Authored by Ken LaMance, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law
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New York has been at the forefront of some groundbreaking legal decisions that enlarged the constitutional rights of people across the nation. An early U.S. Supreme Court case arising in New York helped define the government’s power, and forever broadened the scope of Congress’ authority. In the 1824 case of Gibbons v. Ogden, the Court struck down a New York law requiring steamboat operators to hold a New York license before traveling between New York and New Jersey. The Court found the law unconstitutional because it interfered with Congress’ power to regulate commerce.
In another case originating in New York, the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the freedom of the press. In the defamation case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the Court enlarged First Amendment protections for the media by declaring that public officials cannot prevail on libel claims merely by showing that published information is false; instead, public officials must also show that a defendant acted with “actual malice,” and reckless disregard for the truth.
New York is the only state in the nation to persist in requiring fault-based grounds for divorce. This means that a divorce cannot be granted based on irreconcilable differences, incompatibility, or mutual consent. Instead, in order to file for divorce, at least one spouse must make allegations of cruel and inhuman treatment, abandonment, imprisonment, or adultery. Alternatively, a divorce will be granted to spouses who live separate and apart for at least one year after executing a separation agreement, or if they disagree over “ancillary relief,” such as child support, custody, alimony, division of joint assets, or payment of legal fees.
According to a 2008 American Bar Association report, there are 150,542 actively practicing lawyers that currently reside in New York. New York lawyers must have the proper licenses, certificates, and credentials before they can be admitted to the State Bar. In addition, lawyers must fulfill continuing legal education requirements each year. Newly admitted attorneys in New York must complete 32 hours of “transitional” education within the first two years of being admitted to the Bar, while experienced attorneys must complete 24 hours of CLE over a two year period, including 4 hours of ethics classes.
Before hiring a lawyer to represent you, it is essential that you make sure he or she is properly licensed and has a good disciplinary record. An easy way to make sure that your attorney is bar certified is by using LegalMatch, a service which screens lawyers and compiles background reports for its clients, free of charge.
The following websites contain more information on New York’s legal system: