State of New York
Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Third Judicial Department
The Appellate Division is New York State's intermediate level appellate court. It hears appeals from trial courts and has power to review both law and facts in civil and criminal cases. Appeals from the Appellate Division are taken to the Court of Appeals, the State's highest court. The bulk of all appellate review in New York State is provided by the Appellate Division.
The Appellate Division, Third Department, which is located in Albany, is one of four Appellate Division Departments. Each Department exercises appellate jurisdiction in a separate geographic region. There are 28 counties in the three judicial districts making up the Third Department, which stretches from the Canadian border in the north to the lower Catskills in the south and from the Vermont and Massachusetts borders in the east to the Finger Lakes in the west. The Third Department includes just over half of New York's land area and contains about one seventh of the State's population.
The Appellate Division hears appeals directly from the Supreme Court, County Courts, Family Courts, Surrogate's Courts and the Court of Claims. The Appellate Division, and especially the Third Department because of its location in the State's capital, also hears appeals from decisions by State agencies.
The Supreme Court, of which the Appellate Division is a part, is the State's principal trial court with a branch in each of New York's 62 counties. The Justices of the Supreme Court are elected to 14-year terms by the voters of their respective judicial districts; there are 13 such districts in New York State. The Justices of the Appellate Division are appointed by the Governor from among the Justices of the Supreme Court. The Governor also designates the Presiding Justice in each Department. All Supreme Court Justices have a mandatory retirement age of 70. Retired Justices may be certified for additional service on the Supreme Court or the Appellate Division for two-year periods. No Justice may serve past the age of 76.
In 1896, the people of the State of New York established our Court by Constitutional amendment to improve the disposition of appeals in New York State. The creation of a strong and stable intermediate appellate court such as ours was a key concern. That the Appellate Division framework established over a century ago has remained largely unchanged is a testament to the wisdom of the Constitutional delegates who formed our Court and to the dedication of the many Justices and nonjudicial staff who have served our Court over the years.
As a division of the New York State Supreme Court, the origins of the Appellate Division can be traced back directly to 1691. In that year, the Colonial Assembly, organized under English rule, established the Supreme Court of Judicature, the antecedent of today's Supreme Court. Intermediate appellate jurisdiction was first lodged in the Supreme Court of Judicature, which was continued intact by the State's first Constitution, adopted at Kingston in 1777. Such jurisdiction was next lodged in the eight General Terms of Supreme Court by the Constitution of 1846. After the adoption of a reformed judiciary article of the Constitution in 1870, the State was divided into four judicial departments, the direct predecessors of today's four Appellate Division Departments. The Third Department was composed of the same three judicial districts (the Third, Fourth and Sixth) and counties as it is today. Four of the Third Department's first five Justices served on the reformed General Term after 1870.
The present Appellate Division, which supplanted the General Terms, was established by the Constitutional Convention of 1894. The person credited with formulating the Appellate Division framework was Elihu Root, chairman of the Convention's Judiciary Committee and later a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize after serving as both United States Secretary of War and Secretary of State.
For an in depth history of the Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, access our digital document.
The Historical Society of the New York Courts also has a repository of historical information about the court system and the Third Department.
The Third Department has embarked upon a continuing project of capturing oral histories from some of our illustrious retired Justices, through videotaped conversations with current members of the Court.