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Finding Court Records in New York

New York Courts Overview

It helps to understand how the New York state court system works when you’re trying to find court records. The New York trial court system consists of Supreme Courts, Family Courts, Surrogate's Courts, County Courts, Civil Courts of the City of New York, Criminal Courts of the City of New York, District Courts, City Courts, Town Courts and Village Courts, and Court of Claims.

Supreme Courts, Family Courts and Surrogate's Courts are located in every county and generally handle the same types of cases throughout the state. Supreme Courts exercise greater jurisdiction over criminal cases in New York City, but County Courts handle most criminal cases outside of New York City. County Courts serve all counties except for New York City counties that instead have Civil Courts of the City of New York and Criminal Courts of the City of New York.

Civil Courts and Criminal Courts of the City of New York, District Courts and City Courts exercise jurisdiction over similar types of cases. District Courts are located on Long Island and City Courts are located outside of New York City. Town and Village Courts have similar jurisdiction over cases but less territorial jurisdiction as compared to other types of courts. The Court of Claims is a specialized court that handles civil claims against the State of New York from one central location.

If you prefer, you can start your search by going to New York Courts by County.

New York Supreme Courts

Supreme Courts are considered to have superior jurisdiction to other state courts. Supreme Courts have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, but typically only handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts.

Criminal cases heard by Supreme Courts will depend on whether or not the court is located in New York City. Supreme Courts exercise more jurisdiction over criminal cases in New York City. Outside of New York City, County Courts handle most criminal cases, and Supreme Courts only exercise jurisdiction over felony cases beyond the jurisdiction of County Courts. County Courts do not exist in New York City counties, and Supreme Courts in New York City handle all felony cases.

Civil cases typically heard by all Supreme Courts include general civil claims for more than $25,000, divorce, annulment, small claims tax assessment reviews and complex commercial cases.

Supreme Courts may handle domestic violence cases in the context of a divorce or legal separation case, including Orders of Protection.

Supreme Courts may transfer some cases to and from other courts. Financial limitations on jurisdiction may be removed to allow some transfers to occur.

Some Supreme Courts have Commercial Divisions that handle complex commercial cases. Most cases are required to meet certain monetary thresholds for the Commercial Division to have jurisdiction. Minimum monetary thresholds vary by county and do not apply to all cases that may be heard by the Commercial Division.

Cases heard by a Commercial Division include breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentation, business torts, transactions governed by the Uniform Commercial Code, commercial real property, shareholder derivative actions, commercial class actions, internal affairs of business organizations, certain malpractice cases, environmental insurance coverage, dissolutions of corporations, and other cases described by law. Commercial Divisions do not handle suits for professional fees, residential real estate disputes, certain actions related to insurance claims and coverage, attorney malpractice and other non-commercial cases described by law.

New York Family Courts

Family Courts have jurisdiction over certain types of juvenile matters, domestic relations cases, abuse prevention orders and some criminal cases.

Juvenile cases heard by Family Courts include child neglect, juvenile delinquency and juvenile dependency. Family Courts have exclusive original jurisdiction over juvenile delinquency, child protective proceedings and persons in need of supervision.

Domestic Relations cases heard by Family Courts include child custody unrelated to a dissolution of marriage, child support unrelated to a dissolution of marriage, paternity, adoption and spousal conciliation. Family Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over most paternity cases and certain types of support and maintenance.

Family Courts may handle guardianships of minors and some criminal offenses between family or household members. Family Courts share original jurisdiction with Surrogate’s Courts over some adoption and guardianship cases.

Family Courts share jurisdiction over Domestic Violence Orders of Protection with Supreme Courts, Criminal Courts of New York City, City Courts, District Courts, Town Courts and Village Courts.

Family Courts may handle certain types of cases referred by Supreme Courts, including habeas corpus proceedings to determine custody of minors and support or custody disputes related to a dissolution of a marriage.

Family Courts may transfer cases to other courts except Supreme Courts. Financial limits on jurisdiction in other courts may be removed to allow some transfers to occur.

New York Surrogate's Courts

Surrogate’s Courts have jurisdiction over certain types of cases related to the affairs of a decedent, including the probate of wills, administration of estates, guardianship of the property of minors and lifetime trusts.

Surrogate’s Courts have authority to transfer cases to Surrogate\'s Courts from other courts, except for Supreme Courts. Supreme Courts may order a case transferred to Surrogate’s Courts. Surrogate’s Courts may also transfer cases that do not relate to the administration of an estate to other courts, except for Supreme Courts. Financial limitations on jurisdiction may be removed to allow some transfers to occur.

