Wood v. Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon is an enduring part of the Contracts canon. A symposium addressing the legacy of the case would be incomplete without a picture of the New York Court of Appeals at the time the case was decided and a discussion of the oft-neglected role that court rules and administration play in the development of the law. Thus, it is the aim of this short essay to place Wood in the context of the Court's history, and to explore how structural and jurisdictional changes to the Court could have had an impact on how the case was decided.
This essay begins by describing the Court's move to its new quarters on Eagle Street shortly before hearing oral argument in the Wood case. After setting the scene, the jurisdiction and structure of the Court will be explored and some brief biographical information about the judges will be provided. A theme at the turn of the century was the Court's extraordinary backlog of cases. With the steadily growing population of New York State came an increasingly burdened Court docket. To address the backlog, constitutional and legislative changes were made to the Court's composition and jurisdiction. This essay places Wood in the timeline of these changes and suggest that it was possible that Judge Benjamin Nathan Cardozo might not have been assigned to the panel that heard the case.
Further, this essay suggests that, had the case come later in the evolution of the Court's jurisdiction, the appeal might not have even been heard by the Court. Finally, it acknowledges that this case presents a mystery: with the Court's intense backlog of cases, it not certain why the Wood appeal was decided in just under six months, while the average case took roughly two years from the date of filing to reach oral argument.
28 Pace L. Rev. 357 (2008)
28 Pace L. Rev. 357