John Palmer was born in England around 1630 and is believed to have graduated from Cambridge University. He may have studied law and been call to the bar of the Inner Temple in London.
Palmer arrived in New York around 1666, went from there to Barbados but returned to New York in 1674 and the following year was appointed Ranger of Staten Island. Palmer became a member of the Governor's Council and, in 1683, Governor Dongan appointed him to be one of the two permanent judges of the highest court, the Court of Oyer and Terminer.
When New York was annexed to the Dominion of New England, Andros appointed Palmer to the Dominion's Council and named him a Justice and later Chief Justice, of the Superior Court of the enlarged Dominion of New England.
When word of the Glorious Revolution reached Boston in 1689, the Boston insurgents imprisoned Andros and others in his administration, including John Palmer. While in prison, Palmer wrote a justification of the Andros administration and following his expulsion to England, Palmer published his account as a pamphlet under the title "An Impartial Account of the State of New England, or the late Government there vindicated" (1689).
Paul Hamlin and Charles Baker. The Supreme Court of the Province of New York 1691-1704, (1959).