The Appellate Division, First Department, at 27 Madison Ave.
The Appellate Division, First Department, at 27 Madison Ave. (NYLJ/Rick Kopstein)

There is a seasonal flow to our work at the Appellate Division, First Department. For example, as early spring moves closer to summer and the end of the court term approaches, the work and atmosphere intensifies. Writings are exchanged at an fevered pace in the expectation, or hope, that the appeal will be decided before the summer break (see generally, Saxe, “How We Operate: An Inside Look at the Appellate Division, First Department” [NYLJ, May 13, 2009] and Saxe, “How We Operate At the First Department” [NYLJ, Oct. 26, 2012]).

Then our summer recess arrives, and it is a welcome respite from the work of the court year; it extends from some time around the middle of June until the day after Labor Day. Panel sittings are over, but although some wags ask if we are closed for the summer, we are decidedly not. Work continues, although in a more private manner and at a slower place. It is an opportunity to reflect on and hone some older writings that did not get voted out before the break. It is also a good time to begin research and perhaps a draft of a new appeal that we picked up during one of the June sittings. Many of us set aside what we call summer projects—a particularly complicated appeal to which we can devote special attention during the quiet of the summer months.

Stay applications and general motion practice continue unabated (see Saxe, “The Under-the-Radar Work of the Appellate Division,” NYLJ, July 22). Sometimes they even seem to increase. It has always struck me that when lawyers are denied the ability to either go to trial or to appeal, they find ways to compensate, say, by making motions.

Admission ceremonies for the newly-admitted classes of lawyers continue, although instead of five welcoming justices on the admissions panel, as is our custom, there is only one.

Each justice is required to select one week to hear all stay applications and review and sign-off on all motions ready for disposition. Week-long stay duty assignments differ from the practice during the regular court year, when those assignments are for only one day at a time. The summer duty week selection process is done, as most everything is at the court, according to seniority. Shortly before our last agenda conference in June, a sheet is circulated to all the justices with the weeks of the summer listed sequentially until the week ending in Labor Day. The most senior justices get to select first and then circulate the list to those next in line. Our “constitutional” justices—the six most senior who have not as yet reached seventy years of age, along with the presiding justice—are considered the most senior members of the court. Once a justice reaches seventy years of age on our court and becomes certificated, the seniority position drops below that of any constitutional justice. If there are a sufficient number of non-constitutional justices at the court to cover the weeks of summer, then the constitutional justices will not have to select a summer duty week.

Each justice is assisted by an assigned group of court attorneys who provide reports analyzing the assorted motions that are on that week’s docket for disposition.

Often overlooked are election appeals, which are scheduled for two days in August. Generally, the assigned bench is comprised of our most junior justices. When I sat on these matters some years ago, I found them thoroughly enjoyable since it was a taste of the world of raw politics that we disown when we become justices. There is not a great deal of time for reflection on election law appeals; it is something of a rocket-docket, as the matters speed from special term to our court and then to the Court of Appeals in record time.

There is a personal side to all of this. Appellate work involves, in varying degrees, conflict. Of course all judicial work, at its essence, involves dealing with and resolving conflict between disputing litigants. But, at the appellate level, we also have to deal with and manage conflict in our positions on assigned appeals. Sometimes writings get a bit pointed and sharp. Although we naturally avoid personal reflections on an opposing writer’s work, there are instances when the line of demarcation is reached. The break of the summertime recess tends to help restore the appropriate level of tranquility necessary to our collegial enterprise.

The summer respite also gives all of us the opportunity to do things that refresh our outlook—take a trip or read something not connected to the law such as a work of fiction. The reading of endless briefs, records and bench memos can become all-consuming. The opportunity to read something else is restorative, and reminds me to try to incorporate such reading into the traditional court year.

It is also an opportunity for many of us to pursue recreational activities or sports that we enjoy. For me, the opportunity to play golf with some of my colleagues, past and present, has been a pleasure; these games and the banter that ensues create a camaraderie that carries over to the everyday work at our court.

Near the end of August, a feeling of intensity begins to re-emerge. The full complement of court attorneys is back at the courthouse by mid-August when the work of preparing the bench memos for the first week of sittings right after Labor Day gets underway. Our esteemed Chief Court Attorney, Matthew Grieco, picks up his always speedy pace as he recommences shepherding the first round of bench memos and dealing with any crises that might interfere with the process. Soon the first large delivery of briefs and records will be made to each of our chambers, which will officially signal that the summer is over.

It won’t be long afterward, on that Tuesday after Labor Day, when five of us will walk out on the bench at 2 p.m. sharp and hear our justice presiding intone, “Good afternoon, welcome to the Appellate Division, First Department.”

