Common Court of Pleas

Common Court of Pleas
Greene County

From Beers, History of Greene County, page 32. Retyped by Annette Campbell.

The first court of Common Pleas, in and for the county of Greene, was held at Catskill on the 6th of May 1800. The court was composed as follows:
Leonard Bronk---first judge
Samuel VanVechten---judge
Stephen Day---judge
Thomas E. Barker---judge
The following counsellors and attorneys were admitted to practice:
Dorrance Kirtland, Stoddard Smith, Frederick H. Gebhard, Henry J. Brush, Isaac Hansen, Jesse Brush, John W. Crane, William Frazer, James Thompson, Elihu Chauncey Goodrich, and James Pinckney.
A committee, composed of Messrs. Goodrich, Pinckney, Kirtland and Thompson were appointed to report rules for the practice of this court.
The court adopted a device for its seal, which is described in the record thus, "A sword erect, supporting a Balance, the motto round the seal, County of Greene".  A committee was appointed. Messrs. Brush, Smith and Crane, on the application of Charles Thompson for admission to the bar. On their favorable report he was admitted. Gilbert Drake was appointed crier to this court, and the following committee was appointed to make a survey of a "Plat of ground for the liberties of the Gaol, the County of Green:"  Joseph Graham, Benjamin VanOrden and George Hall.  They made their survey and reported and their report was ratified by the court. We append the calendar of that first court, as follows:
Abraham Varick  vs. James Rose
 "The defendant by his attorney, James Pinckney,  in the cause, confesses Judgement by his plea of Cognovit Actionem to the plaintiff for the sum of seventy-five dollars. On motion of Mr. James Thompson, Attorney for the plaintiff, ordered judgement Nisi Causa.
Benjamin Sears vs. Linus Hopson  &  Lyman Hopson
James Pinckney, Attorney for Defendant in this Cause by his plea of Cognovit Actionem, confesses Judgement to the Plaintiff for the sum of One Hundred Dollars.
 The September term for that year was held at the house of John R. Vandenberg, in Coxsackie, but afterward it was held regularly in Catskill.
This court was composed of a first judge and several associate judges and justices of the peace.  It was held in January, May and September of each year.  The causes coming under its jurisdiction were very numerous. During the first four years of its existence the calendar for each term contained the following number of cases: 
September 1800 session---58
January 1801 session---134
May 1801 session---135
September 1801 session---173
January 1802 session---225
May 1802 session---169
September 1802 session---235
January 1803 session---257
May 1803 session---254
September 1803 session---173
It granted licenses to the ferries on the river from year to year and established their rates of ferriage.  It frequently appointed committees to survey the jail limits.  In May 1804 it directed that those limits should not exceed "60 rods from the gaol in any direction."  Insolvent debtors and prisoners for debt were frequently the subjects of its action.  The following persons were, during its early years, admitted to practice at its bar: September term 1800, Ambrose Spencer, John M. Canfield, Hezekiah Burhans, Hezekiah L. Hosmer, John VanDerSpiegle Scott;  January term, 1801, David Hosford, Reuben Hosford; May 1801 term, Alexander Fraser, Elisha Williams, Abraham VanDyke, Philip Gebhard; September 1801 term, Moses J. Cantine; January 1802 term, Francis Pruyn; May 1802 term, Philip Parker, William W. VanNess, John Champlin; September 1802 term, Mr. Foot, assistant attorney general, "Ex honoris respectus;"  May 1803 term, Mr. Glover;  September 1803 term, Joseph D. Monnell;  January 1804 term, Thomas P. Grosvenor;  May 1804 term, Amos Eaton,  Robert Dorlon;  January 1805 term, John Adams.
An amusing instance of the promptness demanded by this court is seen in the record that in 1802 Gilbert Drake, the court crier, was fined $1.00 for being absent when his services were needed.
The number of judgments docketed in this court in 1845 was 77, with an aggregate of damages amounting to $27,622.37.  The costs on this amounted to $1,206.80.
The following attorneys and counsellors at law were admitted to practice in the Court of Common Pleas for the county of Greene. The dates given are these on which the prescribed oaths were taken.
Caleb Day---September 4th 1821
Herrman M. Romeyn---May 30 1822
Lewis Benton---May 30th 1822
G. W. Ludlum---January 28th 1823
Allen Jordan---January 27th 1824
Gerrit VanBergen---January 30th 1824
A. L. Jordan---May 25th 1824
J. Houck, Jr.---January 26th 1825
Leonard Bronk, Jr.---September 7th 1825
Malbone Watson---February 1st 1826
Robert Colvard---May 31st 1826
Benedict Bagley---February 1st 1827
John VanVleck---September 4th 1827
Edgar B. Day---September 5th 1827
Amasa Mattoon---September 5th 1827
George W. Bulkley---January 31st 1828
George White---September 3rd 1828
Richard VanDyke---September 5th 1828
Darius Peck---May 27th 1829
John Sanders, Jr.---January 5th 1830
P. H. Silvester---September 9th 1830
Theodore Romeyn---September 9th 1830
The office of the first judge of the Common Pleas, which was afterward called the County Court, has been held by the following persons, who were at first appointed by the governor and Senate, but under the constitution of 1846 were elected.  The dates given indicate the times of their appointment or election:
Leonard Bronk---March 28th 1800
Garret Abeel---April 3rd 1810
Moses I. Cantine---June 19th 1818
John V.D. Scott---February 1st 1821
Dorrance Kirtland---April 19th 1828
Perkins King---March 20th 1838
Lyman Tremain---June 1847
Alexander H. Bailey---November 1851
F. James Fitch---March 19th 1855  (appointed to fill vacancy caused by
resignation of Bailey, and afterward elected)
John A. Griswold---November 1863
John Olney---November 1867
A. Melville Osborn---January 11th 1870 (appointed to fill vacancy
caused by death of Olney and present incumbent)
Manly B. Mattice---November 1870

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