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A Picture of the New York Court of Appeals at the Time of Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon

By Meredith R. Miller


Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon is an enduring part of the Contracts canon. A symposium addressing the legacy of the case would be incomplete without a picture of the New York Court of Appeals at the time the case was decided and a discussion of the oft-neglected role that court rules and administration play in the development of the law. Thus, it is the aim of this short essay to place Wood in the context of the Court\u27s history, and to explore how structural and jurisdictional changes to the Court could have had an impact on how the case was decided. This essay begins by describing the Court\u27s move to its new quarters on Eagle Street shortly before hearing oral argument in the Wood case. After setting the scene, the jurisdiction and structure of the Court will be explored and some brief biographical information about the judges will be provided. A theme at the turn of the century was the Court\u27s extraordinary backlog of cases. With the steadily growing population of New York State came an increasingly burdened Court docket. To address the backlog, constitutional and legislative changes were made to the Court\u27s composition and jurisdiction. This essay places Wood in the timeline of these changes and suggest that it was possible that Judge Benjamin Nathan Cardozo might not have been assigned to the panel that heard the case. Further, this essay suggests that, had the case come later in the evolution of the Court\u27s jurisdiction, the appeal might not have even been heard by the Court. Finally, it acknowledges that this case presents a mystery: with the Court\u27s intense backlog of cases, it not certain why the Wood appeal was decided in just under six months, while the average case took roughly two years from the date of filing to reach oral argument

Topics: New York, Court of Appeals, Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, history, jurisdiction, Wood, Lucy, Miller, Meredith Miller, Lady, Duff, Gordon, Courts, Legal History
Publisher: Digital Commons @ Touro Law Center
Year: 2008
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