New York Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the State of New York is the trial-level court of general jurisdiction in the New York State Unified Court System. (Its Appellate Division is also the highest intermediate appellate court.) It is vested with unlimited civil and criminal jurisdiction, although outside New York City it acts primarily as a court of civil jurisdiction, with most criminal matters handled in County Court.[1]

The Court is radically different from its counterparts in nearly all other states in two important ways. First, 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. Second, 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."[2] There is a branch of the Supreme Court in each of New York's 62 counties.[1]


NYC - New York County Supreme Courthouse
New York County Courthouse at 60 Centre Street, viewed from across Foley Square

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.[3] Civil actions about lesser sums are heard by courts of limited jurisdiction, such as the New York City Civil Court, or the County Court, District Court, city courts, or justice courts (town and village courts) outside New York City.[3]

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. The Supreme Court also has exclusive jurisdiction of matrimonial actions, such as either contested or uncontested actions for a divorce or annulment. 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.[4]

In 1995, the New York Supreme Court established a trial level Commercial Division, beginning in New York County (Manhattan)[5] and Monroe County (the 7th Judicial District[6]).[7] The Commercial Division has expanded to the 8th District (located in Buffalo), and the Albany, Kings, Nassau, Onandaga, Queens, Suffolk and Westchester County Supreme Courts.[8] 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 Onandaga Counties to $500,000 in New York County, but the Commercial Division rules (Section 202.70) are otherwise uniform.[9]

With respect to criminal cases, the Criminal Branch of Supreme Court tries felony cases in the five counties of New York City, whereas they are primarily heard by the County Court elsewhere.[10] 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

2nd Dept NY Supreme Court Pierrepont Monroe jeh
Second Department

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. 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.[11]

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.[12][13]

Appellate terms

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in each judicial department is authorized to establish "appellate terms".[14] 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.[14] Appellate terms are located in the First and Second Judicial Departments only.[14] (The County Court "appellate sessions" hear appeals from the inferior courts in the Third and Fourth Judicial Departments.[15])

In New York City, the Appellate Term hears appeals from the New York City Civil Court and Criminal Court. In the Second Department outside New York City, it hears appeals from the Nassau and Suffolk County District Courts, city courts, and justice (town and village) courts.

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.[14] Decisions by the Appellate Term must be followed by courts whose appeals lie to it.[16][17]

Criminal terms

In New York City, all felony cases are heard in criminal terms.[1]

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.[18]

Civil terms

In New York City, all major civil cases are heard in civil terms.[1]


New York judicial districts
New York judicial districts

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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[20] The Administrator is also assisted by the District Executive and support staff.[21] The district administrative offices are responsible for personnel, purchasing, budgets, revenue, computer automation, court interpreters, court security, and case management.[21] Opinions of the New York trial courts are published selectively in the Miscellaneous Reports.[22][23]


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


Supreme Court justices are elected.[24] Justices are nominated by judicial district nominating conventions, with judicial delegates themselves elected from assembly districts.[25] 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.[26] 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.[27] In practice, most of the power of selecting justices belongs to local political party organizations, such as the Kings County Democratic County Committee (Brooklyn Democratic Party), which control the delegates.[28] 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.

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 which he or she reaches 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.


New york 008
The Queens County Criminal Courts Building houses justices and courtrooms of the New York Supreme Court

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


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 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.[29][30]


