New York Court Records
How do New York Courts work?
The highest legal power in New York is the Supreme Court and, as such, it has the ability to review any decision made by the Court of Appeals. This allows the Supreme Court to weigh in on any key legal debates, conflicts, and precedents. However, the Court of Appeals is not without power, as it carries out a similar function over the lower courts in the state, when one party decides to contest a decision. These lower courts come in the form of the 62 superior and trial courts across New York’s 62 counties. Other tiers of court include the Appellate Division, the Eight Judicial District, County Court, Court of Claims, Family Court, Surrogate’s Court, City Court, Town/Village Court, Commercial Division of Supreme Court, Integrated Domestic Violence Courts, and Drug Treatment Courts.
Civil Cases and Small Claims
Cases heard in civil and small claims courts in New York differ in a number of ways, including the type of claim and the value of money being sought. For instance, small claims courts in New York deal with cases in which the claimant is looking for $5,000 or under. There are nearly 200,000 of these cases each and every year across New York. They can range from disputes over warranties and loans to repairs, damages, property, deposits, and more, as long as the value is $5,000 or less. The small claims court can also order a defendant into an action, for example, paying back a fee. On the other hand, the civil courts in New York deal with cases in which the claimant is looking for over $50,000. These may include disputes over property, restraining orders, and name changes.
Appeals and court limits
There are also a number of differences between the appeals processes in small claims and civil courts, as well as the court limits. For example, there is a filing fee of $30-$100 in small claims court, where as the charge is between $180 and $320 in civil court. Each party is given 30-70 days to complete their case in small claims court, or up to 120 days in civil court. Pretrial discovery is allowed in civil court but not in small claims court. A person may also hire a lawyer to represent them and file papers for them in civil court, but neither of these things are permitted in small claims cases. Only the defendant can appeal a small claims case decision, where as either party can appeal a decision made in civil court.
Why are court records public?
The first New York Freedom of Information Law was passed back in 1974, however it did not last long before being replaced. In 1977, a new version of the law was implemented, with significant changes. Amendments to this 1977 law came in 1982, 2005, and 2008. The law was introduced to ensure that New York residents had the fundamental right to access public records. All public records can be accessed and copied by the public, whether they are held by local or state government, unless another law prohibits it. This promotes transparency between government and public, and safeguards government accountability.
To access records:
New York County Courthouse
60 Centre Street
New York, NY 10007
Courthouse Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.