'The State of State Courts," this year's edition of the State Constitutional Commentary Symposium, was another remarkable event. The annual symposium, named in honor of Chief Judge Lawrence H. Cooke--an advocate of independent state constitutional adjudication as an obligation of state courts to safeguard fundamental liberties--is now a six year old tradition. Its namesake, a 1937 graduate of Albany Law School, led New York's highest court, the New York Court of Appeals, as the nation's preeminent state tribunal in protecting rights and liberties in an era when the federal Supreme Court began accelerating in the opposite direction. (1)
True to the legacy of Chief Judge Cooke--who also served as State Constitutional Commentary chairperson from its founding in 1996 until his passing in 2000--this journal, as well as the annual symposium it hosts, is intended to promote an understanding of the vital role played by the state courts, in the development of American (not just federal) constitutional and public law. The remarkable annual events, the Cooke Symposia, have become no less than a public celebration of that legacy by some of the nation's most eminent jurists each year.
The inaugural symposium cum celebration, in 2007, featured the venerable Chief Judge Judith Kaye of New York, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson of Wisconsin, Chief Justice Christine Durham of Utah, and Chief Justice James Hannah of Arkansas. Now that was quite an ambitions and propitious beginning! (2) The following year, Chief Judge Kaye returned with her entire court. The seven judges of New York's highest court regaled us with their respective picks of "favorite" judge in Court of Appeals history. (3)
Last year, an inspiring trio of extraordinarily courageous jurists spoke about the challenges facing judges and lawyers, and the responsibility to confront them and be true to principle. Chief Justice Margaret Marshall of Massachusetts, Chief Justice Jean Toal of South Carolina, and Chief Justice Marsha Ternus of Iowa were our "Great Women, Great Chiefs." (4) And this year, in a successful effort to continue this singularly distinguished string of annual events, we enlisted New York's already-renowned current Chief Judge, Jonathan Lippman, to moderate a panel of esteemed jurists. Making a second appearance at a Cooke Symposium were two of America's most revered top judges: Wisconsin's Chief Justice Abrahamson and Utah's Chief Justice Durham. They were joined by a...