  1. ^ a b c d State of New York Judiciary Budget: FY 2014-15 (PDF). p. 18.
  2. ^ Schneider v. Aulisi, 307 N.Y. 376, 384, 121 N.E.2d 375 (1954).
  3. ^ a b The New York State Courts: An Introductory Guide (PDF). New York State Office of Court Administration. 2016. pp. 1–3. OCLC 39042187. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
  4. ^ Civil Practice Law and Rules article 78
  5. ^ "Commercial Division - NY Supreme Court - New York County Home". Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  6. ^ "Commercial Division - NY Supreme Court - 7th Judicial District". Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  7. ^ "Supreme Court - Commercial Division - History". Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  8. ^ "Commercial Division - NY Supreme Court - Home". Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  9. ^ "PART 202. Uniform Civil Rules For The Supreme Court And The County Court | NYCOURTS.GOV". Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  10. ^ Stonecash, Jeffrey M. (2001). Governing New York State (4th ed.). SUNY Press. p. 172. ISBN 0-7914-4888-6. LCCN 00-032955.
  11. ^ Mountain View Coach Lines v. Storms, 102 A.D.2d 663, 476 N.Y.S.2d 918 (2d Dept. 1984).
  12. ^ Birnbaum, Edward L.; Belen, Ariel E.; Grasso, Carl T. (2012). New York Trial Notebook (6th ed.). James Publishing. pp. 1–23. ISBN 1-58012-104-7.
  13. ^ 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).
  14. ^ a b c d Galie & Bopst 2012, p. 177.
  15. ^ 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 (PDF). New York State Bar Association. p. 6.
  16. ^ 28 NY Jur 2d, Courts and Judges § 220, at 274 [1997]
  17. ^ Yellow Book of NY L.P. v. Dimilia, 188 Misc.2d 489, 729 N.Y.S.2d 286 (2001)
  18. ^ "Supreme Court, Criminal Branch, New York County". New York State Office of Court Administration. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  19. ^ Judiciary Law § 140. "The state is hereby divided into thirteen judicial districts, [...]"
  20. ^ a b "Court Administration". New York State Office of Court Administration. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  21. ^ a b "9th Judicial District". New York State Office of Court Administration. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  22. ^ Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 153.
  23. ^ Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 151.
  24. ^ Local Government Handbook (PDF) (6th ed.). New York State Department of State. 2009. p. 21.
  25. ^ 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. 23–27.
  26. ^ NYC Bar 2014, pp. 16-18.
  27. ^ Williams, Milton L. (19 September 2012). "A better way to pick New York judges". New York Daily News.
  28. ^ Marks, Alexandra (12 August 2003). "In Brooklyn, fixing a 'corrupt' court system". Christian Science Monitor.
  29. ^ The Bronx Criminal Division: Merger After Five Years (PDF). New York State Unified Court System. October 2009. OCLC 491295164.
  30. ^ Report on the Merger of the Bronx Supreme and Criminal Courts (PDF). Association of the Bar of the City of New York. June 2009.

Further reading

External links

Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, First Judicial Department

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, First Judicial Department is headquartered in Manhattan.

Daniel Pratt (New York)

Daniel Pratt (1806 Washington County, New York – July 23, 1884 Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York) was an American lawyer and politician.

Edward Lazansky

Edward Lazansky (December 9, 1872 in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York – September 12, 1955 in Southampton, Suffolk County, New York) was an American lawyer and politician.

Edward R. O'Malley

Edward Richard O'Malley (March 13, 1863 – May 30, 1935) was an American lawyer and politician who was New York Attorney General and a justice of the New York Supreme Court.

Frank D. O'Connor

Frank D. O'Connor (December 20, 1909 – December 2, 1992) was an American lawyer and politician from New York.

Greene C. Bronson

Greene Carrier Bronson (November 17, 1789 in Simsbury, Hartford County, Connecticut – September 3, 1863 in Saratoga, New York) was an American lawyer and politician from New York.

John Fusco (politician)

John A. Fusco (born September 7, 1937) is an American lawyer, jurist, and politician from the New York City Borough of Staten Island.

Fusco represented parts of Central Staten Island and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in the New York City Council until his election to the New York Surrogate's Court for Richmond County, New York in November 1998. He served as Minority Whip in the Council till his departure.

He was appointed to the New York Supreme Court by then Governor Eliot Spitzer in 2008, and reached the mandatory retirement age in 2013.

