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Suffolk County District Court - Civil Court FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions

What time are the Civil Courthouses open for business?
  • All courthouses are open Monday through Friday from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • “Night Small Claims” Court is held on Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m. in the Ronkonkoma Courthouse.
  • All business must be commenced by 4:30 p.m.
  • Most calendars are called at 9:30 a.m. (except Small Claims night court 6:00 p.m.)
  • Civil courthouses are closed and locked from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Can I call to get an adjournment on my civil case?

No.

  • Adjournment requests must be in writing and will not be considered by phone.
  • All other parties should be notified of all adjournment requests.

Do I need an attorney in the civil court?
  • It is strongly recommended, but not absolutely required, that an individual seek the advice of an attorney. Civil actions require specific knowledge of court proceedings.
  • Corporations are required to have an attorney in all proceedings (except Small Claims or Commercial Small Claims). It is necessary for an attorney to represent the corporation at all stages of an action, including answering the summons and complaint.
  • It is essential that a party proceeding without an attorney be fully versed in court procedure, trial and evidentiary rules. Neither the court staff nor judge may provide legal assistance at any stage of the proceedings.
What is the maximum amount that I can sue for in the civil court?
The maximum amount is $15,000 per cause of action in the civil part of the District Court. Small Claims are special actions that are limited to $5000 per filing. Landlord tenant court summary procedings have no monetary limit to damages,
How can I commence a civil suit?
  • Civil actions are generally commenced by an attorney filing a Summons and Verified Complaint with the correct filing fee. .
  • You must file a District Court civil summons form. The summons is different than the summons used in Supreme Court. The requirements for the summons is given paragraph (d) in the District Court Rules Section 212.6(d) 28 NYCRR. An example of an acceptable summons is a Blumberg form T1464 or T1480 from www.blumberglegalforms.com.
  • The summons must be issued (signed) by an attorney, or a Judge, or a Court Clerk.
  • You will need an original (retained by the court clerk) and a copy (returned to you) of all papers (summons, complaint, exhibits, affidavits) when you file your papers.
  • There is a filing fee.
  • After the summons is filed, you must arrange to have the summons and complaint served on the defendant.
What is the correct Summons format for the District Court?

The requirements for the summons is given paragraph (d) in the District Court Rules Section 212.6(d) 28 NYCRR. An example of an acceptable summons is a Blumberg form T1464 or T1480 from www.blumberglegalforms.com. The summons must be issued by an attorney, or a Judge, or a Court Clerk.

What is required on a verified complaint?
The purpose of the Complaint is to give the defendant information concerning the claims or causes of action. It contains allegations and material facts on which the plaintiff relies to support the demand (CPLR Article 30). Include:
  • plain and concise statements in consecutively numbered paragraphs, particularizing transactions and/or occurrences intended to be proved and separately stating each cause of action.
  • "Wherefore clause" demanding relief on at least one cause of action.
  • Verification by the plaintiff that the contents of the complaint is true, etc.

Remember:

  • $15,000.00 monetary jurisdiction for each cause of action in the complaint. Splitting a single cause of action is not acceptable.
  • Georgraphic jurisdiction is limited to the 5 west towns of Suffolk County: Babylon, Huntington, Smithtown, Islip, Brookhaven.

 

How do I serve someone with court papers?
  • Service may be made by someone over the age of eighteen who is not a party to the action.
  • A professional process server may be used. A plaintiff or defendant cannot serve papers.
  • The law specifies how papers must be served, and the methods vary depending on the type of paper that is being served.
  • Additionally, the method of service may be directed in an order of the court. The clerk of the court may be contacted to determine how papers may be served.


I have received a civil summons from the District Court. What do I do?
You must appear at the District Court Clerk's office where the case is pending to file an answer to the civil complaint. You should do this as soon as possible, since the maximum amount of time that you have to answer is either twenty or thirty days depending on how you were served with the summons. You should seek out legal advice from an attorney.
Can I answer a summons by mail?
  • You may file an answer by mail providing that the answer is notarized and served on the plaintiff's attorney.
  • If you do not answer, the plaintiff may file a default judgment against you.
  • If you are a corporation, you must answer through an attorney.
Can I answer a summons for my spouse?
No.
Can I file a counterclaim?

The defendant may include a counterclaim with the answer. There is no fee for this kind of counterclaim (but there is a fee for a Small Claims Counterclaim).

What happens after I answer a summons?
  • If both the plaintiff (the person starting the law suit) and the defendant (the person sued) are represented by an attorney, a Notice of Trial with the proper fee must be received before a case can proceed to trial or to compulsory arbitration.
  • If either side is self represented, the matter will immediately be scheduled for a pre-trial conference, before a judge, if the Cause of Action is greater than $6,000. If the Cause of Action is $6,000 or less, the matter will be referred to compulsory arbitration.

 

What if I am not satisfied with the decision of the arbitrator?
  • Any party who is not in default may request a trial de novo within 35 days of the mailing of the arbitrator's decision.
  • A demand for a new trial must be filed timely with the clerk, with the proper fee.

 

How do I get a verbatim transcript of a court proceeding? (A verbatim transcript is a printed version of everything said at a court proceeding. A clerk's transcript of judgment is a court form, usually filed with the county clerk to collect money from a person).

When requesting a verbatim transcript, you should have the

  • name of the case,
  • case number,
  • location of the proceeding, and
  • date of the proceeding,
  • and time stamp or meter reading of the proceeding (if a digital recording machine was used).

Most court proceedings are recorded either by a Court Reporter sitting in the courtroom writing down what is said in the courtroom or by a digital recording machine.

To have a transcript produced of a District Court proceeding which was recorded by a Court Reporter:

  • tell the reporter at the proceeding that you need a transcript, or
  • call the court reporters office (631) 853-5418, or
  • fax your request to the court reporters office (631) 853-7854 .

To have a transcript produced of an electronically recorded court proceeding, you may contact one of the transcription services listed on the list of Electronic Recording Transcription Services. This list of transcription services may also be found at courthouse public information windows.

These services are not employees of the Unified Court System, they are independent contractors and establish their own rates - price per page varies. They will either take the required information and contact the Court, or ask you to contact the court and arrange to have the recording sent to the contractor.

If you have any questions regarding a verbatim transcript from a Suffolk County District Court matter, please contact: Ron Gorman, Supervising Court Reporter, (631) 853-5418.