I am delighted to be part of Perspectives, part of your State of State Courts issue, part of the Albany Law Review, and in any way part of this Law School. During my twenty-five years, three months, nineteen days, and twelve hours (but who's counting?) on the Court of Appeals--fifteen of those precious years as Chief Judge--I participated in Albany Law School activities so often that I began to think of myself as a proud alum, class of 1984. Having gone on the Court of Appeals in 1983 that would have been quite a feat!
Thank you, too, for inviting me to join the distinguished roster of authors for this issue and allowing me to choose my subject within the ambit of The State of State Courts.
As the economic crisis has hit hard throughout society, the state of state courts regrettably has become a more vexing subject than ever before. State courts particularly have felt the brunt of the crisis, as hard times on the one hand necessarily drive more people to court and add even further to already overburdened court dockets--the state courts have more than ninety-five percent of our nation's litigation (1)--and on the other hand limit available resources. (2) The American Bar Association, our own New York State Bar Association, and innumerable others have convened commissions and conferences centered on how to do more with less, a consuming subject for state court leaders. With the growing literature on the subject, I will leave for others the task of writing more fully about the state of state courts today in terms of the impact of staff layoffs, suspension of jury trials, closing of parts, and innumerable other cutting-to-the-bone cost-saving measures being implemented by the courts as they strive to protect the fundamentals of our extraordinary justice system.
The Law Review's challenge to choose my own particular subject, moreover, took me on a voyage back through the many times I have published my thoughts in this journal. Often we have together offered tributes to colleagues and addressed profound issues concerning the state courts. I think, for example, of our symposium on judicial selection, (3) business dispute resolution, (4) and state constitutional law and state high courts in the twenty-first century. (5) Those are all subjects of continuing interest to me, well within the penumbra of the state of state courts.
Perhaps most relevantly, your invitation took me back to an exciting full-day symposium at Albany Law School on reform in government...