John Savage (Congressman)

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Leslie W. Russell

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Matthew Linn Bruce

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Mitchell May

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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 the "Fourth Department" is "Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department").

Noah Davis

Noah Davis (September 10, 1818 Haverhill, Grafton County, New Hampshire – March 20, 1902 New York City) was an American lawyer and politician from New York.

Peter A. Quinn

Peter Anthony Quinn (May 10, 1904 – December 23, 1974) of New York City was a Democratic U.S. Representative from New York from 1945 to 1947. Quinn was a Justice of the New York Supreme Court from 1955 to 1974.

Robert F. Wagner

Robert Ferdinand Wagner I (June 8, 1877 – May 4, 1953) was a German American politician. He was a Democratic U.S. Senator from New York from 1927 to 1949.

Born in Prussia, Wagner migrated with his family to the United States in 1885. After graduating from New York Law School, Wagner won election to the New York State Legislature, eventually becoming the Democratic leader of the state senate. Working closely with fellow New York City Democrat Al Smith, Wagner and Smith embraced reform, especially to the benefit of their core constituency, the working class. They built a coalition for these reforms that embraced unions, social workers, some businessmen, and numerous middle-class activists and civic reform organizations across the state. Wagner left the senate in 1918, and served as a justice of the New York Supreme Court until his election to the Senate in 1926.

As Senator, Wagner was a leader of the New Deal Coalition putting special emphasis on supporting the labor movement. He was a close associate and strong supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He sponsored three major laws: the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, the Social Security Act of 1935, and the Housing Act of 1937. Wagner resigned from the Senate in 1949 due to ill health, and died in 1953. His son Robert F. Wagner Jr. was mayor of New York from 1954 through 1965.

Sidney A. Fine

Sidney Asher Fine (September 14, 1903 – April 23, 1982) was an American lawyer, politician and justice of the New York Supreme Court.

Walter A. Lynch

Walter Aloysius Lynch (July 7, 1894 in New York City – September 10, 1957 in Belle Harbor, Queens) was an American politician originally from New York.

Walter J. Mahoney

Walter J. Mahoney (March 10, 1908 in Buffalo, New York – March 1, 1982) was an American lawyer and politician.

William L. Marcy

William Learned Marcy (December 12, 1786 – July 4, 1857) was an American lawyer, politician, and judge who served as U.S. Senator, Governor of New York, U.S. Secretary of War and U.S. Secretary of State. In the latter office, he negotiated the Gadsden Purchase, the last major acquisition of land in the continental United States.

Born in Southbridge, Massachusetts, Marcy established a legal practice in Troy, New York after graduating from Brown University. He fought in the War of 1812, serving as a captain of volunteers. Politically, he aligned with the Bucktail faction of the Democratic-Republican Party and became a leading member of the Albany Regency. As the Democratic-Republicans fractured in the 1820s, he became a member of the Democratic Party. Between 1821 and 1831, he successively served as Adjutant General of New York, New York State Comptroller, and as an associate justice of the New York Supreme Court. In 1831, the New York legislature elected Marcy to the U.S. Senate, and he held that position until 1833, when he became the Governor of New York. He served three terms as governor until his defeat in 1838 by the Whig nominee, William Seward.

He served as Secretary of War under James K. Polk from 1845 to 1849, overseeing the Mexican–American War. After leaving the Polk administration, he resumed the practice of law and became a leader of the "Soft" Hunker faction of the New York Democratic Party. He returned to the Cabinet in 1853, serving as Secretary of State under Franklin Pierce. In this role, he resolved a dispute about the status of U.S. immigrants abroad and directed U.S. diplomats to dress in the plain style of an ordinary American rather than the court-dress many had adopted from Europe. He also negotiated a reciprocity treaty with British North America and the Gadsden purchase with Mexico, acquiring territory in present-day Arizona and New Mexico. He left office in 1857 and died shortly thereafter.

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