New York Supreme Court



The Supreme Court of the State of New York is the trial-level court of
general jurisdiction {{Globalize, article, USA, 2name=the United States, date=December 2010 A court of general jurisdiction is a court with authority to hear cases of all kinds – criminal law, criminal, civil law (common law), civil, family law, family, probate, an ...
in the
New York State New York, officially the State of New York, is a U.S. state, state in the Northeastern United States. It is often called New York State to distinguish it from its largest city, New York City. With a total area of , New York is the List of U.S. ...
Unified Court System. (Its Appellate Division is also the highest intermediate appellate court.) It is vested with unlimited civil and criminal jurisdiction, although in many counties outside New York City it acts primarily as a court of civil jurisdiction, with most criminal matters handled in
County Court A county court is a court based in or with a jurisdiction covering one or more county, counties, which are administrative divisions (subnational entities) within a country, not to be confused with the medieval system of ''county courts'' held by t ...
. The court is radically different from its counterparts in nearly all other states in that the Supreme Court is a trial court and is not the highest court in the state. The highest court of the State of New York is the
Court of Appeals A court of appeals, also called a court of appeal, appellate court, appeal court, court of second instance or second instance court, is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court or other lower tribunal. In much of t ...
. Also, although it is a trial court, the Supreme Court sits as a "single great tribunal of general state-wide jurisdiction, rather than an aggregation of separate courts sitting in the several counties or judicial districts of the state." The Supreme Court is established in each of New York's 62 counties.


Under the New York State Constitution, the New York State Supreme Court has unlimited jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases, with the exception of certain monetary claims against the State of New York itself. In practice, the Supreme Court hears civil actions involving claims above a certain monetary amount (for example, $25,000 in New York City) that puts the claim beyond the jurisdiction of lower courts. Civil actions about lesser sums are heard by courts of limited jurisdiction, such as the New York City Civil Court, or the
County Court A county court is a court based in or with a jurisdiction covering one or more county, counties, which are administrative divisions (subnational entities) within a country, not to be confused with the medieval system of ''county courts'' held by t ...
, District Court, city courts, or justice courts (town and village courts) outside New York City. The Supreme Court also hears civil cases involving claims for equitable relief, such as injunctions, specific performance, or rescission of a contract, as well as actions for a
declaratory judgment A declaratory judgment, also called a declaration, is the Legal judgment, legal determination of a court that resolves legal uncertainty for the litigants. It is a form of legally binding preventive by which a party involved in an actual or pos ...
. The Supreme Court also has
exclusive jurisdiction Exclusive jurisdiction exists in civil procedure if one court has the power to adjudicate a Legal case, case to the exclusion of all other courts. The opposite situation is concurrent jurisdiction (or non-exclusive jurisdiction) in which more th ...
of matrimonial actions, such as either contested or uncontested actions for a
divorce Divorce (also known as dissolution of marriage) is the process of terminating a marriage or marital union. Divorce usually entails the canceling or reorganizing of the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage, thus dissolving the ...
annulment Annulment is a legal procedure Procedural law, adjective law, in some jurisdictions referred to as remedial law, or rules of court, comprises the rules by which a court hears and determines what happens in civil procedure, civil, lawsuit, crimi ...
. The court also has exclusive jurisdiction over "Article 78 proceedings" against a body or officer seeking to overturn an official determination on the grounds that it was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable or contrary to law. At English Common Law, the lord chancellor, not as a part of his equitable jurisdiction, but as the king's delegate to exercise the Crown’s special jurisdiction, had responsibility for the custody and protection of infants and the mentally incapacitated. Upon the organization of the Supreme Court in New York the Legislature transferred so much of the law as formed a part of the king's prerogative to it. The Appellate Divisions of the Supreme Court are responsible for oversight of the related programs. In 1995, the New York Supreme Court established a trial level Commercial Division, beginning in New York County (Manhattan) and Monroe County (the 7th Judicial District). The Commercial Division has expanded to the 8th District (located in Buffalo), and the Albany, Kings, Nassau, Onondaga, Queens, Suffolk and Westchester County Supreme Courts. These are specialized Business Courts, with a defined jurisdiction focusing on business and commercial litigation. The jurisdictional amount in controversy required to have a case heard in the Commercial Division varies among these Commercial Division courts, ranging from $50,000 in Albany and Onondaga Counties to $500,000 in New York County, but the Commercial Division rules (Section 202.70) are otherwise uniform. With respect to criminal cases, the Criminal Branch of Supreme Court tries
felony A felony is traditionally considered a crime of high seriousness, whereas a misdemeanor is regarded as less serious. The term "felony" originated from English common law (from the French medieval word "félonie") to describe an offense that resul ...
cases in the five counties of New York City, whereas they are primarily heard by the
County Court A county court is a court based in or with a jurisdiction covering one or more county, counties, which are administrative divisions (subnational entities) within a country, not to be confused with the medieval system of ''county courts'' held by t ...
elsewhere. Misdemeanor cases, and arraignments in almost all cases, are handled by lower courts: the New York City Criminal Court; the District Court in Nassau County and the five western towns of Suffolk County; city courts; and justice courts, and so on.


