New York City Civil Court

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Civil Court of the City of New York
Court overview
FormedSeptember 1, 1962 (1962-09-01)
JurisdictionNew York City
Court executive
  • Administrative Judge
  • Chief Clerk
Parent departmentNew York State Unified Court System
Key document

The Civil Court of the City of New York is a civil court of the New York State Unified Court System in New York City that decides lawsuits involving claims for damages up to $25,000 and includes a small claims part (small claims court) for cases involving amounts up to $5,000 as well as a housing part (housing court) for landlord-tenant matters, and also handles other civil matters referred by the New York Supreme Court.[1][2] It handles about 25% of all the New York state and local courts' total filings.[3] The court has divisions by county (borough), but it is a single citywide court.[4][5][6]


The Civil Court has monetary jurisdiction up to $25,000, including replevin when the value of the chattel does not exceed that amount, real property actions such as partitions, and foreclosures within the monetary limit, and also has equity jurisdiction limited to real property actions, ejectment actions, and actions to rescind or reform a contract not involving more than the $25,000 jurisdictional limit.[7]


The court's divisions are by each county (borough).[6] In each division there are a number of court parts established by the Chief Administrative Judge:[8]

  • Housing part (housing court), for actions and proceedings involving the enforcement of state and local laws for the establishment and maintenance of housing standards, including but not limited to the Multiple Dwelling Law and the housing maintenance code, building code and health code of the New York City Administrative Code.[9]
  • Small claims parts (small claims court), for the hearing and disposition of all small claims proceedings.
  • Calendar part, for the maintaining and calling of a calendar of cases, and for the hearing and disposition of all motions and applications, including orders to show cause and applications for adjournments, in civil actions that have been placed on a reserve or ready calendar but not yet assigned to a trial part.
  • Trial part, for the trial of civil actions and for the hearing and determination of all motions and applications, including orders to show cause, made after an action is assigned to a trial part.
  • Motion part, for the hearing and determination of motions and applications that are not otherwise required to be made in a calendar part, trial part or conference part.
  • Conference part, for the precalendar or pretrial conference of actions.
  • Multipurpose part, for the performance of the functions of a calendar part, a trial part, a motion part, a conference part, as well as other special parts of court.



There are approximately 120 Civil Court judges and 50 Housing Court judges in the New York City Civil Court. Civil Court judges may be assigned by the Chief Administrative Judge of New York to the Criminal Court, Family Court, or Supreme Court.[10] At any given time, about 50 Civil Court judges are assigned to the Civil Court, with the rest assigned to the Criminal, Family or Supreme Courts. All 50 Housing Court judges serve in the Civil Court and cannot be assigned to other courts.

Civil Court judges are elected countywide or from districts to 10-year terms, with vacancies filled by the mayor and with their service continuing until the last day of December after next election.[5][11] The Legislature has consistently opted to fill judgeships using the preexisting mixed pattern of countywide and Municipal Court districts—

  1. seats formerly held by City Court justices, elected on a countywide basis;
  2. seats formerly held by Municipal Court justices, elected from districts located within counties; and
  3. seats created by successive acts of the Legislature, elected on a countywide basis.[12]

A candidate needs to file petitions to be considered a candidate for a political party's nomination in the general election; petitions containing 4,000 signatures are needed for a county-wide seat, and petitions containing 1,500 signatures are necessary for a district seat.[13] Party leaders frequently designate candidates for the Civil Court judgeships, who then face an open primary against others who qualify for the ballot.[citation needed] The party machine usually manages to elect most of its judicial candidates.[citation needed]

Housing judges[edit]

In housing court, referees known as "housing judges" preside over most proceedings.[14] Housing Court judges handle the housing parts of the New York City Civil Court, but are not judges provided for under Article VI of the New York Constitution. Housing judges are appointed by the Chief Administrative Judge to five-year terms from a list of qualified applicants screened and selected by the Housing Court Advisory Council.[1][9][13][15]


With the consent of the parties, a volunteer arbitrator hears and decides disputes in small claims parts.[16] Over 2800 arbitrators preside over 95% of the cases heard in small claims parts.[16][14] They are appointed by the administrative judge of the court.[17]

Tenant blacklist[edit]

Landlords in New York City may use a blacklist of persons who have appeared in housing court as a plaintiff or defendant.[18] Known among housing advocates and lawyers as the tenant blacklist, it is compiled by tenant-screening database companies from housing court records.


