Charles Brown Sears
October 16, 1870 - December 17, 1950
The Honorable Charles Brown Sears was born on October 16, 1870 in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Adelphia Academy in Brooklyn in 1888 and received an A.B. degree from Yale University in 1892. After studying at the University of Berlin in 1892-93, Mr. Sears completed the LL.B. degree at Harvard Law School in 1896. He was honored with the LL.D. degree by several universities and colleges: Middleburg (Vt.) College, 1930; Columbia University, 1936; Yale University, 1936; Saint Lawrence University, 1939; Syracuse University, 1940; Hobart College, 1942.
Mr. Sears was admitted to the New York bar in 1895 and practiced in Buffalo until 1917. In 1917, he began his long and distinguished judicial career when he was appointed as a justice of the Supreme Court of New York. He continued as a justice of the Supreme Court when elected for terms in 1918-31 and 1932-40. Mr. Sears was assigned to the Fourth Department of the Appellate Division for the 1922-26 term, reassigned for a term of five years in 1927-31 and was presiding justice from January 1, 1927 to January 1940. Appointed associate justice of the New York Court of Appeals in 1940, Mr. Sears retired on December 31, 1940 and served as official referee of the court. In 1947, he was the presiding judge for the Military Tribunal IV which considered "The Flick Case" in Nuremberg, Germany.
Mr. Sears was a delegate to two New York State constitutional conventions. In 1915, he was a member of the judiciary committee which he chaired at the 1938 Convention. He was a member of the American Bar Association, the New York Bar Association, and the Bar Associations of Erie County and served as president of the Bar Association of Erie County in 1915-16. Also, he was a member of the American Law Institute, the American Judicature Society and the Judicial Council of New York, which he chaired in 1940.
Mr. Sears was involved in numerous other public service activities in Buffalo and New York State. He was chairman of the Mayor's Commission on Community Relations, 1943-45, the Board of Community Relations for Buffalo, 1945-46, and Buffalo Council of the State Commission Against Discrimination, 1945-46. In addition, Mr. Sears chaired the State War Council Committee on Discrimination in Employment, 1941-45 and the Enemy Alien Hearing Board of Western New York. He served as trustee of the Grosvenor Library, president and trustee of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy (Albright Art Gallery), chairman of the Buffalo Branch of the Foreign Policy Association, president and trustee of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Society, president of the Buffalo Joint Charities and trustee of the Community Chest.
Mr. Sears was an active supporter of the University of Buffalo. He served as Vice Chairman and member of the Council of the University of Buffalo. He was the recipient of the Chancellor's Medal of the University in 1944. When the Law School of the University moved in 1973 to its new building, O'Brian Hall on the North Campus, the law library was named in honor of Mr. Sears.
Mr. Sears was married to Florence Gilbert of Brookline, Massachusetts from October 20, 1896 until her death on October 3, 1939. He married Mary V. Hun on November 24, 1946. At the age of 80, Mr. Sears died on December 17, 1950.
Based on the following sources:
Eminent Members of the Bench and Bar of New York 153 (1943)
3 Who Was Who in America 770 (1960)
John T. Loughran, In Memoriam in 303 NY vii (1952)
An additional photo and brief biography of Charles B. Sears is available in the Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York Portrait Gallery.
Here is an additional biography reproduced with the permission of The Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York. Any other use of this material is strictly prohibited.