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A court of final resort was known in the earliest Dutch period

of the Colony of New York. From the decrees of the Council of Peter Minuet, Governor of the Colony in 1626 (which Council was invested with judicial as well as legislative and executive powers), lay an appeal to the Amsterdam Chamber of the West India Company. A right of appeal was also reserved in the charter granted by the above Company to the Patroons of the Colony, from their courts, where judgment was rendered for a sum exceeding fifty guilders, to the Director-General and Council of New Amsterdam. This right, however, was rendered nugatory by the Patroons exacting from the tenants, as a preliminary condition to their entering the manor, that they should not appeal from the decisions rendered in the courts of the former. A right of appeal also lay from the decisions of William Kieft, Colonial Governor in 1638, and his Council, to the Amsterdam Chamber, although that right was also defeated by the imposition of fine and imprisonment on the person who attempted it.

From the Court of the "Schout, Burgomasters and Schepens," granted by the Amsterdam Chamber to the colonists during the governorship of Peter Stuyvesant, lay an appeal to the Supreme Court (composed of the Governor and Council) of the Province, at New Amsterdam.

The Court of Assize, established under the Code (framed by direction of the Duke of York, and known as the "Duke's Laws") in 1665, when Richard Nicholls was Governor, possessed an appellate jurisdiction over all inferior courts.

The Court of Oyer and Terminer, created by the act of the General Assembly, under the administration of Governor Dongan, passed on the 29th of October, 1683, entitled "An act to settle courts of justice," held a general appellate jurisdiction over the other courts of the Colony, subject to an appeal to the King. From the judgments and decrees of the Court of Chancery (held by the Governor and Council), also erected by the act, lay an appeal likewise to the King.

The act of 1691, under Sloughter's administration, established appeals in the following manner: From the Court of Mayor and Aldermen, and Courts of Common Pleas to the Supreme Court, for any judgment above the value of twenty pounds; and from the

Supreme Court at New York to the Court of Appeals, consisting of the Governor and Council, for any judgment above the value of one hundred pounds; and from the latter jurisdiction to their Majesties (William and Mary) in Council for any decree or judgment above the value of three hundred pounds. Provided the party or parties, so appealing, first paid all the costs of the judg ment or decree from which the appeal arose, and entered into recognizance, with two sufficient sureties for double the debt or matter recorded against him or them, to the court from which they appealed, that he or they would prosecute the said appeal with effect, and make return thereof within twelve months after the said appeal was made. If default should happen thereon, then execution to issue upon the judgment against the party or the sureties of course without scire facias.

In Chief Justice Smith's letter to Bellamont, in November, 1700, he states that the above recognizance was to the court to which parties appealed, "that they would prosecute the said appeal with effect, and make return thereof; if from the Supreme Court to the Governor and Council, in six months; if from the Governor and Council to his Majesty in Council, within twelve months after the said appeal or appeals so made."1

In 1753 the amount determining the right of appeal from the Supreme Court to the Governor and Council was altered from one hundred to three hundred pounds, and from the latter tribunal to the King and Privy Council from three hundred to five hundred pounds.

The thirty-second section of the Constitution of 1777, declared that a court should be instituted for the trial of impeachments and the correction of errors under the regulations which should be established by the Legislature, and to consist of the President of the Senate, for the time being, and the Senators, Chancellor and Judges of the Supreme Court, or the major part of them. If the Chancellor or Judges should be impeached, they should be suspended from exercising their offices until acquitted; and when an appeal from a decree in equity on a question of law brought up by writ of error on a judgment of the Supreme Court should

1 4 Col. Doc., 828.

be heard, the Chancellor or Judges should inform the court of the reasons for the decree or judgment, but have no voice in the final


The power of impeachment of all officers of State was vested in the House of Assembly, the requisite for finding of which impeachment was by a vote of two-thirds of the members present; and no judgment of the court was valid unless assented to by two-thirds of the members thereof present, the members having, previous to the trial, been sworn truly and impartially to try and determine the charge according to evidence. The judgment extended only to removal from office and disqualification to hold any place of honor, trust or profit under the State; although the convicted party was subject to indictment, trial and punishment under the general laws. The impeached or indicted party was allowed counsel on the trial, as in civil cases.

