CHRISTOPHER J. HEFFERNAN
Associate Justice: 1951-1952 Born: 1883
Died: January 12, 1959
At one point in time, Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Heffernan of Amsterdam was in the custody of Police Judge Francis Bergan after being booked as a traffic violator. Heffernan had been accused by a traffic policeman of parking too far from the curb. When appearing before a desk sergeant, the justice called Judge Bergan, who assured the officer he would be responsible for the justice’s appearance.
Christopher J. Heffernan was born in Ireland in 1883 and emigrated to the United States as a young boy. He later graduated from St. Mary’s Institute in Amsterdam, New York, going on to study in a law office. He was admitted to the Bar in 1903. He went into private practice in Amsterdam and later became the city’s Corporation Counsel.
Justice Heffernan was elected to the Supreme Court in 1925 for a 14-year term, and was re-elected in 1939. In 1926, acting as Special Commissioner for Governor Smith, Heffernan recommended the dismissal of several officials of Saratoga Springs charged with neglect of duty by permitting "wide open" gambling. The Governor followed the advice and dismissed the District Attorney and the County Sheriff. In another case, Justice Heffernan made a ruling confirming the state’s right to impose income taxes retroactively on copyright royalties.
In 1939, Governor Lehman named Heffernan to the Appellate Division Third Department, where he served until his retirement in 1952, at which time he became an official referee. He figured prominently in a ruling by the Appellate Division in 1939, which declared a Republican budget plan an unconstitutional "emasculation" of Governor Lehman’s budget, a ruling which was upheld by the Court of Appeals, then enabling Governor Lehman to call a special session of the Legislature for the adoption of a new budget.
At various times during 1951 and 1952, while at the Third Department, Heffernan was temporarily designated to the Appellate Division First Department in order to help speed up disposition of business.
Justice Heffernan was married with four children. He died on January 12, 1959 at age 76 after a long illness.
Obituary, New York Times, January 13, 1959, p. 47.
Justice Heffernan Shifted, New York Times, May 24, 1951, p. 23.