New York Court Records Search
A New York court record is a document generated by a court clerk providing an official account of a court case or proceeding. The record details who brought an action and against whom, the documents submitted or created while a case was ongoing (pleadings, orders, docket entries, warrants, transcripts), the court's final ruling, exhibits presented during trial proceedings, and more.
The preservation of court records within the New York judicial system presents some significant benefits to the public and judiciary. One of the foremost public advantages is that it allows individuals to understand how courts within their residences or interest areas handle the disputes or allegations conveyed to them. Members of the public can acquire the records to determine the outcome of a trial, find legal precedents, and for other purposes. With regard to courts of law, court records enable reference. The courts can refer to previous records when deciding on new cases, primarily when the legislature does not supply an adequate answer or when resolving an appeal made by a lower court.
The New York court records search process refers to a person's inquiry into court records retained within the state's judicial system. This search occurs through official repositories, like a record custodian's office or government-run database (such as a court's electronic case access system). Still, it can take place on a public records website. The search is executed with parameters including a participant's name, case number, case type, jurisdictional court's name/type, or filing date. The information obtained after a court records search in New York is usually extensive, but certain information may be classified to secure the rights of the affected parties.
Are New York Court Records Public?
The New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) refers to a series of laws stipulating that the public has access to public records of government agencies in New York. This law allows individuals to obtain records from any government agency without a statement of purpose. However, several courts may consider the requestor's motive, especially where there is litigation. Public records in New York include any information kept, held, filed, or produced by any New York state agency or the state legislature.
New York's FOIL was first passed in 1974 by the state legislature, but it was later vetoed and replaced in 1977. The law has been amended three times since then. The amendments occurred in 1982, 2005, and 2008.
How Do I Find Court Records in New York?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in New York is to identify who keeps the record in question. New York court records are not governed by FOIL Section 225 of the State's Judiciary Law. This law specifies the provision of court records to the public as one of the responsibilities of a Court Clerk. Court Clerks are responsible for documenting and safekeeping court records in New York. The State Court Clerk maintains Supreme Court and Court of Appeal records.
Requestors may request court records directly to the Clerk of the Court or the County Clerk that maintains those records. Usually, the court where a particular case is tried will have the necessary records about that case. However, the New York Supreme Court and County Court usually share court files with county clerks' offices. As a result, requestors should verify whether the records they seek are available in any of these offices.
How to Obtain a New York Court Record in Person
To obtain a court record, visit the Office of the Court Clerk in person or send a request asking the Court Clerk to mail copies of the court record. For an in-person request, the individual must submit an application. Individuals shall visit the nearest courthouse to request the application form.
To obtain court records, New York requires that the following conditions must be met:
- Requests must be for specific records.
- Requestors must be able to describe the record sought clearly.
- Provide relevant information about the record.
- Requests must conform to the court's indexing and record retrieval system.
New York Court Records Public Access
Residents may also use an alternative request method to obtain New York Court records. Some New York Court records are available online. The New York State Office of Court Administration provides public access to court and case information. Residents may submit a request on the eCourt page, which is available on the New York State Court website. Individuals may also use the eTrack case tracking service to locate court records or use the New York Court record search page.
Individuals may also request police records when the records are part of prosecution papers submitted to the court. However, these records may be closed to the public, depending on the status of the case or the court's discretion. Requestors must know that requests for court records usually come with fees.
Section 225 of the State's Judiciary Law permits Court Clerks to collect fees for copying and certifying court records. Here's a breakdown of the fees:
- To obtain a copy of any record, requestors must pay sixty-five cents per page with a minimum fee of $1.30.
- To certify a prepared copy, individuals must pay sixty-five cents per page with a minimum fee of $5.20.
- To obtain a copy of any record on file in the office in a medium or format other than paper, the actual cost of reproducing the record is stated in section 87 of the Public Officer Law.
The CPLR § 8019(f) also authorizes County Clerks to make other charges regarding the copying of records. Residents can avoid paying too much to obtain court records by visiting the court directly. Public photocopiers generally are available at a lower per-page cost than the Clerk's charge for the same service. However, since the request for copies of certain records may be voluminous, the Clerk may set regulations concerning the record provision. This is to ensure that the other functions of the Clerk are not affected by requests for court records.
How to Conduct a New York Court Record Search by Name
A person who wants to conduct a New York court record search by name can access the eCourts or NYSCEF (New York State Courts Electronic Filing) portal. The former provides public access to cases heard in the criminal and civil courts of New York, but it is unavailable for some courts. Conversely, the latter grants access to cases and documents e-filed in the supreme courts via the NYSCEF system.
