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New York Supreme Court

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Supreme Court of the State of New York is the trial-level court of general jurisdiction in the New York State Unified Court System. (Its Appellate Division is also the highest intermediate appellate court.) It is vested with unlimited civil and criminal jurisdiction, although outside New York City it acts primarily as a court of civil jurisdiction, with most criminal matters handled in County Court.[1]

The Court is radically different from its counterparts in nearly all other states in two important ways. First, the Supreme Court is a trial court and is not the highest court in the state. The highest court of the State of New York is the Court of Appeals. Second, although it is a trial court, the Supreme Court sits as a "single great tribunal of general state-wide jurisdiction, rather than an aggregation of separate courts sitting in the several counties or judicial districts of the state."[2] There is a branch of the Supreme Court in each of New York's 62 counties.[1]

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  • Protecting Whistleblowers | New York Times Co. v. United States
  • 50th Anniversary: New York Times v. Sullivan Supreme Court Decision Preview
  • NY Times v. Sullivan (Defamation) - Landmark Cases - Episode # 9


Mr. Beat presents Supreme Court Briefs Washington D.C., June 17, 1967 Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara creates the Vietnam Study Task Force at the Pentagon to create a study of the Vietnam War, which, by the way, was raging on the time with no end in sight. This study was to remain classified but released to the public eventually, as McNamara wanted to leave a written record for historians. Working on this task force was a dude named Daniel Ellsberg, who became very troubled by what he found. You see, the Pentagon was telling the American public one thing, but actually doing other things. For example, the Pentagon was lying about escalating the war even when victory was hopeless. It had covered up doing some quite horrible things, like illegal bombings in places like Cambodia and Laos, and the use of chemical warfare. Well Ellsberg, who had become strongly against the Vietnam War, decided he was going to fight the power! In October 1969, he and his friend Anthony Russo began secretly photocopying pages from this study, which eventually became known as The Pentagon Papers. By the way, the Pentagon Papers were thousands of pages long. So yeah, he photocopies and decides to take them to the press to expose all of the Pentagon’s dirty secrets. In March 1971, he gave 43 volumes of the Pentagon Papers to Neil Sheehan, a reporter for The New York Times. On June 13, 1971, the New York Times began publishing a series of articles based on what Ellsberg had leaked. It also included excerpts from the actual Pentagon Papers. When President Richard Nixon read these articles, he was like, “this kind of makes our government look, isn’t this putting our national security at risk?” By the way, that’s EXACTLY how he sounded. A couple days later, the Nixon administration got a federal court to force the New York Times to stop publishing articles about the Pentagon Papers. Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, argued that Ellsberg and Russo were guilty of breaking the Espionage Act of 1917, so this “prior restraint,” or pre-publication censorship, was justified. In fact, the Nixon administration argued that the Times publishing the Pentagon Papers put the country’s security at risk. Meanwhile, the Washington Post got in on the action and began publishing its own articles about the Pentagon Papers. The assistant U.S. Attorney General, William Rehnquist, a future Supreme Court chief justice, also tried to prevent the Post from publishing any more Pentagon Papers secrets. Eventually, 17 other newspapers published parts of the study. On June 28, 1971, Ellsberg surrendered to face criminal charges under the Espionage Act. The next day, a young Senator named Mike Gravel, who inexplicably throws a rock in a pond later in life, read the Pentagon Papers out loud for three hours, entering them into the Senate record. As you could imagine, by the time the American public is fired up about the revelations contained in these documents. Newspapers kept publishing stories about the Pentagon Papers, and the District Court for the District of Columbia and Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit both let them, so the Supreme Court decided to quickly step in, combining the cases against both the New York Times and the Washington Post. In case you hadn’t figured this one out by now, this was an obvious First Amendment issue. The Court heard arguments about whether or not the Nixon administration's efforts to prevent the publication of the Pentagon Papers went against the First Amendment. Was prior restraint justified? Did releasing this information put national security at risk? The Court decided “no.” On June 30, 1971 (man that went quickly) the Court announced it had sided with The New York Times and Washington Post, voting 6-3. It said prior restraint was not justified, and that the press releasing the Pentagon Papers did not put the nation’s security at risk. It sure made a lot of Americans upset though, and caused many to lose their trust in their government. Justice Hugo Black wrote, “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.” I would read the whole quote to you but it’s kind of long, but dang it’s a good quote. Props, Hugo. New York Times v. United States, aka The Pentagon Papers Case, was a win for the First Amendment. If the press publishes something that makes the government looks bad, the government can’t stop it, just because it makes it look bad. So whatever happened to Daniel Ellsberg and his friend Anthony Russo? They were still charged under the Espionage Act, looking at a maximum sentence of 115 years in prison. However, due to government misconduct and its shady ways of getting evidence, a federal court judge later dismissed all charges against them. Daniel Ellsberg is still alive today, still actively supporting whistleblowers like him who continue to expose government corruption. I’ll see you for the next Supreme Court case, jury! Why did I make this episode now? Well, there’s the whole President Trump not wanting this book out that makes him look bad thing but also there's this new movie that just came out, called The Post. the story of the leaking of the Pentagon Papers And in it, of course, it dramatizes New York Times v. United States. So I figured, it's a good time to release this episode. Yay for history movies! We'll see you next week. Thank you for watching!



New York County Courthouse at 60 Centre Street, viewed from across Foley Square
New York County Courthouse at 60 Centre Street, viewed from across Foley Square

Under the New York State Constitution, the New York State Supreme Court has unlimited jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases, with the exception of certain monetary claims against the State of New York itself. In practice, the Supreme Court hears civil actions involving claims above a certain monetary amount (for example, $25,000 in New York City) that puts the claim beyond the jurisdiction of lower courts.[3] Civil actions about lesser sums are heard by courts of limited jurisdiction, such as the New York City Civil Court, or the County Court, District Court, city courts, or justice courts (town and village courts) outside New York City.[3]

The Supreme Court also hears civil cases involving claims for equitable relief, such as injunctions, specific performance, or rescission of a contract, as well as actions for a declaratory judgment. The Supreme Court also has exclusive jurisdiction of matrimonial actions, such as either contested or uncontested actions for a divorce or annulment. The court also has exclusive jurisdiction over "Article 78 proceedings" against a body or officer seeking to overturn an official determination on the grounds that it was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable or contrary to law.[4]

With respect to criminal cases, the Criminal Branch of Supreme Court tries felony cases in the five counties of New York City, whereas they are primarily heard by the County Court elsewhere.[5] Misdemeanor cases, and arraignments in almost all cases, are handled by lower courts: the New York City Criminal Court; the District Court in Nassau County and the five western towns of Suffolk County; city courts; and justice courts, and so on.


Appellate Division

Second Department
Second Department

Appeals from Supreme Court decisions, as well as from the Surrogate's Court, Family Court, and Court of Claims, are heard by the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division. This court is intermediate between the New York Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals.

There is one Appellate Division, which for administrative purposes comprises four judicial departments.[6]

Decisions of the Appellate Division department panels are binding on the lower courts in that department, and also on lower courts in other departments unless there is contrary authority from the Appellate Division of that department.[7][8]

Appellate terms

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in each judicial department is authorized to establish "appellate terms".[9] An appellate term is an intermediate appellate court that hears appeals from the inferior courts within their designated counties or judicial districts, and are intended to ease the workload on the Appellate Division and provide a less expensive forum closer to the people.[9] Appellate terms are located in the First and Second Judicial Departments only.[9] (The County Court "appellate sessions" hear appeals from the inferior courts in the Third and Fourth Judicial Departments.[10])

In New York City, the Appellate Term hears appeals from the New York City Civil Court and Criminal Court. In the Second Department outside New York City, it hears appeals from the Nassau and Suffolk County District Courts, city courts, and justice (town and village) courts.

Appellate terms consist of between three and five justices of the Supreme Court, appointed by the Chief Administrative Judge with the approval of presiding justice of the appropriate appellate division. The court sits in three-judge panels, with two justices constituting a quorum and being necessary for a decision.[9] Decisions by the Appellate Term must be followed by courts whose appeals lie to it.[11][12]

Criminal terms

In New York City, all felony cases are heard in criminal terms.[1]

The Criminal Term of the Supreme Court, New York County is divided into 1 all purpose part, 15 conference and trial parts, 1 youth part, 1 narcotics/sci part, 1 felony waiver/sci part, 1 integrated domestic violence part, and 16 trial parts, which include 3 Judicial Diversion Parts and 1 Mental Health Part.[13]

Civil terms

In New York City, all major civil cases are heard in civil terms.[1]


New York judicial districts
New York judicial districts

The court system is divided into thirteen judicial districts: seven upstate districts each comprising between five and eleven counties, five districts corresponding to the boroughs of New York City, and one district on Long Island.[14] In each judicial district outside New York City, an Administrator (or Administrative Judge if a judge) is responsible for supervising all courts and agencies, while inside New York City an Administrator (or Administrative Judge) supervises each major court.[15] Administrators are assisted by Supervising Judges who are responsible in the on-site management of the trial courts, including court caseloads, personnel, and budget administration, and each manage a particular type of court within a county or judicial district.[15] The Administrator is also assisted by the District Executive and support staff.[16] The district administrative offices are responsible for personnel, purchasing, budgets, revenue, computer automation, court interpreters, court security, and case management.[16] Opinions of the New York trial courts are published selectively in the Miscellaneous Reports.[17][18]


A judge of the New York Supreme Court is titled "justice".


Supreme Court justices are elected.[19] Justices are nominated by judicial district nominating conventions, with judicial delegates themselves elected from assembly districts.[20] Some (political party) county committees play a significant role in their judicial district conventions, for example restricting nomination to those candidates that receive approval from a party screening committee.[21] Sometimes, the parties cross-endorse each other's candidates, while at other times they do not and incumbent judges must actively campaign for re-election. Judicial conventions have been criticized as opaque, brief and dominated by county party leaders.[22] In practice, most of the power of selecting justices belongs to local political party organizations, such as the Kings County Democratic County Committee (Brooklyn Democratic Party), which control the delegates.[23] The process was challenged in litigation which ultimately resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in N.Y. State Bd. of Elections v. Lopez Torres.

New York Supreme Court justices are elected to 14-year terms. A Supreme Court Justice's term ends, even if the 14-year term has not yet expired, at the end of the calendar year in which he or she reaches the age of 70. However, an elected Supreme Court Justice may obtain certification to continue in office, without having to be re-elected, for three two-year periods, until final retirement at the end of the year in which the Justice turns 76. These additional six years of service are available only for elected Supreme Court Justices, not for "Acting" Justices whose election or appointments were to lower courts.


The Queens County Criminal Courts Building houses justices and courtrooms of the New York Supreme Court
The Queens County Criminal Courts Building houses justices and courtrooms of the New York Supreme Court

In many counties, the number of New York Supreme Court justices is fewer than the number of needed justices. For that reason, judges of the New York City Civil Court, New York City Criminal Court, New York Family Court, and New York Court of Claims are designated as Acting Supreme Court Justices.

Notable justices


The New York Supreme Court is the oldest Supreme Court with general original jurisdiction. It was established as the Supreme Court of Judicature by the Province of New York on May 6, 1691. That court was continued by the State of New York after independence was declared in 1776. It became the New York Supreme Court under the New York Constitutional Convention of 1846.

In November 2004, the court system merged the operations of two separate criminal courts—the Bronx County Criminal Court and the Criminal Term of Bronx County Supreme Court—into a single trial court of criminal jurisdiction known as the Bronx Criminal Division.[24][25]


  1. ^ a b c d State of New York Judiciary Budget: FY 2014-15 (PDF). p. 18.
  2. ^ Schneider v. Aulisi, 307 N.Y. 376, 384, 121 N.E.2d 375 (1954).
  3. ^ a b The New York State Courts: An Introductory Guide (PDF). New York State Office of Court Administration. 2000. pp. 4–5. OCLC 68710274.
  4. ^ Civil Practice Law and Rules article 78
  5. ^ Stonecash, Jeffrey M. (2001). Governing New York State (4th ed.). SUNY Press. p. 172. ISBN 0-7914-4888-6. LCCN 00-032955.
  6. ^ Mountain View Coach Lines v. Storms, 102 A.D.2d 663, 476 N.Y.S.2d 918 (2d Dept. 1984).
  7. ^ Birnbaum, Edward L.; Belen, Ariel E.; Grasso, Carl T. (2012). New York Trial Notebook (6th ed.). James Publishing. pp. 1–23. ISBN 1-58012-104-7.
  8. ^ Duffy v. Horton Memorial Hospital, 66 N.Y.2d 473, 497 N.Y.S.2d 890 (1985); Mountain View Coach Lines v. Storms, 102 A.D.2d 663, 476 N.Y.S.2d 918 (2d Dept. 1984).
  9. ^ a b c d Galie & Bopst 2012, p. 177.
  10. ^ NYSBA Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar; NYSBA Membership Committee (September 2012). The Practice of Law in New York State: An Introduction For Newly-Admitted Attorneys (PDF). New York State Bar Association. p. 6.
  11. ^ 28 NY Jur 2d, Courts and Judges § 220, at 274 [1997]
  12. ^ Yellow Book of NY L.P. v. Dimilia, 188 Misc.2d 489, 729 N.Y.S.2d 286 (2001)
  13. ^ "Supreme Court, Criminal Branch, New York County". New York State Office of Court Administration. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  14. ^ Judiciary Law § 140. "The state is hereby divided into thirteen judicial districts, [...]"
  15. ^ a b "Court Administration". New York State Office of Court Administration. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  16. ^ a b "9th Judicial District". New York State Office of Court Administration. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  17. ^ Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 153.
  18. ^ Gibson & Manz 2004, p. 151.
  19. ^ Local Government Handbook (PDF) (6th ed.). New York State Department of State. 2009. p. 21.
  20. ^ New York City Bar Association Council on Judicial Administration (March 2014). Judicial Selection Methods in the State of New York: A Guide to Understanding and Getting Involved in the Selection Process (PDF). New York City Bar Association. pp. 23–27.
  21. ^ NYC Bar 2014, pp. 16-18.
  22. ^ Williams, Milton L. (19 September 2012). "A better way to pick New York judges". New York Daily News.
  23. ^ Marks, Alexandra (12 August 2003). "In Brooklyn, fixing a 'corrupt' court system". Christian Science Monitor.
  24. ^ The Bronx Criminal Division: Merger After Five Years (PDF). New York State Unified Court System. October 2009. OCLC 491295164.
  25. ^ Report on the Merger of the Bronx Supreme and Criminal Courts (PDF). Association of the Bar of the City of New York. June 2009.

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 18 November 2018, at 16:12
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