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General Overview of the Court


The Supreme Court, Civil Branch, New York County handles civil cases (those not involving criminal offenses). The court is empowered to decide all such matters. However, the New York City Civil Court is authorized to decide civil cases in which money only in the amount of $ 25,000 or less is at stake.  If a case within the reach of the Civil Court is commenced in the Supreme Court, a Justice of the latter court is empowered to require that it go forward in the Civil Court. At present, due to fiscal constraints and staffing shortages, cases are not being transferred to that court.

The Supreme Court, Civil Branch, New York County is a trial-level court, the highest such court for civil cases in the state court system in New York County. Cases are decided in this court in the first instance. Some decisions from this court may be appealed to a higher court, the Appellate Division, First Department, 27 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10010.

Located in the New York County Courthouse, the Supreme Court's main courthouse at 60 Centre Street, is another appellate court, the Appellate Term. This court hears appeals from the New York City Civil Court and the New York City Criminal Court for New York and Bronx Counties, including the Housing Part and the Small Claims Part. 

Cases are commenced in Supreme Court by filing of initiating papers, pursuant to the relevant code of civil procedure, the Civil Practice Law and Rules, with the County Clerk of New York County in Room 141B at 60 Centre Street in Manhattan. As to commencement of cases by electronic filing, which is mandatory in several important categories of cases, see below.  Fees have been imposed by the Legislature for the obtaining of a case number (the index number) and with regard to certain other actions or filings in court, as well as various other functions of the County Clerk.  The fees are listed on this site (click here). 

Generally, each case in this court is assigned to one of the Justices of the court upon the filing of a request (the Request for Judicial Intervention).  Justices are designated by the Administrative Judge to handle different types of cases. Upon filing of a Request for Judicial Intervention, a case is assigned at random via computer to one of the Justices designated for that category of case. In order to expedite the trial of cases, some Justices are  assigned primarily to preside over trials. Other Justices are assigned to handle cases generally from beginning to end in keeping with the philosophy of the Individual Assignment System that justice can be best and most efficiently done if, to the maximum extent possible, a case remains with a single Justice throughout its life.

The caseload in this court is large. At the beginning of 2012, almost 31,000  cases were pending, not counting uncontested matrimonial matters.More such matrimonial matters are disposed of by this court by far than by any other court in New York. In 2011, the court decided 32,980 motions (which figure does not include dispositions at trial).

The Justice assigned to each case will set a schedule for the progress of the case. This is often done at a conference, which is attended by attorneys for all parties or unrepresented parties and the court. When specific legal issues arise in a case, a party may make a motion, an application for an order determining particular issues. Motions may affect the schedule of the case, the exchange of information between the parties about the merits of the case, or the merits themselves. Some motions can result in the determination of the entire case. If issues remain for decision after all motions have been made, a trial may be had. 

Legal papers presented to the court for action by a Justice are received and processed (e.g., recorded in the court's computer) by various administrative offices. The principal such offices (the rooms listed are located at 60 Centre Street) are:  

  • General Clerk's Office (Room 119)

  • Ex Parte Office (Room 315)

  • Matrimonial Support Office (Room 311)

  • Guardianship and Fiduciary Support Office (Room 158)

  • Help Center (Room 116)

  • Commercial Division Support Office (Room 119A)

For phone numbers, click here.

The court operates an electronic filing system. The New York State Courts Electronic Filing System ("NYSCEF") allows attorneys and unrepresented parties to certain kinds of cases to file documents, both commencement and subsequent, with the court by electronic means. Commercial, contract, and tort cases commenced on or after February 27, 2012 must be commenced and pursued electronically through the NYSCEF system. See the E-Filing page on this site.

The court offers several alternative dispute resolution programs. These programs provide the parties an opportunity to obtain a resolution of the lawsuit without the formality attendant to the judicial process. Such resolutions can be obtained in various cases with greater expedition and at less expense than may be involved in pursuing a lawsuit through to completion in court. For more information, click here.


RULES OF PROCEDURE

Lawsuits are governed by formal rules of procedure. The most important rules are contained in the Civil Practice Law and Rules, the Uniform Rules for the Trial Courts, and the Rules of the Justices of the Supreme Court, Civil Branch, New York County. The first two of these can be found in law libraries and public libraries. The second can also be found on the website of the New York State Unified Court System (click here). The court operates a Public Access Library (80 Centre Street, Room 468) where these materials can be found. The Rules of the Justices can be found on this website (click here). 

THE COUNTY CLERK

The County Clerk, the Honorable Norman Goodman, is responsible for receipt of papers commencing cases and maintenance of the official case files, which contain all papers filed with the court in each case. Cases are initiated in Room 141B in the basement at 60 Centre Street (except in e-filed matters). Case files are kept in the Record Room (Room 103B in the basement at 60 Centre Street) (except for older cases). The County Clerk is also the Commissioner of Jurors for New York County. As such, he supervises the process of notifying prospective jurors to appear in court for jury service. He handles postponements as permitted by law and other aspects of jury service. The actual process of selecting a jury in a case in this court is done through the court and the County Clerk working together. 

The County Clerk also performs a number of other functions, which are identified in relevant  sections of this site. These include issuance of passports, certification of records, maintenance of business filings (such as certificates of doing business), and maintenance of the judgment and lien docket. 

The main office of the County Clerk is Room 161, 60 Centre Street, New York, New York  10007 (Phone: 646-386-5955; for phone numbers to particular departments of the County Clerk's Office, click here).   

The County Clerk should be distinguished from the Chief Clerk and Executive Officer of the court.  The latter is in charge of court clerks, back offices, and court operations and programs.

 November 2012