There is a seasonal flow to our work at the Appellate Division, First Department. For example, as early spring moves closer to summer and the end of the court term approaches, the work and atmosphere intensifies. Writings are exchanged at an fevered pace in the expectation, or hope, that the appeal will be decided before the summer break (see generally, Saxe, “How We Operate: An Inside Look at the Appellate Division, First Department” [NYLJ, May 13, 2009] and Saxe, “How We Operate At the First Department” [NYLJ, Oct. 26, 2012]).

Then our summer recess arrives, and it is a welcome respite from the work of the court year; it extends from some time around the middle of June until the day after Labor Day. Panel sittings are over, but although some wags ask if we are closed for the summer, we are decidedly not. Work continues, although in a more private manner and at a slower place. It is an opportunity to reflect on and hone some older writings that did not get voted out before the break. It is also a good time to begin research and perhaps a draft of a new appeal that we picked up during one of the June sittings. Many of us set aside what we call summer projects—a particularly complicated appeal to which we can devote special attention during the quiet of the summer months.

Stay applications and general motion practice continue unabated (see Saxe, “The Under-the-Radar Work of the Appellate Division,” NYLJ, July 22). Sometimes they even seem to increase. It has always struck me that when lawyers are denied the ability to either go to trial or to appeal, they find ways to compensate, say, by making motions.

Admission ceremonies for the newly-admitted classes of lawyers continue, although instead of five welcoming justices on the admissions panel, as is our custom, there is only one.

Each justice is required to select one week to hear all stay applications and review and sign-off on all motions ready for disposition. Week-long stay duty assignments differ from the practice during the regular court year, when those assignments are for only one day at a time. The summer duty week selection process is done, as most everything is at the court, according to seniority. Shortly before our last agenda conference in June, a sheet is circulated to all the justices with the weeks of the summer listed sequentially until the week ending in Labor Day. The most senior justices get to select first and then circulate the list to those next in line. Our “constitutional” justices—the six most senior who have not as yet reached seventy years of age, along with the presiding justice—are considered the most senior members of the court. Once a justice reaches seventy years of age on our court and becomes certificated, the seniority position drops below that of any constitutional justice. If there are a sufficient number of non-constitutional justices at the court to cover the weeks of summer, then the constitutional justices will not have to select a summer duty week.

Each justice is assisted by an assigned group of court attorneys who provide reports analyzing the assorted motions that are on that week’s docket for disposition.

Often overlooked are election appeals, which are scheduled for two days in August. Generally, the assigned bench is comprised of our most junior justices. When I sat on these matters some years ago, I found them thoroughly enjoyable since it was a taste of the world of raw politics that we disown when we become justices. There is not a great deal of time for reflection on election law appeals; it is something of a rocket-docket, as the matters speed from special term to our court and then to the Court of Appeals in record time.

There is a personal side to all of this. Appellate work involves, in varying degrees, conflict. Of course all judicial work, at its essence, involves dealing with and resolving conflict between disputing litigants. But, at the appellate level, we also have to deal with and manage conflict in our positions on assigned appeals. Sometimes writings get a bit pointed and sharp. Although we naturally avoid personal reflections on an opposing writer’s work, there are instances when the line of demarcation is reached. The break of the summertime recess tends to help restore the appropriate level of tranquility necessary to our collegial enterprise.

The summer respite also gives all of us the opportunity to do things that refresh our outlook—take a trip or read something not connected to the law such as a work of fiction. The reading of endless briefs, records and bench memos can become all-consuming. The opportunity to read something else is restorative, and reminds me to try to incorporate such reading into the traditional court year.

It is also an opportunity for many of us to pursue recreational activities or sports that we enjoy. For me, the opportunity to play golf with some of my colleagues, past and present, has been a pleasure; these games and the banter that ensues create a camaraderie that carries over to the everyday work at our court.

Near the end of August, a feeling of intensity begins to re-emerge. The full complement of court attorneys is back at the courthouse by mid-August when the work of preparing the bench memos for the first week of sittings right after Labor Day gets underway. Our esteemed Chief Court Attorney, Matthew Grieco, picks up his always speedy pace as he recommences shepherding the first round of bench memos and dealing with any crises that might interfere with the process. Soon the first large delivery of briefs and records will be made to each of our chambers, which will officially signal that the summer is over.

It won’t be long afterward, on that Tuesday after Labor Day, when five of us will walk out on the bench at 2 p.m. sharp and hear our justice presiding intone, “Good afternoon, welcome to the Appellate Division, First Department.”