Appellate Division

Appeals from Supreme Court decisions, as well as from the Surrogate's Court, Family Court, and Court of Claims, are heard by the
New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division The Appellate Divisions of the Supreme Court of the State of New York are the intermediate appellate courts in New York State. There are four Appellate Divisions, one in each of the state's four Judicial Departments (e.g., the full title of th ...
. This court is intermediate between the New York Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals. There is one Appellate Division, which for administrative purposes comprises four judicial departments. Decisions of the Appellate Division department panels are binding on the lower courts in that department, and also on lower courts in other departments unless there is contrary authority from the Appellate Division of that department.

Appellate terms

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 1st and 2nd Judicial Departments only, representing
Downstate New York Downstate New York is a region that generally consists of the southeastern and more densely populated portion of the U.S. state of New York (state), New York, in contrast to Upstate New York, which comprises a larger geographic area with much spar ...
. These hear appeals from the New York City Civil Court, New York City Criminal Court, City Courts in the 1st and 2nd Departments, and District Court. (City Courts in other departments appeal to the County Courts instead.) The 1st Department has a single Appellate Term covering
Manhattan Manhattan (), known regionally as the City, is the most densely populated and geographically smallest of the five Boroughs of New York City, boroughs of New York City. The borough is also coextensive with New York County, one of the List of co ...
The Bronx The Bronx () is a Boroughs of New York City, borough of New York City, coextensive with Bronx County, in the U.S. state, state of New York (state), New York. It is south of Westchester County, New York, Westchester County; north and east of the ...
. The 2nd Department has two Appellate Terms. The Appellate Term for the 2nd, 11th and 13th Judicial Districts covers
Brooklyn Brooklyn () is a Boroughs of New York City, borough of New York City, coextensive with Kings County, in the U.S. state of New York (state), New York. Kings County is the most populous Administrative divisions of New York (state)#County, county i ...
Queens Queens is a Boroughs of New York City, borough of New York City, coextensive with Queens County, in the U.S. state of New York (state), New York. Located on Long Island, it is the largest New York City borough by area. It is bordered by the boro ...
, and
Staten Island Staten Island ( ) is a Boroughs of New York City, borough of New York City, coextensive with Richmond County, in the U.S. state of New York (state), New York. Located in the city's southwest portion, the borough is separated from New Jersey b ...
, and generally sits at 141 Livingston Street in Brooklyn. The Appellate Term for the 9th and 10th Judicial Districts covers Nassau,
Suffolk Suffolk () is a ceremonial Counties of England, county of England in East Anglia. It borders Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south; the North Sea lies to the east. The county town is Ipswich; other important t ...
, Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Dutchess, and Putnam Counties; it generally rotates between the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains, the Nassau County Supreme Court Building in Mineola, and the Cohalan Court Complex in Central Islip. They occasionally sit at other locations within their jurisdiction. 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. The court sits in three-judge panels, with two justices constituting a quorum and being necessary for a decision. Decisions by the Appellate Term must be followed by courts whose appeals lie to it.

Criminal terms

In New York City, all felony cases are heard in criminal terms. The Criminal Term of the Supreme Court, New York County is divided into 1 all purpose part, 15 conference and trial parts, 1 youth part, 1 narcotics/sci part, 1 felony waiver/sci part, 1 integrated domestic violence part, and 16 trial parts, which include 3 Judicial Diversion Parts and 1 Mental Health Part.

