Under the leadership of recently elevated Chief Judge Rowan Wilson and with the addition of Judge Caitlin Halligan, the New York Court of Appeals is ushering in a new era. Prior to last August’s abrupt resignation of then-Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, the seven-member court was controlled by four relatively conservative judges who routinely voted as a block, rarely siding in favor of civil rights or against law enforcement. With Judge DiFiore’s departure and Judge Halligan’s arrival, the Court of Appeals is now much more balanced, opening the door to a more progressive approach to civil rights and civil liberties.

The new court immediately faces a controversy that may serve as an important signal of its approach to the criminal-justice system, constitutional claims and race. On Sept. 13 the court will hear argument in six cases arising from last year’s U.S. States Supreme Court ruling invalidating New York’s gun-licensing scheme and confronting that case’s ramifications for those convicted in New York of unlicensed possession of firearms, most of whom are Black or Latino. How the Court of Appeals approaches these cases will be a telling indicator of what lies ahead.

An NBA Phenom’s Downfall

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