New York City Courts

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New York State Unified Court System

Court of Appeals
Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Supreme Court
Court of Claims
Surrogate's Court
New York City Courts (Civil, Criminal)

The New York City court system consists of civil, criminal, and family courts. All have a presence in each borough and have city-wide jurisdiction. New York City courts have jurisdiction in the five counties that are coterminous with the five boroughs, but in practice most cases are handled in their own county/borough. Unlike the rest of New York State, New York City does not have typical County Courts.

Once a judge is appointed, they can be transferred from one court to another by the Office of Court Administration, and after two years' service in the lower courts, they may be designated by the Chief Administrator of the Courts upon consultation and agreement with the presiding justice of the appropriate Appellate Division as an Acting Supreme Court Justice with the same jurisdiction as a Supreme Court Justice.[1]


Criminal Court[edit]

The New York City Criminal Courts Building in Manhattan

The Criminal Court of the City of New York handles misdemeanors (generally, crimes punishable by fine or imprisonment of up to one year) and lesser offenses, and also conducts arraignments (initial court appearances following arrest) and preliminary hearings in felony cases (generally, more serious offenses punishable by imprisonment of more than one year).[2][3] New York City Criminal Court judges are appointed by the Mayor of New York City to 10-year terms from a list of candidates submitted by the Mayor's Advisory Committee on the Judiciary.[2][4][5]

Civil Court[edit]

The Civil Court of the City of New York decides lawsuits involving claims for damages up to $25,000 and includes a small claims part for cases involving amounts up to $5,000 as well as a housing part for landlord-tenant matters, and also handles other civil matters referred by the Supreme Court.[2][3] It handles about 25% of all the New York courts' total filings.[6] New York City Civil Court judges are elected from districts to 10-year terms, with vacancies filled by the mayor and service continuing until the last day of December after next election,[7] while Housing Part judges are appointed by the Chief Administrative Judge to five-year terms.[2][4][8][9]

Family Court[edit]

The Family Court building in Manhattan

The New York City Family Court hears matters involving children and families. Its jurisdiction includes custody and visitation, support, concurrent jurisdiction with Criminal Court for family offenses (domestic violence), persons in need of supervision, delinquency, child protective proceedings (abuse and neglect), foster care approval and review, termination of parental rights, adoption and guardianship. Judges of the Family Court are appointed by the Mayor to 10-year terms.

Family Court does not have jurisdiction over divorces, which must be litigated in the Supreme Court. Further, although Criminal Court domestic violence parts typically hear all cases involving crimes against intimate partners (whether opposite- or same-sex), New York law defines family offenses to include only those related by blood, actual marriage (common law marriage is not recognized in New York), or a child in common.

Justice Jane Bolin became the first black female judge in the United States when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia swore her in to the bench of the Family Court, then called the Domestic Relations Court, in 1939. Her 10-year appointment was renewed by the city's mayors three times until she reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Supreme Court of the State of New York[edit]

Like all other counties in the state of New York, every county in New York City has a sitting Supreme Court of the State of New York. In New York State, the Supreme Court is the state's trial court of original and unlimited jurisdiction. Normally, the Supreme Court only hears cases that are outside of another court's subject-matter jurisdiction.

In New York City, the Supreme Court handles criminal cases on indictment; elsewhere in New York, the County Court hears these cases. As in the rest of the state, the Supreme Court also handles larger civil cases.

Other courts[edit]

Each county in New York City has a Surrogate's Court, which oversees the probate of wills and administers estates.

The Midtown Community Court in Manhattan opened in 1993 as a project of the Center for Court Innovation. It hears "quality-of-life" criminal cases, with a view toward rehabilitation instead of punishment. For example, judges may order offenders to perform community service and refer them to such social services as drug treatment, mental health counseling, and job training.[citation needed]

The Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn opened in 2000 as the nation's first multi-jurisdictional community court. Built to alleviate the chronic lack of access to justice services in the isolated area of Red Hook, Brooklyn, the court combines family, civil, housing, and minor criminal court functions and takes a community development approach to justice through such programs as the Youth Court, where teenagers are trained and act as mediators to help their peers resolve disputes.

Other tribunals[edit]

Traffic violations in New York City are handled in the Traffic Violations Bureau, which operates under the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. The Bureau is an administrative law agency and not a judicial tribunal.

The New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) conducts Krimstock hearings.


The state court system is divided into thirteen judicial districts (JDs), with five JDs in New York City. The Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for the New York City Courts is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the trial-level courts located in New York City, and works with the Administrative Judges of the various courts in New York City in order to allocate and assign judicial and nonjudicial personnel resources to meet the needs and goals of those courts.[10] An Administrative Judge supervises each major court in New York City.[11] Administrative Judges are assisted by Supervising Judges who are responsible in the on-site management of the trial courts, including court caseloads, personnel, and budget administration, and each manage a particular type of court within a county or judicial district.[11]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

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