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New York StateUnified Court System

Court Type Descriptions

The Supreme Court is the trial court of unlimited, original jurisdiction, but it generally hears only cases that are outside the jurisdiction of other courts. It exercises its civil jurisdiction and jurisdiction over felony charges statewide.

The County Court is established in each county outside New York City. It is authorized to handle prosecution of crimes committed within the county, although, in practice, arraignments and other preliminary proceedings on felonies, 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 of New York City, the County Court Judge also functions as the Family Court Judge, the Surrogate or both. In these instances, the judge is referred to as a multi-hat judge.

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 (PINS), 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 each have jurisdiction in adoption proceedings.

The Commissioners of Jurors Offices are responsible for supplying the trial courts with prospective jurors and for the management of a variety of functions related to discharging this responsibility, including summoning and qualifying of citizens for jury service, the maintenance of juror service records and the operation of juror assembly rooms.

The Supreme Court Law Libraries serve as major legal research centers and in some areas may be the only legal reference resources available to the bench, bar and public.

City Courts: Arraign felonies and handle misdemeanors and lesser offenses as well as civil lawsuits involving claims of up to $15,000. Some City Courts have a small claims part for the informal disposition of matters involving claims of up to $5,000 and/or housing parts to handle landlord-tenant matters and housing violations. City Court Judges are either elected or appointed, depending upon the particular city. Full-time City Court Judges serve 10-year terms, while part-time City Court Judges serve six-year terms.

Town & Village Courts:Town & Village Court are funded and administered by their localities rather than the State and are NY's most administratively diverse courts. The Judges need not be lawyers. Justice Courts routinely try misdemeanors, traffic infractions and other violations. In addition to the criminal jurisdiction, the Justice Courts also have jurisdiction over civil matters where the amount does not exceed $3,000, and have emergency Family Court powers, handle landlord-tenant matters and housing violations. Town & Village Judges are elected to serve 4-year terms.

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