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State of New York

History of Reform Efforts: New York

Formal Changes Since Inception

1777
Judges appointed for life by the governor with council consent.

1822
All judges except county court judges appointed for life by the governor with senate consent. County court judges appointed for five-year terms by the governor with senate consent.

1847
All judges except county court judges elected by the people to eight-year terms. County court judges elected by the people to four-year terms.

1876
Terms of county court judges increased from four to six years. Terms of all other judges increased from eight to fourteen years.

1895
Appellate division of supreme court created. Justices appointed by the governor from among those elected to the supreme court. Justices serve five-year terms, except the presiding justice who serves a fourteen-year term.

1913
County court judges elected by the people to six-year terms, except in New York County where judges serve fourteen-year terms.

1961
A new judiciary article created the unified court system. County courts were continued outside New York City, with judges elected by the people to ten-year terms.

1975
Governor Carey became the first New York governor to create judicial screening committees by executive order to nominate candidates for appointment to the court of claims and the appellate division of the supreme court.

1977
Voters approved a constitutional amendment calling for merit selection of judges of the court of appeals. Although a slim majority of upstate voters opposed the change, voters in New York City favored it by a two-to-one margin. The push for reform was led by Governor Hugh Carey and Chief Judge Charles Breitel and was promoted by editorial writers of the New York Times, the New York State Bar Association and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and citizen groups such as the League of Women Voters of New York State, the Citizens Union of the City of New York, and the Fund for Modern Courts. For more information on New York's move to merit selection for the court of appeals, see "Judicial Selection Reform: Examples from Six States."