Reuben Hyde WalworthThe Appellate Division Law Library's history traces back to the old Court of Chancery, which was abolished by the 1846 NYS Constitution. The last Chancellor, Reuben Hyde Walworth, had amassed a large collection of law books by the time of the court's demise. It was now up to lawmakers to decide how and where the collection could best be utilized.
|Laws of 1849, Chapter 300|
As the rapidly growing western part of the state had a serious shortage of law books, lawmakers in Albany decided that the collection should be moved to "some point west of the seat of government." (L. 1849, Ch. 300.) The specific location was left to the justices of the newly created Court of Appeals to determine.
Several upstate communities lobbied to become the new home to the collection. Ultimately, the justices decided to split the collection: half went to Syracuse and half to Rochester.
Second Monroe County CourthouseThe Rochester "Library of the Court of Appeals," as it was then known, was established in the second Monroe County Courthouse. The large, publicly accessible law library did much to expand Rochester's reputation in the legal community throughout the rest of the nineteenth century. In fact, the library would later play a key role in the selection of Rochester as the home of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department.
New York State's 1894 constitution created the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, to be divided into four geographic judicial departments. Buffalo, Syracuse, and Rochester all vied to be the seat of the new Fourth Department. Rochester was ultimately chosen due to its central geographic location and the existing presence of the "Court of Appeals Law Library."
Third Monroe County CourthouseOn January 21, 1896, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department heard its first case. During that year, the "Library of the Court of Appeals" joined the Fourth Department in the third Monroe County Courthouse (the present-day Monroe County Office Building.) Four years later, the legislature formally changed the name of the library to the "Law Library of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Fourth Judicial Department," to be
maintained as a free public library for the use of the people of the state, the appellate division of the supreme court in the fourth judicial department, the supreme court of the seventh judicial district and the local courts at Rochester. (L. 1900, Ch. 258.)
Under the control of the Appellate Division, the library quickly grew to become one of the largest court law libraries in the nation.
|Mid-century modern: 34 years at the Hall of Justice|
The Appellate Division Law Library, as it had locally become known, moved with the rest of the Fourth Department into the newly constructed Hall of Justice in 1964, and to our current location in 1998. Serving courts, practitioners, and researchers throughout New York State and beyond, the Appellate Division Law Library is easily the largest library in the Unified Court System, serving thousands of patrons annually. It can be considered a point of pride that an institution of this stature resides not in Albany or New York City, but right here in western New York.