In New York State certain judgeships are filled by election, while others are filled by appointment. This Voter Guide provides information about judges who are candidates in the 2015 General Election.
The Voter Guide covers all judgeships except Town and Village Courts. This page also provides basic information about the different courts in the NY State Court System.
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For more information, you may:
- Browse the Voter Guide.
- Continue reading about the different courts.
- Consult third-party ratings of the judicial candidates, such as those offered by the Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commissions.
- Consult state or local bar associations, and/or voter associations, which may also offer ratings of judicial candidates in some races.
The following descriptions are adapted from The New York State Courts: An Introductory Guide.
All cases start in the trial courts. Trial courts are divided into two types, those of limited jurisdiction or authority and those of superior jurisdiction. The trial courts of limited jurisdiction include: Civil Court and Criminal Court of New York City; and District Courts, City Courts, and Town and Village Courts outside New York City. The trial courts of superior jurisdiction are the Supreme Court and County Courts.
TRIAL COURTS OF LIMITED JURISDICTION
- The Civil Court of the City of New York decides lawsuits involving claims of up to $25,000. The Civil Court includes a small claims part for the informal amounts of up to $5,000, and a housing part for landlord-tenant and housing violation proceedings. The court also handles other civil matters referred by the Supreme Court. New York City Civil Court judges are elected to 10-year terms. Housing Part judges are appointed by the Chief Administrative Judge to five-year terms.
- District Courts, located in Nassau County and the five western towns of Suffolk County, arraign felonies and handle misdemeanors and lesser offenses as well as civil lawsuits involving claims of up to $15,000. District Court judges are elected to six-year terms.
- City Courts (outside of New York City) arraign felonies and handle misdemeanors and lesser offenses as well as civil lawsuits involving claims of up to $15,000. Some City Courts have small claims parts 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
TRIAL COURTS OF SUPERIOR JURISDICTION
- The Supreme Court, a statewide court, generally hears cases outside the authority of the lower courts such as civil matters beyond $25,000, and divorce, separation and annulment proceedings, and (in New York City) criminal prosecutions of felonies. Supreme Court justices are elected to 14-year terms.
- County Courts, located in each county outside New York City, handle criminal prosecutions of felonies and misdemeanors committed within the county, although in practice most misdemeanor offenses are handled by lower courts. County Courts also have limited jurisdiction over civil lawsuits, generally involving claims of up to $25,000. County Court judges are elected to 10-year terms. In smaller counties, the County Court judge may also function as the Family Court judge or Surrogate or both.
- Family Courts, located in every county of the state, hear matters involving children and families, including adoption, guardianship, foster care approval and review, juvenile delinquency, family violence, child abuse and neglect, and child support, custody and visitation. Family Court judges outside New York City are elected to 10-year terms, while those serving in New York City are appointed to 10-year terms by the Mayor of New York City.
- Surrogate´s Courts, located in every county of the state, hear cases involving the affairs of the deceased, including the validity of wills and the administration of estates. These courts are also authorized to handle adoptions. Surrogate´s Court judges are elected to 10-year terms in each county outside New York City and to 14-year terms in all New York City counties.
Additional court-related materials and resources are available on the New York State Unified Court System web site.