The eCourts portal offers several search engines based on the type of court (Civil, Supreme, Family, or Criminal) in which a case was received. A party name search through the portal may require one of the following, depending on the user's selection:
- The name of the plaintiff or defendant involved in a court case
- The name of the presiding judge.
- The name of the attorney or legal firm representing a plaintiff or defendant.
Typically, an individual only needs to input a last name as the search query when utilizing any eCourts name search portal. Nonetheless, it is advisable to include a first name to get an exact match more quickly. Furthermore, inquirers can constrain their search with other filters, such as the case type, filing year, case status, and court. One can also limit their search results to cases having future court appearances. Note that eCourts does not release printable copies of case documents; only information in a court record can be found on the system.
A court whose case records data is unavailable on eCourts may be visited during business hours for record inquiries. Visitors to the courthouse should also possess the name of a case party, attorney, or judge.
Individuals performing a supreme court record search by name via the NYSCEF system can follow these steps:
- Go to https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/nyscef/Login.
- Select "Search as Guest" and solve the captcha.
- Select the "Name" search tool under Case Search. The name search tool offers a party and attorney search, depending on the user's preference.
- Enter a case party's last name or business/organization name (if it applies). Alternatively, one can search using an attorney or firm's name. Those searching with a person's last name must include at least the first character of the person's first name. Additional search filters include a party's middle name, the county of filing, case type, and a filing date range.
- Click "Search".
How to Get Court Records Online for Free
Many courts and court systems in the United States offer free access to court records online through electronic databases found on their websites. Thus, when looking to find a court record online for free, a person can determine the presiding court - often by asking the litigants or researching media sources - and check the court or court system's website for a case management system.
Not all courts provide free or remote access, however. The New York State Unified Court System, for instance, only shares limited supreme court records online for free. All other court records must be sourced at the courthouses, where interested parties can inspect and photocopy publicly available records at a low per-page cost.
Another alternative for obtaining court records online is a private aggregate website. Most reputable third-party sites are not free, but they generally offer low-cost options for retrieving court records online.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, court records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
What are New York Judgment Records?
New York judgment records are court documents containing information about a criminal or civil case outcome in New York. Section 255 of the Judiciary Law makes judgment records and associated court documents available to interested members of the public. Persons who wish to obtain copies of judgment records must possess the necessary details to identify the case and pay the associated fees.
A judgment is the court's decision on the facts of a civil petition or criminal charges. Entering this decision is usually the end of a typical court case, and the court clerk maintains a copy of the judgment in the court archives.
To obtain a copy of the judgment record, visit the Clerk's office during business hours. There, submit a request for the court record, providing the case number and the persons' names. The requester may also provide the presiding judge's name and the judgment year to expedite the search. Upon retrieval, the requester may copy the whole case file or choose specific documents to copy. The administrative staff charges nominal copying and certification fees for this service. Cash, money order, certified check, and credit cards are acceptable payment methods.
The New York Judiciary also maintains an online repository for court records. This option is especially convenient for out-of-state requesters or individuals who wish to obtain court records from the repose of their homes. A similar procedure applies to obtaining judgment records. The searcher must provide the necessary details to enable a search and pay the associated fees. The system will return available court records, and the searcher may print the documents of interest.
Persons who obtain New York judgment records can expect to see the litigants' names, the judge's name, and judgment date. In addition, judgment records contain the specific claims of the parties involved (civil cases) or the charges against the defendant (criminal cases), as well as the issued judgment in the case of interest.
What are New York Bankruptcy Records?
The term "New York Bankruptcy Records" refers to court records that contain specific financial information about individuals and businesses that file for bankruptcy in New York State. These documents detail their total income and the sources of that revenue, and their assets, including bank accounts, stock, real estate properties, and businesses they own or have a share. The United States Bankruptcy Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts are the primary repositories of New York Bankruptcy Records. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York is a significant bankruptcy venue because it has jurisdiction over Manhattan's corporate headquarters and major financial institutions. In contrast, the Eastern District Bankruptcy Court of New York has jurisdiction over the five counties of Richmond, Kings, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk in New York State.
Bankruptcy records and related recordings, such as writs, contracts, and New York liens, are maintained and disseminated by state repositories and record custodians across the state. Interested persons may access these records by querying the relevant agency in the judicial district where the claim/petition was filed.
