November 13, 2013

Local justice contributes to reference tome


ELIZABETHTOWN — Sections of the new edition of the “Bench Book for Trial Judges” were written by State Supreme Court Justice Robert Muller.

Muller, who frequently presides over Essex County Supreme Court sessions, said he offered to help with the 2014 New York state edition of the book.

It’s used as a reference by most county and local jurists, he said.

“It’s a tool for judges, especially new judges,” he said in an interview. “If you have an evidentiary question, you can go to the book. It’s guidance on that.”


The $309 book is a comprehensive guide to court proceedings for New York trial judges. New judges receive a copy of the book to help them preside with consistency and authority, according to the publishers, Lawyers Cooperative Publishing and Thomson Reuters.

The book covers both criminal and civil law and is also used in local municipal courts.

New York State Supreme Court is a mid-level trial court, usually handling civil litigation.

“Civil law is key for me,” Muller said. “When you sit on the bench, the book is there as a resource.”

He said he saw some areas that needed more coverage in the tome.

“I wanted to make it better. I was advised by judges from all over the state.”

“The Bench Book in 2013 underwent its most extensive revision and update since its original inception in 1971,” State Supreme Court Justice William Polito, the chair of the Bench Book Committee, wrote in the introduction. 

“Although the improved book will be enormously helpful to trial judges, it will be even more so to trial lawyers to have the benefit of the vast trial experience of sitting and retired New York State Supreme Court justices and the same resource being used by the judges before whom they appear.”


The book used peer-review editing for its chapters, Muller said.

“I did checking to see who agreed. Some of my cases had been to the appellate court. I was able to say I knew about these.”

Muller said he’d be glad to work on the next edition, too.

“I enjoyed it. It requires a lot of writing, and I love to write.”

The book covers everything from picking juries, motions and objections at trial to witnesses, subpoenas and conduct in the courtroom.

“What do you do when these issues come up?” Muller said. “The book is designed to answer those questions.”

Muller, who lives in Queensbury, is in his fifth year on the bench.

Email Lohr