Civil terms

In New York City, all major civil cases are heard in civil terms.


The court system is divided into thirteen judicial districts: seven upstate districts each comprising between five and eleven counties, five districts corresponding to the boroughs of New York City, and one district on Long Island. In each judicial district outside New York City, an Administrator (or Administrative Judge if a judge) is responsible for supervising all courts and agencies, while inside New York City an Administrator (or Administrative Judge) supervises each major court. Administrators 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. The Administrator is also assisted by the District Executive and support staff. The district administrative offices are responsible for personnel, purchasing, budgets, revenue, computer automation, court interpreters, court security, and case management. Opinions of the New York trial courts are published selectively in the '' Miscellaneous Reports''.


A judge of the New York Supreme Court is titled "justice".


Supreme Court justices are elected. Justices are nominated by judicial district nominating conventions, with judicial delegates themselves elected from assembly districts. Some (political party) county committees play a significant role in their judicial district conventions, for example restricting nomination to those candidates that receive approval from a party screening committee. Sometimes, the parties cross-endorse each other's candidates, while at other times they do not and incumbent judges must actively campaign for re-election. Judicial conventions have been criticized as opaque, brief and dominated by county party leaders. In practice, most of the power of selecting justices belongs to local
political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific political ideology ...
organizations, such as the Kings County Democratic County Committee (Brooklyn Democratic Party), which control the delegates. The process was challenged in litigation which ultimately resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in '' N.Y. State Bd. of Elections v. Lopez Torres'', which upheld the constitutionality of New York's judicial election system. New York Supreme Court justices are elected to 14-year terms. A Supreme Court Justice's term ends, even if the 14-year term has not yet expired, at the end of the calendar year in reaching the age of 70. However, an elected Supreme Court Justice may obtain certification to continue in office, without having to be re-elected, for three two-year periods, until final retirement at the end of the year in which the Justice turns 76. These additional six years of service are available only for elected Supreme Court Justices, not for "Acting" Justices whose election or appointments were to lower courts.


In many counties, the number of New York Supreme Court justices is fewer than the number of needed justices. For that reason, judges of the New York City Civil Court, New York City Criminal Court, New York Family Court, and New York Court of Claims are designated as Acting Supreme Court Justices.

Notable justices

* George G. Barnard * Richard J. Bartlett * Benjamin N. Cardozo * John Carro * Richard J. Daronco * Noah Davis * Gerald Garson * James Kent * Barry Kramer * Irving Lehman * Samuel Leibowitz * Edmund H. Lewis * Henry Brockholst Livingston * Joseph Lorigo * Jeremiah T. Mahoney * Daniel D. Tompkins * Sol Wachtler * Robert F. Wagner * Raymond Walter


The New York Supreme Court is the oldest Supreme Court with general original jurisdiction. It was established as the Supreme Court of Judicature by the
Province of New York The Province of New York (1664–1776) was a British proprietary colony and later royal colony on the northeast coast of North America. As one of the Middle Colonies, New York (state), New York achieved independence and worked with the others ...
on May 6, 1691. That court was continued by the State of New York after independence was declared in 1776. It became the New York Supreme Court under the New York Constitutional Convention of 1846. In November 2004, the court system merged the operations of two separate criminal courts—the Bronx County Criminal Court and the Criminal Term of Bronx County Supreme Court—into a single trial court of criminal jurisdiction known as the Bronx Criminal Division.


Further reading

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External links

Supreme Court in New York City

Supreme Court outside New York City

Supreme Court
in the
New York Codes, Rules and Regulations The ''New York Codes, Rules and Regulations'' (NYCRR) contains New York (state), New York state rules and regulations. The NYCRR is officially compiled by the New York State Department of State's Division of Administrative Rules. Contents See ...

New York Slip Opinion Service
from the New York State Law Reporting Bureau
New York Official Reports Service
West West or Occident is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass. It is the opposite direction from east and is the direction in which the Sunset, Sun sets on the Earth. Etymology The word "west" is a Germanic languages, German ...
New York (state) state courts New York (state) law 1691 establishments in the Province of New York Courts and tribunals established in 1691