Welcome to the New York State
Judicial Candidate Voter Guide.
The Judiciary, along with the Executive and the Legislature, is one of the three co-equal branches of the New York
State government. New York State courts hear more than four million cases a year, including: family matters, personal
injury claims, commercial disputes, trust and estate issues, criminal cases, and landlord-tenant matters. Every one
of these cases is important to the individual parties involved; many have implications for the larger community as well.
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.
The Voter Guide, typically available two weeks before the General Election, covers elected, trial-level judge positions, other than Town and Village Justices. The list of candidates for each position is provided by the State and County Boards of Elections after the judicial nominating conventions take place. The biographical information about each candidate is provided by the candidate. You may continue reading about the different courts, or browse the Voter Guide.
The following descriptions are adapted from The New York State Courts: An Introductory Guide.
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
- 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.
Access the Voter Guide
Additional court-related materials and resources are available on the New York State Unified
Court System web site.