History of the Court of common pleas of the city and county of New York

During 1895 the write contributed a number of articles to the New York press. One of these entitled "End of the Common Pleas," was published in the Sun of May 19th. This book is the sequence of that article. It is not a law treatise. The decisions of no Court have been better reported that those of the Court of Common Pleas of the city and County of New York. It treats of the personal side of the Court, and is in a measure, therefore, supplementary to the Reports. The writer may have erred in dealing so little with the many interesting trials, decisions and questions of law which have arisen and have been adjudicated during the life of this Court. He has been frequently tempted also to include such stories and anecdotes as have come within his knowledge, and they have been many, but has refrained because he wished rather to produce a work which should be dignified and in keeping with the spirit of one of the oldest, if not the oldest, Court our people have known.


Table of Contents

The Court of Common Pleas during the Dutch Domination 9
The English Period 16
Later History of the Court 22

Minutes of the Court

Impeachment of David M Cowdrey 36
Trial of John M Bloodgood 37
Trial of Henry W. Merritt 37
Trial of Justice Miln Parker 40
Trial of Justice William Wiley 41
Trial of Justices Matzel, Parker and Ephraim Stevens 43
Complaints against Justice Haskell and Drinker 50
Trial of Justice William W. Drinker 53
Trial of Justice Patrick G. Duffy 57
Trial of Justice Patrick Divver 59
Biographical Sketches of the Judges
John Treat Irving 61
Michael Ulshoeffer 64
Daniel P. Ingraham 68
William Inglis 70
Charles P. Daly 77
Lewis B. Woodruff 83
John R. Brady 87
Henry Hilton 90
Albert Carozo 94
Hooper C. Van Vorst 95
George C. Barrett 97
Frederick W. Loew 99
Charles H. Van Brunt 103
Joseph F. Daly 105
Hamilton W. Robinson 109
Richard L. Larremore 112
George M. Van Hosken 116
Miles Beach 119
Henry W. Allen 121
Henry W. Bookstaver 123
Henry Bischoff, Jr. 125
Roder A Pryor 127
Leonard A. Giecerich 130
New Organization of the Court of Common Pleas, 1870 132
Proceedings on the Death of Judge Hamilton W. Robinson, 1879 139
Proceedings on the Retirement of Chief Justice Charles P. Daily, 1885 159
Proceedings on the Presentation of a Memorial Table of Judge Hamilton W. Robinson, 1895 180
Proceedings on the Closing of the Existence of the Court of Common Please, 1895 185
Appendix 239


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Colden, nevertheless, was not at all intimidated by these drastic measures, but deliberately set about employing counsel to plead his case. He found an attorney, by name James Duane, subsequently a judge, who was sufficiently emancipated from the current awe and dread of those in authority, and a good lawyer for that day when good lawyers were apparently few, to argue his case. At the day of the trial Lord Dunmore took his seat in the capacity of Chancellor and despite that Duane showed conclusively in his argument that the suit could not be maintained, would allow nothing, not even legal principles to thwart the "rights of the Crown." The attorney-general and his colleague. Smith, the historian of the Court, argued so ably on the other side as to impress the worthy Colden most unfavorably. He is quoted as saying of Smith, that he dis- played "an easiness of principles that enabled him to affirm, deny or pervert anything, with a degree of confidence that might deceive the unwary."

Even Dunmore seemed to have considered that his (the Crown's) case had been argued too well been over-argued, in fact and in spite of his inclination to reward the talents of Smith, found himself unexpectedly taced with the unquestioned principles of law and equity. He pretended to consider the case one of such moment as to require some little review and consideration, appointing the following Thursday for the rendering of his decision. Thursday came, and the matter was adjourned a fortnight. Meanwhile, he and his advisers busily consulted law and precedent, but in vain. Then doubtless in confidence of his official prestige the cause was referred to the four judges of the Supreme Court. They presently unanimously decided that Duane's demurrer was well taken and that the suit could not be maintained.