New York County Courts

County Courts have jurisdiction over all criminal and some civil cases in the county, but typically only handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of lower courts.

Criminal cases heard by County Courts include felonies and lesser-included offenses.

Civil cases heard by a County Court outside of New York City include general civil claims for less than $25,000, general civil counterclaims without financial limit, evictions, partition of real property, foreclosure, specific performance of real estate contracts and a variety of matters related to real estate and liens.

County Courts share jurisdiction with Supreme Courts over conservatorships and decisions by the State Board of Parole.

County Courts may transfer some cases to or from lower courts, including City Courts outside of New York City, District Courts, Town Courts or Village Courts. Financial limitations on jurisdiction may be removed to allow some transfers to occur.

New York Civil Courts of the City of New York

Civil Courts of the City of New York have jurisdiction over most general civil claims for less than $25,000, most counterclaims for any amount of money and some counterclaims subject to financial limits. Civil Courts also handle civil cases referred by New York City Supreme Courts.

Each Civil Court has a Small Claims division for most general civil claims involving less than $5,000, exclusive of interest and costs. Each Civil Court also has a Commercial Claims division for most consumer transaction claims for less than $5,000, exclusive of interests and costs.

Each Civil Court has a Housing Court division for residential landlord-tenant summary process cases (also known as holdover proceedings) and housing code violations.

Each Civil Court has a General Civil division that handles cases that include ejectment, certain types of cases involving real property, certain types of cases involving liens or mortgages, rescission or reformation of certain transactions, commercial landlord-tenant cases and other civil cases not handled by another division.

Courts for the City of New York may transfer some cases to other courts. Financial limitations on jurisdiction may be removed to allow some transfers to occur.

New York Criminal Courts of the City of New York

Criminal Courts of the City of New York have jurisdiction over most misdemeanors, all offenses of a grade less than misdemeanor and preliminary hearings for felony cases.

Criminal Courts share jurisdiction over Domestic Violence Orders of Protection with Supreme Courts and Family Courts.

The Courts of the City of New York may transfer some cases to other courts, with the exception of Supreme Courts.

New York District Courts

District Courts have jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases that may vary from court to court.

Criminal cases heard by District Courts may include most misdemeanors, all offenses of a grade less than misdemeanor and preliminary hearings for felony criminal cases.

Civil cases heard by District Courts may include civil claims for up to $15,000, exclusive of interest and costs. District Courts are prohibited from having more jurisdiction than Courts of the City of New York, and additional limits may exist.

Cases typically heard by a District Court include certain liens for less than $15,000, civil violations of state and local housing standards and summary process (eviction).

District Courts share jurisdiction over Domestic Violence Orders of Protection with Supreme Courts, Family Courts, Town Courts and Village Courts.

District Courts have a Small Claims division for most general civil claims for less than $5,000, exclusive of interest and costs. District Courts also have a Commercial Claims division for most consumer transaction claims for less than $5,000, exclusive of interests and costs.

New York City Courts

City Courts have jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases that may vary from court to court but will not be any greater than the potential jurisdiction of a District Court.

Cases typically heard by a City Court include civil cases for money or personal property, foreclosure of liens on personal property valued at less than $15,000, establishment of certain liens for less than $15,000, civil violations of state and local housing standards, summary process (eviction) and some general civil counterclaims without financial limit.

City Courts share jurisdiction over Domestic Violence Orders of Protection with Supreme Courts, Family Courts, Town Courts and Village Courts.

City Courts may have jurisdiction over misdemeanor criminal cases, criminal offenses classified as less than a misdemeanor, and preliminary hearings for felony criminal cases.

City Courts may have a Small Claims division for most general civil claims for less than $5,000, exclusive of interest and costs. City Courts may also have a Commercial Claims division for most consumer transaction claims for less than $5,000, exclusive of interests and costs.

New York Town Courts and Village Courts

Town Courts and Village Courts, also known as Justice Courts, have jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases. Criminal cases heard by Town Courts and Village Courts include misdemeanors, local ordinance and traffic violations and infractions. Town Court and Village Court justices also arraign, set bail, and hold preliminary hearings in felony cases.

Civil cases heard by Town Courts and Village Courts include most general civil claims and small claims cases for less than $3000, exclusive of interest and costs. Also included are evictions, back rent claims, and other landlord-tenant matters.

Town Courts and Village Courts may also hear building and zoning code violations and dog complaints. When Family Court is not in session, Town Court and Village Court justices may act as Family Court judges. Town Courts and Village Courts share jurisdiction over Domestic Violence Orders of Protection with Supreme Courts, Family Courts, District Courts and City Courts.

