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Appellate Division - Second Department
The Courthouse

The Old Kings County Courthouse 1896-1903

Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Historical Society

Former Kings County CourthouseThe court first sat in the old Kings County Courthouse, located on what is now the site of Brooklyn Law School at the southwest corner of the intersection of Joralemon Street and Boreum Place in downtown Brooklyn. Change was in the air in 1894 and 1895. In addition to the Constitutional Convention and the alterations it brought, in those years the City of Brooklyn annexed the remaining Kings County towns of Flatbush, New Utrecht, Gravesend, and Flatlands. When this was done the whole of Kings County had become identical with the City of Brooklyn and a separate county government with its own officers was rendered unnecessary. The end of the need for county government came on December 31, 1895, and coincidentally the Constitution of 1894 went into effect on the following day. Thus the chamber of the former Kings County Board of Supervisors, which went out of existence with the end of county government, became available and it was redecorated for use as the courtroom for the Appellate Division, Second Department.

The first session of the court was held in the former Supervisors' Chamber on January 6, 1896. At 10 a.m. on that day the proclamation was made and Presiding Justice Charles F. Brown, and Associate Justices Calvin E. Pratt, Edgar M. Cullen, Willard Bartlett, and Edward S. Hatch took the bench. Joseph A. Burr, the President of the Brooklyn Bar Association, addressed the court, the calendar was called, and argument was held. Not only was this the first meeting of a new court, in a new courtroom, but the Justices also had a new look. It was on that day that the Justices of the Supreme Court first wore judicial gowns while on the bench. The New York Law Journal observed that the decision to wear judicial gowns did not spring from a "love of mere pomp," but rather "from a deliberate conviction that a certain amount of ceremony and symbolism…may have real utility in constantly reminding the Bench and Bar alike of the obligation of conscientious and decorous official conduct." The first appeal that the court decided was Kingsland Land Co. v Newman, reported by Marcus T. Hun as the first case in the first series of the Appellate Division reports. It involved an action brought against the endorser of a promissory note on an appeal from what was then called the Kings County Circuit.

The use of a courtroom in the Kings County Courthouse was a temporary measure. Unlike the former General Term, whose judges sat both at the trial level and on appellate panels in courthouses in each of the Judicial Districts making up the Judicial Department, the Appellate Division was intended to be a permanent and independent court with full-time Justices and staff. It needed its own courtroom, clerk's office, and chambers for its Justices.

The Brooklyn Borough Hall | The Monroe Place Courthouse
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