The Court System
Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State, hears cases on appeal from the other appellate courts and, in some instances, from the courts of original jurisdiction. In most cases, its review is limited to questions of law.
There are four Appellate Divisions of the Supreme Court, one in each of the state's four judicial departments. The Appellate Divisions hear appeals concerning civil and criminal cases.
Although the County Court is primarily a trial court, in the Third and Fourth Departments it also has appellate jurisdiction over cases originating in City, Town, and Village Courts. Appeals from the County Courts are generally heard in the Appellate Division.
Statewide Trial Courts
The Supreme Court is the trial court of unlimited original jurisdiction, but it generally hears only cases that are outside the jurisdiction of other trial courts of more limited jurisdiction. It exercises its civil jurisdiction statewide. In New York City and some other parts of the state, it also exercises jurisdiction over felony charges.
Court of Claims
The Court of Claims is a statewide court having jurisdiction over claims for monetary damages against the State.
The Family Court is established in each county and in the City of New York. It has jurisdiction over matters involving children and families. Its caseload consists largely of proceedings involving support of dependent relatives, juvenile delinquency, child protection, persons in need of supervision, review, and approval of foster care placements, paternity determinations, and family offenses.
The Surrogate's Court is established in every county and hears cases involving the affairs of decedents, including the probate of wills and the administration of estates. Family Court and Surrogate's Court both have jurisdiction in adoption proceedings.
Courts Outside New York City
The County Court is established in each county outside New York City. It is authorized to handle the prosecution of all crimes committed within the county, although in practice arraignments and other preliminary proceedings on felonies and trials of misdemeanors and minor offenses are handled by courts of limited jurisdiction. The County Court also has limited jurisdiction in civil cases involving amounts up to $25,000. In some counties outside New York City, the County Court judge also functions as the Family Court judge or Surrogate or both. In these instances, the judge is referred to as a multi-hat judge.
City Courts Outside New York City
City Courts exist in 61 cities and have criminal jurisdiction over misdemeanors and lesser offenses and civil jurisdiction over claims of up to $15,000. Some City Courts have separate parts to handle small claims or housing matters. City Court judges act as arraigning magistrates and conduct preliminary hearings in felony cases.
Town & Village Courts
Town and Village Courts have criminal jurisdiction over violations and misdemeanors and civil jurisdiction over claims of up to $3,000. As magistrates, Town and Village Court justices hold arraignments and preliminary hearings for those charged with more serious crimes. Traffic infractions are also heard in these courts.
Additional court system information can be found online at the New York State Unified Court System website.