Summary Review of Court Systems -

New York

Structure of Civil Courts

New York’s court of general jurisdiction for the trial of civil matters for money claims of over $25,000 and equity claims in any amount is the Supreme Court, sitting in every county. Appeals are taken to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. Interlocutory appeals may be taken to the Appellate Division of right in most instances. Appeals from the Appellate Divisions are to the Court of Appeals, the court of last resort, usually by leave to appeal granted on motion. The Civil Court of the City of New York deals with money claims of less than $25,000 in the five boroughs of the city. The County Courts, which sit in every county of the state outside New York City, perform a similar role. The Surrogate’s Court deals with decedents’ estates. The Family Court deals with young people and family issues, but not divorce, which is handled in the Supreme Court. The Court of Claims hears claims for money damages against the State. There are also a substantial number of town, village and justice courts, depending on the county. There is sometimes overlapping jurisdiction between specialized courts and courts of general jurisdiction.

Basis of Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court has unlimited general legal and equitable jurisdiction over all civil claims where the court has personal jurisdiction over the parties and jurisdiction is not barred by constitution, treaty, statute, regulation, or pre-emption.

Commercial Courts

There is a Commercial Division of the Supreme Court sitting in ten of New York’s sixty-two counties which deals with disputes between businesses, e.g., breach of contract, business torts, and fraud. The amount in controversy requirement is highest in New York County ($500,000) and Nassau County ($200,000), and is always higher than the $25,000 threshold in general Supreme Court parts. Practice is similar to that in the federal district courts.


The New York State court system has a variety of ADR programs, the availability and nature of which varies from county to county and court to court. The Commercial Division in every county has a uniform rule for making ADR available.