How to Find Bankruptcy Records in New York
Bankruptcy is a court proceeding overseen by the federal courts. Under Title 11 of the United States law, bankruptcy records are available to the public in New York, except for sealed bankruptcy records. These records are available remotely on PACER or at the federal bankruptcy courthouses during regular business hours. The New York state courts do not maintain bankruptcy records.
PACER, Public Access to Court Electronic Records, is a 24/7 case access system accessible on the United States Courts website. The system provides access to case information and documents stored in the federal bankruptcy and district courts.
A PACER user searching for bankruptcy records in New York can search by a specific court or search a national index of federal court cases (also known as the PACER Case Locator). In addition, one can view court opinions on the PACER site or obtain telephone access to court records via a Voice Case Information System (VCIS). However, besides the VCIS, which requires a user to call (866) 222-8029 to access limited case information, a person must create an account to access PACER's case lookup services.
No fee is charged to register for a PACER account, but a fee may apply to access bankruptcy court records on PACER. For instance, court opinions found in PACER are free to all registered users. Further, a user who accrues $30 or less worth of court records in a quarter will have the fees waived. A person visiting a federal bankruptcy courthouse in New York will not be charged to view bankruptcy case information on public access terminals. The same goes for a person offered a fee exemption or a case party who received a free electronic copy of a bankruptcy record from a court.
However, anyone who accrues over $30 on PACER in one quarter will be charged for access. The cost per page accessed in PACER is $0.10, whereas the cost per audio file is $2.40.
Can You Look Up Court Cases in New York?
Yes, inquirers may conduct a New York court case lookup using state resources. New York operates a unified court system making it easier for individuals to track court cases. New York courts offer free case information services to the public. Requesters may find dates for hearing cases in criminal and family courts by visiting the New York State Unified Court System eCourts website. Interested persons may also view information on active and disposed cases on the website.
Information on cases in Supreme and Local Civil Court may require individuals to sign up for eTrack. eTrack is a case-tracking service that provides information about the status and appearance of cases via email. Individuals may also receive reminders about the hearing of Civil Supreme and Local Civil Court cases. Visit the Court of Appeals website for current case summaries and oral argument webcasts.
New York Court Case Lookup Exemptions
The public can utilize court case lookup tools provided by the New York state courts and other independent parties to find New York case information and documents. However, certain records are restricted from public inspection by statute. To look up any of these cases, one must be a legally authorized party or someone with a court order. Some New York court case lookup exemptions include:
- Family court records: Section 166 of the Family Court Act (FCT) governs access to family law cases. Per the law, a person who wants to access a family court must apply to the presiding court and include a reason for the request in their application.
- Sealed criminal records. Per Section 160.50 of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), only the defendant and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal case records.
- Adoption court records: These are sealed under Section 114 of the Domestic Relations Law (DOM).
- Matrimonial actions or proceedings: Section 235 of the New York Domestic Relations Law limits access to matrimonial actions (e.g., divorce, annulment, or separation) to a case party, their legal counsel, and anyone bearing a court order.
- Other cases are deemed confidential or sealed by the court.
More information about New York's court case lookup limitations is available in the judiciary's Access to Court Records pamphlet.
What is a Court Docket in New York?
A New York court docket is a formal record of all proceedings and filings in a court case. Typically available in electronic or paper format, court dockets carry a variety of information about a case, including the names of the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s), the court handling a case, the venue and time of a court appearance, case status, and so on. Court dockets are useful for several purposes, especially in helping the public and court officials know which documents have been filed in a case and if a future appearance is required.
To find a docket created by a New York court, a person can call or visit the relevant court clerk's office or use the eCourts or Court-PASS portal (the NY Court of Appeals docket) provided on the state judiciary's website.
Types of Courts in New York
Each trial and appellate court within the New York State Court System has a distinct function. The trial courts are divided into civil and criminal courts that operate in and outside New York City. These courts resolve many disputes, including divorce, felony/misdemeanor charges, small claims, traffic violations, probate, and more. The appellate courts, on the other hand, deal with appeals for review of trial court judgments and other cases beyond trial court jurisdiction.
What are Civil Courts and Small Claims in New York?
Civil Courts are Trial Courts that decide lawsuits involving damages up to $25,000. This court may also include a small claims section for cases involving damages of up to $5,000 and a housing part for landlord-tenant matters. New York, small claims courts, are special parts of a court that decides matters involving damages of up to $10,000 or less. An individual may sue another in this court without a lawyer.
However, only residents that are 18 years and above are eligible to sue someone in New York. The individual must also pay a court fee of $15 - $20 and submit a completed court form specifying the claims.