The act passed on the 23d of November, 1784, instituting the above court in pursuance of the Constitution, gave directions. for the sittings of the court, for a seal and a clerk, and the manner of proceeding upon impeachment; directed that all errors in the Court of Chancery, Supreme Court, Court of Probate and Admiralty, except in cases of captures, should be corrected in this court; also directed the proceedings in the writ of error, on a judgment of the Supreme Court, or an appeal from a decree of the Court of Chancery, or from an order or sentence of a Court of Probate or Admiralty; and farther, that all appeals from decretal orders of Chancery, or from a sentence, judgment, decree or order of the Court of Admiralty or Probate, should be made within fifteen days next after such sentence, judgment, decree or order; and all writs of errors upon judgments in the Supreme Court, or appeals from final decrees in Chancery, should be brought within five years next after rendering the judgment or making the decree. The act also directed that the President of the Senate should have a casting vote in case of an equal division of opinion among the other members of the court, but have no other vote; also, that writs of error in civil cases, and criminal cases not capital, were writs of right and should issue of course, but in capital cases were writs of grace. In all cases the writs to be issued by the Chancellor; but in those capital, only on order upon

motion or petition, with notice to the Attorney-General or State .prosecutor.

The Constitution of 1821 reaffirmed the powers of the court. without change, except that a majority of the members of Assembly present should concur in an impeachment, instead of two-thirds. After an existence of nearly seventy years, the court was abolished by the Constitution of 1846. Its powers in cases of impeachment were transferred to a court composed of the Presi dent of the Senate, the Senators, or a major part of them, and the Judges of the Court of Appeals, or a major part of them, and its jurisdiction as an appellate court to the Court of Appeals.

The present Court for the Trial of Impeachments is a court of record, having a seal. When summoned, it is directed to be held at the capitol, in Albany, and the clerk and officers of the Senate to be the clerk and officers of the court. The President of the Senate to be the presiding officer, and in his absence, the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, and in the absence of the two, such other member as the court shall elect.

The Court of Appeals is composed of eight judges, four elected by the State at large for eight years, and four selected from the class of Justices of the Supreme Court having the shortest time to serve.

The Judge of the Court of Appeals, elected by the State at large, having (under the classification adopted in section four of article two of the act in relation to the judiciary, passed May 12th, 1847) the shortest time to serve, is constituted the Chief Judge of the said court.

There is also a clerk of the Court of Appeals (ex-officio clerk of the Supreme Court), elected by the State at large, to hold his office for three years, giving bond to the State in the penalty of $25,000, with two sufficient sureties, for the faithful performance of his duties, which bond is filed with the Comptroller. He is directed to keep his office at the seat of government; to appoint a deputy by writing under his hand and seal, who is to take the oath of office, and act as clerk in case of vacancy in the office, or when the said clerk is absent or incapable of performing his duties.

Four terms, viz., on the first Tuesday of January, the fourth Tuesday of March, the third Tuesday of June, and last Tuesday of September, are held every year at the Capitol in the city of Albany, to continue as long as the court shall deem necessary.

Six judges constitute a quorum, and the concurrence of five is necessary to pronounce a judgment. The case must be reheard if five do not concur, but no more than two rehearings shall be had, and if, on the second rehearing, five judges do not concur, the judgment is affirmed.

There is a reporter appointed by the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor and Attorney-General, called the State Reporter, holding his office for three years, but removable by the concurrent vote of the Legislature.

The Legislature may authorize the judgments, decrees and decisions of any local inferior court of record of original civil jurisdiction established in a city, to be removed for review directly into the Court of Appeals.

CHANCERY JURISDICTION is first traced in our Colonial annals to the courts organized under the "Duke's Laws." The courts in the various towns heard matters in equity for a sum not exceeding five pounds, but in the Courts of Sessions in the three (east, west and north) ridings, there was no limitation, while the Court of Assize (the highest tribunal) had equitable cognizance where the amount exceeded twenty pounds, The mode of proceeding was by bill and answer. Witnesses were examined in the same manner as in the English Court of Chancery, and all matters were determined without a jury.

From this period (1665) the above judicial organization continued (with the exception of an interruption from August, 1673, to October, 1674. during which time the Dutch again possessed the Province under Colve) until 1683, when the General Assembly, convened by Governor Dongan, erected, under the act to "settle courts of justice," among other tribunals a separate Court of Chancery for the province at large. This court was held by the Governor and Council. The former had authority to choose a Chancellor in his stead, and be assisted by such other persons as he should see fit, together with necessary clerks and other officers. The court had cognizance of all equitable matters, and was moreover the highest Colonial tribunal.

1 The Court of Chancery in England is of great antiquity. It is traced to the reign of Alfred, (872–901), and was not then a court instituted, but affirmed to be then existing. 4 Coke's Institutes, p. 78.

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