New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
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The Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division is the intermediate appellate court in New York State. The Appellate Division is composed of four departments (e.g., the full title of the "Fourth Department" is "Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Department").
The Appellate Division hears appeals from the New York Supreme Court, which is the state's general trial court. The Appellate Division also hears appeals from other specialized trial courts, such as the Surrogate's Court, Family Court, County Court, and Court of Claims. In addition, in civil cases the Appellate Division may hear from appeals from the County Court and the Appellate Term of the Supreme Court, when these courts have heard appeals from one of the lower trial courts.
New York's rules of civil procedure allow for interlocutory appeals of right from nearly every order and decision of the trial court, meaning that most may be appealed to the appropriate appellate department while the case is still pending in the trial court.
The Appellate Division may make decisions of law and fact with respect to its power to hear first appeals from state trial courts, including the Supreme Court and County Courts. These trial level courts exercise specific jurisdiction as conferred by law. In contrast, both the New York Court of Appeals and the Appellate Division when it sits as a final appeals court with respect to appeals arising from decisions of the Appellate Terms in the First and Second Departments, generally may only decide questions of law. Appellate Divisions may adjudicate facts subject to specific constraints in the course of initial review of agency decisions under New York's CPLR Article 78, which provides for limited court review or agency and corporate decisions.
When a particular department rules on a given issue, that ruling is generally binding on all the courts below and generally in every department. The First and Second Departments have issued case law indicating that trial courts within their respective jurisdictions should follow the decisions of the other departments if the First or Second Department, respectively, have not ruled on a particular issue. If two different departments have made different rulings on the same issue, then the lower courts in each departmental area must follow the ruling made by the higher court for their particular department. This can sometimes result in the same law being applied differently in different departments. When this occurs, the highest court in the state, the Court of Appeals, can remedy the situation by hearing the case and issuing a single ruling, which is then binding on every court in the state.
- The First Department (seated in Manhattan) covers The Bronx (Bronx County) and Manhattan (New York County).
- The Second Department (seated in Brooklyn) covers Queens (Queens County), Brooklyn (Kings County), Staten Island (Richmond County), Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk counties) and Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties.
- The Third Department (seated in Albany) includes an area extending from the territory of the Second Department north to New York's borders with Vermont and Quebec, and includes the cities of Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga Springs, and Binghamton. This territory extends nearly as far west as Syracuse.
- The Fourth Department (seated in Rochester) covers the remainder of the state (west of the Third Department's territory), and includes the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse.
Appeals from the Appellate Division
Decisions by the Appellate Division may be appealed to the state's highest court, the New York Court of Appeals. In some cases, an appeal lies of right, but in most cases, permission (or "leave") to appeal must be obtained, either from the Appellate Division itself or from the Court of Appeals. In civil cases, the Appellate Division panel or Court of Appeals votes on petitions for leave to appeal; in most criminal cases, however, the petition for leave to appeal is referred to a single Justice or Judge, whose decision whether to grant or deny leave is final.
Appointment of Justices
Justices of the Appellate Division are chosen by the Governor from among those elected to the State Supreme Court. A justice does not have to have been elected from one of the judicial districts within a department to be appointed to the Appellate Division for that Department, although the Presiding Justice and a majority of the total number of justices are to reside within the department. They serve at least five years, or until the completion of their 14-year elected terms, or reaching the constitutional age limit of 70, beyond which the governor may choose to reappoint them for up to three two-year terms.
The State Constitution provides that the First and Second Department are each to comprise seven justices, and the Third and Fourth departments five justices. In addition to these "constitutional" justices, the presiding justice of each department may ask the Governor to designate "additional justices" where needed based on the court's workload. At present, for example, the First Department comprises 20 justices in total when there are no vacancies. The qualifications for additional Justices are the same as for other justices.
Each case is decided by a panel of five, or in some instances four, justices of the Court. There is no procedure for the Court to sit en banc.
Some basic rules governing appeals are contained in Articles 55 and 57 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules. Each Department of the Appellate Division also has its own individual set of rules governing more specific details of practice before that court. Unlike other states that have statewide rules of appellate procedure, there is no set of appellate rules shared by all four departments beyond those contained in the CPLR.
To keep caseloads under control, most Appellate Division opinions are extremely concise. Often, an Appellate Division panel will dispose of an entire case in only two paragraphs, with the second paragraph stating: "We have considered plaintiff's (or defendant's) remaining contentions and find them unavailing." In contrast, courts in most other states traditionally devote a few more paragraphs to disposing of the other "remaining contentions."
Admission of Attorneys
The Appellate Division has several other unique features. Attorneys are admitted to the New York bar by one of the Appellate Divisions rather than by New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, though once admitted to any of the Appellate Divisions, such attorney is admitted to practice and appear before all non-federal courts in the state, including the Court of Appeals. (This is unlike practically all other states, in which attorney admissions are officially conducted by the state's highest court upon the recommendation of the state bar association or a special admissions office or committee.) Applicants must be interviewed in person by a member of the court's "Character and Fitness Committee" after passing the bar exam and before being admitted. Applicants are admitted in the department in which they reside; applicants residing outside New York are admitted through the Third Department in Albany.
- NY Courts website Appellate Divisions page. Accessed June 24, 2009.
- The new judicial system in NYT on January 2, 1896
- See N.Y. CPLR 5701(a)(2).
- "An Overview of the Appellate Division" on the New York State Courts website
- See Mountain View Coach Lines v. Storms, 102 A.D.2d 663, 476 N.Y.S.2d 918 (2d Dept. 1984)
- NY Courts website 1st Department page. Accessed June 24, 2009.
- NY Courts website 2d Department page. Accessed June 24, 2009.
- NY Courts website 3d Department page. Accessed June 24, 2009.
- NY Courts website 4th Department page. Accessed June 24, 2009.
Galie, Peter J. and Bopst, Christopher, The New York State Constitution (2nd ed. 2012)
Lincoln, Charles Z., The Constitutional History of New York from the Beginning of the Colonial Period to the Year 1905 (1906)
State of New York, Department of State, New York Constitution 
The Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York