ALBANY — The number of civil and criminal cases the state’s Court of Appeals considered in 2017 declined nearly 37 percent from 2016, according to a report issued by the state’s Unified Court System.
The Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, affirmed 76 cases, reversed 47 cases, modified nine and dismissed another two cases this past year, according to the report. An additional eight cases described as “other,” which include anomalies that didn’t result in affirmance, reversal, modifications or dismissals, also were listed.
The sharpest decrease occurred in the number of criminal caseload the Court of Appeals had in 2017. In 2017, the Court of Appeals heard 62 cases, compared to 107 in 2016, a decrease of 42 percent, according to a review of the court’s 2016 and 2017 annual reports.
Albany Law School professor Vincent Bonventre, a longtime state court observer, previously told the New York Law Journal that the long-term trajectory of the Court of Appeals is moving in favor of criminal defendants, which is one of the reasons there’s been a decrease in criminal cases. But more importantly, the current Court of Appeals is a young court, he said. All of the judges have been appointed by the current governor, Andrew Cuomo, and its longest-serving member, Associate Judge Jenny Rivera, has served for just under five years.
The number of civil cases decided in the Appeals Court also fell in 2017 from the previous year. In 2017, the court reported 80 dispositions of appeals in civil cases, down from 118 in 2016, a decline of 32 percent.
While there were decreases in number of appeals decided, the number of applications stayed flat. In 2016 and 2017, the state Court of Appeals received the exact same 2,497 applications, according to the court system.
An analysis by the New York Law Journal in January found that in 2017, the Court of Appeals granted the fewest number of criminal appeals in a decade-and-a-half. The decrease in the number of criminal appeals by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore is a departure from the tenure of her predecessor Jonathan Lippman.
In a statement to the New York Law Journal in January, DiFiore said she’s made no changes in the Court of Appeals since she assumed the role of chief judge in 2016.
“The Court of Appeals has long been committed to giving careful and fair consideration to all motions and applications for leave to appeal and to ensuring that it grants leave to appeal in meritorious cases. That was true in the past and it remains so now. The court’s policies and approach have not changed,” DiFiore said.
Additionally, in 2017, the Court of Appeals heard 116 oral arguments; decided on 1,232 motions and reviewed one judicial conduct determination.