The court first sat in the
old Kings County Courthouse, located on what is now the site of Brooklyn
Law School at the southwest corner of the intersection of Joralemon Street
and Boreum Place in downtown Brooklyn. Change was in the air in 1894
and 1895. In addition to the Constitutional Convention and the alterations
it brought, in those years the City of Brooklyn annexed the remaining
Kings County towns of Flatbush, New Utrecht, Gravesend, and Flatlands.
When this was done the whole of Kings County had become identical with
the City of Brooklyn and a separate county government with its own officers
was rendered unnecessary. The end of the need for county government came
on December 31, 1895, and coincidentally the Constitution of 1894 went
into effect on the following day. Thus the chamber of the former Kings
County Board of Supervisors, which went out of existence with the end
of county government, became available and it was redecorated for use
as the courtroom for the Appellate Division, Second Department.
The first session of the court was held in the former Supervisors' Chamber
on January 6, 1896. At 10 a.m. on that day the proclamation was made and
Presiding Justice Charles F. Brown, and Associate Justices Calvin E. Pratt,
Edgar M. Cullen, Willard Bartlett, and Edward S. Hatch took the bench.
Joseph A. Burr, the President of the Brooklyn Bar Association, addressed
the court, the calendar was called, and argument was held. Not only was
this the first meeting of a new court, in a new courtroom, but the Justices
also had a new look. It was on that day that the Justices of the Supreme
Court first wore judicial gowns while on the bench. The
New York Law Journal observed that the decision to wear judicial gowns did not spring from a "love
of mere pomp," but rather "from a deliberate conviction that
a certain amount of ceremony and symbolism…may have real utility
in constantly reminding the Bench and Bar alike of the obligation of conscientious
and decorous official conduct." The first appeal that the court decided
was Kingsland Land Co. v Newman, reported by Marcus T. Hun as the first
case in the first series of the Appellate Division reports. It involved
an action brought against the endorser of a promissory note on an appeal
from what was then called the Kings County Circuit.
The use of a courtroom in the Kings County Courthouse was a temporary measure.
Unlike the former General Term, whose judges sat both at the trial level
and on appellate panels in courthouses in each of the Judicial Districts
making up the Judicial Department, the Appellate Division was intended
to be a permanent and independent court with full-time Justices and staff.
It needed its own courtroom, clerk's office, and chambers for its