Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Influence of Judicial Deference on the New York Court of Appeals

By Patricia T. Whelan
Patricia T. Whelan is a third-year student at Albany Law School. Prior to attending law school, she earned her bachelor’s degree from Penn State.
At Albany Law, Patricia is an Associate Editor of the Albany Law Review, a Board Member of the Elder and Disability Law Pro Bono Society, and the 3L Representative of the Student Bar Association. As a second-year student, she was the Chief Justice of the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity, where she received the Outstanding Law School Chapter Justice Award.
Patricia has interned for the Third Judicial District, Federal Public Defender’s Office, and served as the Law Student Liaison for the ABA Section of State and Local Government Law. She also enjoys competing in various Moot Court Competitions and was a finalist in the 2021 Donna Jo Morse Client Counseling Competition.
In addition to all of that, Patricia is the Editor-in-Chief of the Center for Judicial Process for the 2022-23 academic year, and she is currently working as a law clerk at Pierro, Connor & Strauss.

The legal decision-making process is deeply rooted in the judicial branch of the United States Government.  It is an art that is foundational to our justice system.  The process by which judges interpret and apply the law to arrive at legal conclusions is often perplexing and intriguing.  As such, the process of how judges make decisions is frequently discussed and studied amongst many forums.  Numerous philosophies and principles have been constructed and developed regarding the judicial decision-making process.  One significant aspect of the judicial decision-making process is the legal power of judicial review which grants courts the broad power to determine the constitutionality of government actions. 

Within the principle of judicial review, lies the philosophy of deference.  Judicial deference is often used by judges in their decision-making process.  It stands for the idea that courts may yield or defer its judgment to that of another legitimate branch of authority.  Under this standard of review, judges recognize that they may be required to uphold a certain interpretation of law, even if they do not believe that it is correct, given that the Constitution does not prohibit the legislature’s determination and there is a reasonable basis for it. 

The purpose of this paper is to consider the decisions of three different New York Court of Appeals judges who all seemingly employ a deferential attitude in reaching a legal conclusion.  First, this paper considers the majority opinion of Judge Charles D. Breitel in Byrn v. New York City Health & Hospitals Corp. Next, it looks at People v. Davis and the majority opinion written by Judge Lawrence H. Cooke.  Lastly, it discusses Judge Eugene F. Pigott, Jr.’s majority opinion in Shipley v. City of New York.  This paper concludes by drawing generalizations about the judges’ and their opinions based on the deferential standard of judicial review. 
To read the paper, open HERE.