In 1759, so-called justices' courts held by the mayor, recorder or an alderman could try cases in controversy of not more than £5.[19] In 1781, they were replaced by assistant justices' courts held by associate justices appointed by the governor.[19] In 1787, these were replaced by assistant justices with the power of justices of the peace in other counties.[19] In 1797, these were replaced with justices of the peace for the city and county of New York and were constituted as one court.[19]

In 1807-1808 these were replaced by justices' courts and assistants justices' courts.[19][20] In 1819, the justices' courts were renamed as the marine court of the city of New York,[21] and in 1883 was renamed as the City Court of the City of New York.[19][22] In 1848–1849 the assistants justices' courts were replaced with newly created justices' courts elected within six districts,[23][24] and in 1852 these justices' courts were renamed as district courts,[25] by 1857 divided into seven districts and by 1882 into ten districts,[26][27] and by the city charter of 1897 the district courts of New York City and justices' courts of Brooklyn and Long Island City were consolidated into the Municipal Court of the City of New York.[19][28]

On September 1, 1962, the City Court and the Municipal Court were merged to form the current Civil Court.[29][3]

The housing part and its housing judges were created on April 1, 1973.[30][31] In Glass v Thompson the Appellate Division held the appointment of "hearing officers" to preside over non-jury trials in the housing part was constitutional, suggesting that although they were able to preside over housing matters and exercise judicial functions, their office was distinct from that of a judge of the Civil Court because they are essentially referees: nonjudicial officers of the court appointed to assist it in the performance of its judicial functions.[31] In 1978 they were renamed as "housing judges" with the intent to improve their stature, though they "are still nonjudicial officers of the court".[32][31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The New York State Courts: An Introductory Guide (PDF). New York State Office of Court Administration. 2000. p. 4. OCLC 68710274. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2014-08-17.
  2. ^ The New York State Courts: An Introductory Guide (PDF). New York State Office of Court Administration. 2010. p. 2. OCLC 668081412. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2014-08-17.
  3. ^ a b "Civil Court History". New York State Office of Court Administration. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  4. ^ Civil Court Act § 102
  5. ^ a b Barr, Michael H. New York Civil Practice Before Trial. §6:180: James Publishing. ISBN 1-58012-062-8.CS1 maint: location (link)
  6. ^ a b 22 NYCRR § 208.2
  7. ^ "In General". New York State Office of Court Administration. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  8. ^ 22 NYCRR § 208.3
  9. ^ a b Civil Court Act § 110
  10. ^ New York City Bar Association Council on Judicial Administration (March 2014). Judicial Selection Methods in the State of New York: A Guide to Understanding and Getting Involved in the Selection Process (PDF). New York City Bar Association. pp. 9–13.
  11. ^ Civil Court Act § 102-a
  12. ^ Catapano v Goldstein, 64 A.D.2d 88 (1978)
  13. ^ a b New York City Bar Association Special Committee to Encourage Judicial Service (2012). How To Become a Judge (PDF). New York City Bar Association. pp. 6–8.
  14. ^ a b Feldman, Daniel L.; Bloustein, Marc C. (2016). "New York State's Allegedly Unified Court System". New York's Broken Constitution: The Governance Crisis and the Path to Renewed Greatness. SUNY Press. pp. 81–98. ISBN 9781438463322 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ "Judges". New York State Office of Court Administration. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  16. ^ a b "Small Claims Court Arbitrator Volunteers". New York State Office of Court Administration. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  17. ^ 22 NYCRR 208.41(n)(1)
  18. ^ Kim Barker and Jessica Silver-Greenberg (August 16, 2016). "On Tenant Blacklist, Errors and Renters With Little Recourse". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Langbein, George F.; Langbein, J.C. Julius (1872). The District Courts in the City of New York: Their Organization, Jurisdiction and Practice. Diossy & Company. pp. 4-.
  20. ^ Chapter 139 of the Laws of 1807, pages 154–184, enacted 6 April 1807.
  21. ^ Chapter 71 of the Laws of 1819, page 74, enacted 26 March 1819.
  22. ^ Chapter 26 of the Laws of 1883, page 20, enacted 9 February 1883.
  23. ^ Chapter 153 of the Laws of 1848, page 249–252, enacted 30 March 1848.
  24. ^ Chapter 438 of the Laws of 1849, page 613–705, enacted 11 April 1849, § 66 at page 629.
  25. ^ Chapter 324 of the Laws of 1852, page 471, enacted 16 April 1852.
  26. ^ Chapter 344 of the Laws of 1857.
  27. ^ Chapter 410 of the Laws of 1882.
  28. ^ Chapter 378 of the Laws of 1897, volume 3, pages 1–559, enacted 4 May 1897, §§ 1350 et seq. at pages 481 et seq.
  29. ^ Chapter 693 of the Laws of 1962, volume 3, pages 3203–3252, enacted 24 April 1962.
  30. ^ Chapter 982 of the Laws of 1972, volume 2, pages 3852–3866, enacted 8 June 1972.
  31. ^ a b c Met Council v. Crosson, 642 N.E.2d 1073 (NY 1994)
  32. ^ Chapter 310 of the Laws of 1978, volume 1, enacted 19 June 1978.

External links[edit]