New York Supreme Court

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New York County Supreme Court building at 60 Centre Street, from across
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New York County Supreme Court building at 60 Centre Street, from across Foley Square

The Supreme Court of the State of New York is one of several New York State trial courts in which cases originate. The court sits in each of New York State's 62 counties, although some of the smaller counties share judges with neighboring counties. All but the most populous counties are grouped into judicial districts from which the justices are elected, unwritten agreements allotting the justice seats among the counties of the district. (See List of New York counties.) In New York, unlike most other states, the Supreme Court is not the highest court of the state - which is instead called the Court of Appeals of New York; this nomenclature sometimes causes confusion.

To add to the confusion, the court's New York County location is distributed across several buildings in Manhattan. The civil branch is at several buildings near Foley Square: the main New York County Courthouse building at 60 Centre Street (see photo), and three others at 80 Centre Street (across Worth Street), 111 Centre Street, and 71 Thomas Street. The criminal branch is at 100 Centre Street, shared with the Manhattan Criminal Court, the Office of the District Attorney and other agencies, and at 111 Centre Street, shared with the New York County Civil Court. This is also true of the Supreme Court in Kings County and in Richmond County. In Richmond County several "Parts" of the Supreme Court are located in the former U.S. Navy Home Port (each Part is usually where one Supreme Court judge sits).

The State Supreme Court handles large civil cases throughout New York State, and also handles felony criminal cases within the five counties that make up New York City. Outside New York City, the County Courts handle felony criminal cases. Smaller civil cases and less serious criminal cases are handled in other courts: the Civil and Criminal Courts in New York City; County and District Courts in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island; and County, City, Town and Village Courts in the rest of the state. Certain specialized matters are handled by other courts; for example, probate matters are heard in Surrogate's Court, juvenile delinquency and child custody matters in Family Court, and tort and contract claims against the state for monetary damages in the Court of Claims. Although the New York Supreme Court in theory has unlimited general original jurisdiction over civil litigation, in practice it does not normally hear cases with lower monetary claims that are within the powers of a New York state trial court of limited jurisdiction such as County Court or N.Y.C. Civil Court. The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over three areas: matrimonial actions (such as for divorce or annulment), declaratory judgments, and so-called Article 78 actions, which are challenges to administrative decisions by state agencies.

Appeals from Supreme Court decisions go to the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, which is New York's intermediate appellate court divided into four appellate departments, decisions of these intermediate appellate courts are only binding in each appellate department. New York's highest appellate court is the Court of Appeals; appeals are taken from the four departments to the Court of Appeals; decisions from the Court of Appeals are binding throughout the state.

New York Supreme Court justices are elected to 14-year terms. In practice, most of the power of selecting judges belongs to local political party organizations. Regardless of the term for which they are elected,justices retire at the end of the year in which they reach the age of seventy years, a replacement being chosen to a fresh 14-year term that November with effect from the start of the following year.

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