Here's the email exchange between me and the Contracts professor, reprinted with his permission (though I'm withholding his name).
In Spring 2003 you and the rest of your 1L Contracts course had yourself a laugh by tricking me into predicting that Judge Andrews, who wrote the opinion in Strong v. Sheffield, would have rejected the result in Wood v. Lucy, only to reveal that "Judge Andrews" had, in fact, joined the conflicting Wood opinion. Well, someone just alerted me to the fact that the Judge Andrews who wrote Strong v. Sheffield was an entirely different Judge Andrews from the one who joined the majority in Wood v. Lucy. The former was Judge Charles Andrews, on the court from 1870 to 1897 (Strong was decided in 1894). The latter was Judge William Andrews, on the court from 1917 (the year Wood was decided) to 1928. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Court_of_Appeals.
Now, perhaps you already know this. As I recall, you followed up the revelation not by admitting that the votes were cast by two entirely different people, but by speculating that the original Judge Andrews may have simply changed his mind in the intervening 23 years between the two cases. In any case, while the lesson learned was a valid one -- look at the evidence in front of you before offering a conclusion -- in this case the evidence was misleading, as it wasn't clear from the text that 1917 Andrews wasn't the same as 1894 Andrews. The extremely attentive student may have noticed that the first Andrews was Chief Judge while the latter Andrews was just a regular Judge, and thereby surmise that they were two different people (or that Chief Judge Andrews was demoted -- after all, a Supreme Court that insists on calling itself a Court of Appeals might be daffy enough to demote its Chief Judges down to regular judges). But this seems like a lot to ask of a first-year law student.
If you plan on keeping this particular gag in your repertoire, I might respectfully suggest that you be more sporting in the future and let the poor student know that there were two Judge Andrewses on the New York Court of Appeals, or at least lead him or her there through suitably direct Socratic questions.
Sorry if the experience scarred you! I assure you that I made that point not to get a laugh at your expense but to make the point that lawyers need to pay very careful attention to detail when reading cases.
In this situation, it was clearly I who was not attentive enough to detail. I did not know that there were two Judges Andrews. I certainly would not have kept this a secret. Live and learn. The fact that Strong v. Sheffield was decided by Chief Judge Andrews and the Wood by Judge Andrews isn't necessarily a tip-off, however, since on some courts the Chief Judge position either rotates or carries an age limitation.
Thanks for pointing this out.
All the best,
(Regarding the chief judge thing -- I realize that the chief judgeship is a rotating position in many trial courts and appellate courts, but I didn't realize that was also the case in some supreme courts. -Matt)
EDIT: I wasn't a 1L in Spring 2007.