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 primarily hears appeals from the superior courts (Supreme Court, surrogate's courts, family courts, county courts, and Court of Claims) in civil cases, the Supreme Court in criminal cases, and the county courts in felony criminal cases in the Third and Fourth Judicial Departments. In addition, in civil cases it may hear appeals from the appellate terms 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. The Appellate Division 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.
Decisions of department panels are binding on the lower courts in that department, and are persuasive authority for the Court of Appeals, other Appellate Division departments and lower courts in other departments. In the absence of a relevant Appellate Division decision from a trial court's own department, the trial court is bound by the applicable decisions of other departments. 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.
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in each judicial department is authorized to establish "appellate terms". An appellate term is an intermediate appellate court that hears appeals from the inferior courts within their designated counties or judicial districts, and are intended to ease the workload on the Appellate Division and provide a less expensive forum closer to the people. Appellate terms are located in the First and Second Judicial Departments only. Appellate terms consist of between three and five justices of the Supreme Court, appointed by the Chief Administrative Judge with the approval of presiding justice of the appropriate appellate division, with two justices constituting a quorum and being necessary for a decision.
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 and discipline of attorneys
Attorneys are admitted to the New York bar by one of the Appellate Division departments rather than by New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, though once admitted to any of the Appellate Division departments, such attorney is admitted to practice and appear before all non-federal courts in the state, including the Court of Appeals. Applicants must be interviewed in person by a member of the court's "Character and Fitness Committee" after passing the New York State Bar Exam (the Multistate Bar Examination, and essay questions or the Multistate Performance Test) and Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination administered by the New York State Board of Law Examiners. Applicants are admitted in the department in which they reside; applicants residing outside New York are admitted through the Third Department in Albany.
Attorneys are regulated by various state laws, the Rules of Professional Conduct (based on the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct), and rules adopted by each department of the Appellate Division. Each department of the Appellate Division has a committee that investigates complaints of attorney misconduct and may issue reprimands or recommend censure, suspension, or disbarment to the Appellate Division.
- NY Courts website Appellate Divisions page. Accessed June 24, 2009.
- The new judicial system in NYT on January 2, 1896
- Practice of Law 2012, pp. 9-10.
- See N.Y. CPLR 5701(a)(2).
- "An Overview of the Appellate Division" on the New York State Courts website
- Birnbaum, Edward L.; Belen, Ariel E.; Grasso, Carl T. (2012). New York Trial Notebook (6th ed.). James Publishing. p. 1-23. ISBN 1-58012-104-7.
- Duffy v. Horton Memorial Hospital, 66 N.Y.2d 473, 497 N.Y.S.2d 890 (1985); Mountain View Coach Lines v. Storms, 102 A.D.2d 663, 476 N.Y.S.2d 918 (2d Dept. 1984).
- 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 & Bopst 2012, p. 177.
- Practice of Law 2012, pp. 18-19.
- Gibson & Manz 2004, pp. 136–138.
- "New Attorney Rules of Professional Conduct Announced" (Press release). New York Office of Court Administration. 17 December 2008.
- Gibson, Ellen M.; Manz, William H. (2004). Gibson's New York Legal Research Guide (3rd ed.). Wm. S. Hein Publishing. p. 138. ISBN 1-57588-728-2. LCCN 2004042477. OCLC 54455036.
- Galie, Peter J.; Bopst, Christopher (2012). The New York State Constitution (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-986056-2. LCCN 2011051555.
- NYSBA Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar; NYSBA Membership Committee (September 2012). The Practice of Law in New York State: An Introduction For Newly-Admitted Attorneys. New York State Bar Association.
- Lincoln, Charles Z. (1906). The Constitutional History of New York. Lawyers Co-operative Publishing. OCLC 1337955.
- "New York State Constitution". New York State Department of State.
- "The Historical Society of the Courts of the State of New York".
- Appellate Divisions of the Supreme Court
- Lower appellate courts
- New York Slip Opinion Service from the New York State Law Reporting Bureau
- New York Official Reports Service from West