About the Commission
The Establishment of the Commission
The Law Revision Commission was created by Chapter 597 of the Laws of 1934 which enacted Article 4-A of the Legislative Law. The Commission is the oldest continuous agency in the common-law world devoted to law reform through legislation.
The Purpose of the Commission
The Commission is charged by statute with the following duties:
- To examine the common law and statutes of the State and current judicial decisions for the purpose of discovering defects and anachronisms in the law and recommending needed reforms.
- To receive and consider proposed changes in the law recommended by the American Law Institute, the commissioners for the promotion of uniformity of legislation in the United States, any bar association or other learned bodies.
- To receive and consider suggestions from judges, justices, public officials, lawyers and the public generally as to defects and anachronisms in the law.
- To recommend, from time to time, such changes in the law as it deems necessary to modify or eliminate antiquated and inequitable rules of law, and to bring the law of this state, civil and criminal, into harmony with modern conditions.
The Organization of the Commission
The Commission consists of the chairpersons of the Committees on the Judiciary and Codes of the Senate and Assembly, as members ex officio, and five members appointed by the Governor, each for a term of five years. The Governor designates the Chairperson of the Commission. The statute provides that four of the five members appointed by the Governor shall be attorneys and counselors-at-law, admitted to practice in New York, and that at least two of them be members of law school faculties of universities or law schools within the State. The Commissioners appoint an Executive Director to facilitate the work of the Commission and supervise Commission staff. From time to time, the Commission staff will include law school or graduate interns. The Commission's primary office is currently located at Albany Law School.
How the Commission Operates
The Commission regularly reviews problems that have been brought to its attention and selects a number of them for further study. Over the years, a number of studies undertaken by the Commission have been made under the authorization of the Legislature. Others have been made in response to requests by the Governor and by other officers of State government. Some studies have involved problems identified by bar associations and other organizations, and by public officers, judges, lawyers, and lay persons. In many other instances, the Commission has, through its own examination of existing statutes in New York and other states, case law, and legal literature, ascertained the need for new legislation or for the amendment of existing law.
In selecting particular issues, the Commission considers whether the problem merits further study and whether there are questions on which the conclusions and recommendations of the Commission would be helpful to the Legislature. Proposals relating solely or primarily to matters within the special fields of other departments and agencies of the government are referred to those bodies. Once the Commission adopts an issue for further study, an appropriate research strategy may include analysis of existing state law, legislative history, public policy, policies and practices of other states and uniform proposals. On occasion, the Commission will hold formal and informal hearings to shed further light on a particularly difficult issue.
Often, the Commission's analysis of a problem will lead to its recommendation of new legislation or amendment of existing law. Bills to carry out its legislative proposals are drafted by the Commission and introduced in the Legislature by its ex officio members. Copies of formal in-depth written recommendations of the Commission, together with the proposed Act and a shorter memorandum in support, accompany the submissions. Following a bill's introduction, the ex officio member or members bring to the attention of the Commission any questions relating to the bill which arises during its consideration by the Legislature.
During the legislative session, the Commission may distribute copies of its recommendations to bar associations throughout the State, to official and unofficial agencies concerned with the legislation, and to all interested persons who request them. While a bill is before the Legislature, the Commission seeks to inform itself of all criticism of the bill and suggestions for improving it; careful consideration is given thereto. On some occasions, the Commission has withdrawn its recommendation for further study in light of objections; on others, it has suggested amendment.