and inclusion. Time and time again, Hank has proven himself to be a talented lawyer and a tremendous leader with a vision grounded firmly in New York’s legal traditions. That he so readily entrusted me with this responsibility illustrates Hank’s thoughtful and generous spirit – and perhaps a soft spot for a fellow former clerk to Judge Judith Kaye.

I am also profoundly grateful for the support of Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, whose remarkable leadership has invigorated the New York court system, and my exceptional colleagues at the Court of Appeals.

Finally, I am humbled by the generosity of the six esteemed judges who so willingly contributed to this edition, particularly in this time of immense hardship. Each of these respected jurists – Presiding Justice Rolando Acosta, Judge Ta-Tanisha James, Justice Barry Ostrager, Justice Erin Peradotto, Judge Albert Rosenblatt (Ret.), and Judge Richard Wesley – offers a wealth of knowledge, a depth of experience, and a unique perspective on the law. We are the lucky beneficiaries of their singular expertise.

To all of you, I am deeply grateful for your valuable time and invaluable insight. Thank you.

When this edition was first conceived, and when the contributing authors signed on, none of us could foresee the tragic health crisis that would soon engulf the state and the nation. The work that has been done in preparing this edition serves as a small reminder of the great resilience of the New York judiciary. New York’s great legal tradition, stretching back to the 1777 New York Constitution, endures.

Michael J. Garcia is an associate judge of the New York Court of Appeals.

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