New York Court of Claims

The New York State Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over civil claims by any person, corporation, or municipality against the State of New York or certain government-affiliated agencies and organizations.

Cases handled by the Court of Claims include appropriation of real or personal property, breach of contract, public construction contracts, torts by state officers or employees while acting in their official capacity, and unjust conviction and imprisonment.

The Court of Claims does not have jurisdiction over claims against individuals, towns, cities or counties, but the Court of Claims can hear and determine any claim in favor of the State against a claimant.

The Court of Claims handles cases for the entire state from one main location in Albany, but trials may be conducted at other locations.

New York Problem Solving Courts

In many courts, “problem solving” court divisions have been established to offer alternative methods for handling certain types of cases. New York trial courts that handle criminal, family or juvenile cases may have divisions for Integrated Domestic Violence Courts, Domestic Violence Courts, Drug Treatment Courts, Mental Health Courts, Sex Offense Courts, Youthful Offender Domestic Violence Courts and Community Courts.

An Integrated Domestic Violence Court may handle cases that involve pending claims in Family Court, Criminal Court and Supreme Court, so one judge can hear all related claims and cases. Domestic Violence Court divisions and Youthful Offender Domestic Violence Court divisions focus on connecting domestic violence survivors and offenders to community resources and services. Drug Treatment Courts focus on rehabilitation and offer incentives for participation in treatment. Mental Health Court divisions address the mental health needs of defendants in criminal cases. Sex Offense Court divisions focus on monitoring defendants after a criminal case involving a sex offense is heard by a court. Community Court divisions address “quality of life” crimes and focus on connecting defendants to services and programs such as job training, drug treatment, and community mediation.

Where to Find Court Cases in New York

The chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of New York court.

Most Cases = Most or all cases.     Some Cases = Some cases.

Case Type Court Type
Civil Supreme Courts Family Courts Surrogate's Courts County Courts Civil Courts of the City of New York Criminal Courts of the City of New York District Courts City Courts Town Courts and Village Courts
General Civil - Unlimited Most or All Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
General Civil - Limited Some Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Small Claims       Some Cases Some Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Civil Equity Some Cases     Some Cases Some Cases        
Complex Commercial Most or All Cases                
Foreclosures and Liens Some Cases     Some Cases Some Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Real Estate Title and Boundary Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases        
Landlord / Tenant Some Cases     Some Cases Some Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Ordinance Violations       Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Protection, No Contact, and Restraining Orders Some Cases Some Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Administrative Agency Appeals Some Cases Some Cases   Some Cases          
Criminal Supreme Courts Family Courts Surrogate's Courts County Courts Civil Courts of the City of New York Criminal Courts of the City of New York District Courts City Courts Town Courts and Village Courts
Felony Some Cases     Some Cases          
Felony Preliminary Hearings Some Cases     Some Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Misdemeanors Some Cases Some Cases   Some Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Ordinance Violations       Some Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Juvenile   Most or All Cases              
Traffic and Infractions       Some Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Domestic Relations Supreme Courts Family Courts Surrogate's Courts County Courts Civil Courts of the City of New York Criminal Courts of the City of New York District Courts City Courts Town Courts and Village Courts
Divorce Most or All Cases Some Cases              
Child Custody and Visitation Some Cases Some Cases              
Child Support Some Cases Some Cases              
Paternity Some Cases Most or All Cases              
Domestic Violence Protection Order Some Cases Some Cases   Some Cases   Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases
Juvenile Supreme Courts Family Courts Surrogate's Courts County Courts Civil Courts of the City of New York Criminal Courts of the City of New York District Courts City Courts Town Courts and Village Courts
Adoptions   Some Cases Some Cases            
Juvenile Delinquency   Most or All Cases              
Child Abuse and Neglect   Most or All Cases              
Termination of Parental Rights   Most or All Cases              
Children in Need of Supervision   Most or All Cases              
Mental Health Supreme Courts Family Courts Surrogate's Courts County Courts Civil Courts of the City of New York Criminal Courts of the City of New York District Courts City Courts Town Courts and Village Courts
Involuntary Commitments Most or All Cases Some Cases              
Other Mental Health Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases            
Probate Supreme Courts Family Courts Surrogate's Courts County Courts Civil Courts of the City of New York Criminal Courts of the City of New York District Courts City Courts Town Courts and Village Courts
Wills & Estates Some Cases   Most or All Cases            
Name Changes Some Cases Some Cases              
Trusts Some Cases   Some Cases            
Guardianships and Conservatorships Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases Some Cases          

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