- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York’s highest court, working short-handed without two judges, has been unable to reach a decision in two major cases argued this month, deciding Monday to hear them again once the vacancies are filled.

The seven-member Court of Appeals currently has five judges, a bare quorum, after one retired this year and another’s term expired in November. The court needs four judges in agreement to rule.

The two cases still undecided involve bank liability for terrorism and the return of autopsied body parts to families.

“Apparently, they need a majority of four to decide,” court spokesman Gary Spencer said Monday.

The five judges agreed Monday on one thing - ordering re-argument of those cases “during a future session.”

The court again will hear the New York City Medical Examiner’s appeal of a midlevel court ruling that the office has a legal obligation to return the brain and other body parts to next of kin for burial.

It will also rehear the appeal by the Bank of China Limited that New York or China’s laws, not Israel’s stricter laws, should apply to claims by 50 Israeli citizens that the bank knowingly facilitated the transfer of money by terrorist groups to operatives in Israel, enabling bombings and rocket attacks.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has nominated two replacement judges, who are awaiting Senate confirmation hearings.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to schedule hearings soon for Justice Leslie Stein and Justice Eugene Fahey. Both sit on midlevel Appellate Division courts and were found well qualified by a state nomination commission.

Sen. John Bonacic, who chaired the Judiciary Committee last year, said Monday they are waiting for final committee assignments before scheduling. “The intent is to review the nominees together in a joint public hearing, which I expect to happen relatively quickly once the committee assignments are finalized,” he said.

The Court of Appeals reviews lower court decisions, interprets statutes and the state’s constitution, and often makes case law for New York.

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