Monday, December 11, 2023

Part 2, Criminal Appeals--NYCOA: The Wilson Uptick

We previously looked at the increase in cases being heard at New York's highest court since Rowan Wilson was elevated to Chief Judge this past April and, more specifically, since he began producing the Court's calendars starting with this September's. We saw that the increase has already been half-again what it was previously. That is so whether the several Wilson calendars thus far produced are compared to those produced immediately before he became Chief or to the calendars for the same several months one year earlier. (See NYCOA: The Wilson Uptick.)

Now let's focus on criminal appeals, a source of particular concern the last few years--just as it had been prior to Jonathan Lippman's appointment as Chief Judge in 2009. (See e.g., NY Court of Appeals: Granting Criminal Appeals--Up, Down, Now Up Again? (Part 9: Significant Increase in 2009)) Similar to what we saw in the increase in the Court's schedule of cases generally, there has been an increase in the number of criminal appeals on the Court's calendar. In fact, the increase has been even more significant. It has doubled from what it was a year ago.

Source: Office of Governor of New York/
Darren McGee via AP
As noted in the previous post, even though Wilson was appointed Chief Judge in April, the May calendar of this year indicates that it had already been prepared in March. That means that the first calendars prepared under Wilson are those for the September, October, and November sessions of this year, and the January session of next. As we did with the totals for all cases, civil and criminal, let's compare the number of criminal appeals in these first four Wilson calendars with the pre-Wilson number for the immediately preceding four months, as well as with the pre-Wilson number for the same four months one year ago. For perspective, we'll again include the number for the last four months under Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman in 2015.

Here's what those comparisons look like:
(click to enlarge for a better view)

As depicted in the graph, the number of criminal appeals calendared under Chief Judge Wilson (26) is double the number from the same months one year ago (13); and more than half-again the number for the months immediately preceding the first Wilson calendars (16). To place these numbers in perspective, lest it be thought that the Wilson increase is too much too soon, note the number of criminal appeals in the last four months under Chief Judge Lippman (52)--twice that thus far under Wilson, and four times that from pre-Wilson one year ago.

Credit: Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
Related to that last note, lest it be thought that the criminal caseload under Lippman was a historic anomaly, it was actually in keeping with what had been the Court of Appeals' customary output of criminal decisions. Criminal appeals heard by the Court had dropped in the years immediately preceding Lippman's appointment as Chief Judge, and it dropped again after his mandatory retirement. (Remember: New York's moronic law that mandates the retirement of Court of Appeals Judges at the age of 70.)

Here's what that roller-coaster before, during, and after Lippman looked like:
(click to enlarge for a better view)
(Previously prepared for

As reflected in the graph, the criminal caseload doubled when Lippman became Chief Judge from what it had been in the last several years under Chief Judge Judith Kaye. It dropped precipitously again under Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. But the criminal caseload under Lippman was actually much more in line with what it had been in the early years of Kaye's tenure and with what it had been before that under Chief Judge Sol Wachtler. The point being that the 26 criminal cases in the first four monthly calendars under Wilson, which would amount to a criminal caseload of 78 cases for twelve months, is far from an excessive number when viewed in context.

In the next post in this series, we'll look at Criminal Leave Applications. Specifically, we'll look at how many CLA's each of the Judges has been granting. A not-surprising hint: some Judges grant many more than others.