New York uses a unified court system. However, New York City Courts differ from the state courts. Inside New York City, there are Supreme Courts and four other types of trial courts, The Civil Court of the City of New York City, The Criminal Court of New York City, Family Court and Surrogate’s Court. Each type of court handles cases that fall within their civil or criminal jurisdiction for things that occur within the city limits. In New York City, the Supreme Court exercises jurisdiction over civil and criminal (felonies where a prison sentence would be more than one year) cases. It is the highest trial court in the city with general jurisdiction. They have locations for the Supreme Court in the five boroughs of the Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), New York (Manhattan), Queens and Richmond (Staten Island). All New York City courthouses include ADA accommodations for individuals who require special assistance.
New York City has been undergoing a pilot project to move all court records online for easy access. Therefore, most court records will be available online and in courthouses to the general public. However, any confidential records, sealed or expunged records and records pertaining to juveniles, including adoptions, will not be available. Additionally, the federal government has laws prohibiting the inclusion of personal identifiers in open public records. Things like children’s names, social security numbers, tax IDs, banking information, and trade secrets will not be included in the files.
The NYCourts.gov website has an extensive area that lists just about every court form necessary to file a case in either New York City or New York State. They even list them by locale and show specific forms needed for inside New York City. They also list the forms by type of case like family issues, domestic violence, divorce, criminal issues, name changes, and other types of cases. Additionally, New York offers patrons of the court system within and outside of the city, the option to e-file their cases through the online system. New York’s State Unified Court System has a section on the website that explains all about it.
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The Civil Court of the City of New York is a limited jurisdiction court within the city limits that has authority over civil cases of up to $25,000 and other small civil matters. The Supreme Court can send cases to the Civil Court of the City of New York. This court also has a small claims division and can handle cases that do not exceed $5,000. Many cases seen in this court involve landlord/tenant/housing issues and housing code violations. Many of the cases heard in this court will be self-represented, and the NYCourts.gov website has many resources to help those individuals.
The Criminal Court of New York City handles all criminal cases punishable up to one year in prison or less, or a small fine. This is a limited jurisdiction court and cases may be sent here from the Supreme Court. This court also handles preliminary hearings for felonies (where the punishment is more than one year) and other serious crimes. This court takes care of arraignments as well. There are Criminal Court locations in all five boroughs of the Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), New York (Manhattan), Queens and Richmond (Staten Island).
New York City Family Court is another limited jurisdiction court that specializes in cases regarding families in crisis. They handle cases involving children and families and can resolve the following types of cases:
- “Abused or Neglected Children (Child Protective Proceedings).
- Adoption. - Custody & Visitation. - Domestic Violence (Family Offense).
- Foster Care Approval & Review.
- Juvenile Delinquency.
- Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS).
- Child and/or Spousal Support.”
Family Courts have locations in all five boroughs of the Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), New York (Manhattan), Queens and Richmond (Staten Island). Their mission is: “To protect the rights of families and children by ensuring the just and timely resolution of all matters brought before the court.”
New York City’s Surrogate’s Courts are limited jurisdiction courts that hears cases of probate, decedents affairs, wills, guardianships, conservatorships, estates and also adoptions. In some states, these courts are called probate courts. There is a whole section of forms on the NYCourts.gov website to help with these types of cases. New York City’s Surrogate’s Courts are located in all five boroughs of the Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), New York (Manhattan), Queens and Richmond (Staten Island).