New York Court Records
New York Court Records are the official documentation of legal proceedings and decisions made in the state's court system.
These records provide a comprehensive and public account of the legal actions taken within the New York court system. They are an essential resource for lawyers, researchers, journalists, and members of the general public who want to understand the workings of the justice system in the state.
Furthermore, they include information about criminal trials, civil lawsuits, and other legal matters heard by a judge in a New York court. Most of the time, the records can provide important details such as the names of the parties involved, the nature of the case, the outcome, and any penalties or judgments handed down by the court.
New York law considers court records public records. Section 255 of the New York State Judiciary Law specifies that court documents must be available for public view and permits the copying of such records.
The Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) also regulates how easily the public may get data from government agencies, including from the courts. Unless exempt, it allows the public to see and copy these documents.
While most New York Court Records are accessible to the public, some information has restrictions due to privacy concerns, such as personal identification information or sensitive details related to a case.
Which New York Courts Maintain Publicly Accessible Records?
Knowing the basics of how the New York state court system works is helpful while searching for court records.
Trial Courts and Appellate Courts comprise the New York state court system. And most court records are in the trial courts, which are classified into three groups:
- Courts that operate within and outside New York City
- Courts within New York City
- Courts outside New York City
The following are courts that operate within and outside New York City:
A New York Supreme Court has more authority than lower state courts. They have broad authority to hear any civil or criminal issue, although they usually only deal with disputes outside the lower courts' purview.
Here are some of the cases that the New York Supreme Court can hear:
- Criminal matters like felony cases
- Civil matters involving general civil claims over $25,000
- Minor claims tax assessment reviews
- Complex commercial issues
- Domestic abuse issues
- Breach of contract
- Business torts
- Transactions covered by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC)
Certain kinds of juvenile proceedings, domestic disputes, abuse prevention orders, and some criminal cases are within the jurisdiction of a Family Court in New York.
Family Courts may hear specific sorts of matters referred by the Supreme Court, such as habeas corpus procedures to decide the custody of children and support or custody issues arising from the dissolution of a marriage.
This court can transfer cases to other courts except for the Supreme Court.
A New York Surrogate's Court has authority over specific matters involving a deceased person's affairs, such as the administration of estates, probate of wills, guardianship of minors' property, and lifelong trusts.
It has the jurisdiction to accept cases from other courts, except for Supreme Court.
Court of Claims
Any person, business, or municipality may file a civil claim against the State of New York or certain governmental agencies and organizations, but only in the New York State Court of Claims.
Generally, the Court of Claims may handle cases involving the following:
- Violation of contract
- Appropriation of real or personal property
- Torts committed by state authorities or workers while acting in their official role
- Public construction contracts
- Unfair conviction and incarceration
On the other hand, here are the courts in New York City:
New York City Civil Courts
The New York City Civil Courts have jurisdiction over most general civil claims for less than $25,000 and counterclaims for any amount of money or subject to monetary restrictions.
Every Civil Court of the City of New York has three divisions, and each has different jurisdiction:
- Small Claims division for civil claims under $5,000
- Commercial Claims division for the majority of consumer transaction claims with a value of less than $5,000
- General Civil division for eviction, some kinds of real property lawsuits, certain types of lien or mortgage cases, retraction or reformation of specific transactions, commercial landlord-tenant matters, and other civil issues not handled by another division
The New York City Courts may transfer some cases to different courts. Some jurisdictional transfers might be possible if monetary restrictions were lifted. Civil Courts also hear civil matters referred by the Supreme Court of New York City.
New York City Criminal Courts
The New York City Criminal Courts have jurisdiction over most misdemeanors, all crimes of a lesser degree, and preliminary hearings for felony cases.
A New York City Court may transfer certain matters to other courts except for the Supreme Court.
Finally, four court types operate outside New York City:
A New York County Court has authority over all criminal and certain civil proceedings in the county but typically only hears cases that exceed the authority of lesser courts.
A New York County Court has jurisdiction over the following types of cases:
- Criminal cases like felonies and lesser-included offenses
- General civil claims for less than $25,000
- General civil counterclaims without financial restrictions
- The division of real property
- A variety of real estate and lien-related matters
Certain civil and criminal proceedings, which might vary from court to court, are subject to District Courts' authority.
Below are some of the cases that New York District Courts can hear:
- Most misdemeanors, all offenses of a grade below a misdemeanor, and preliminary hearings for felony criminal charges
- Civil disputes involving claims worth up to $15,000
- Certain liens for less than $15,000, civil breaches of municipal and state housing regulations, and eviction
District Courts also have a Small Claims division for the majority of general civil claims under $5,000 and a Commercial Claims division for the majority of consumer transaction claims totaling less than $5,000.
City Courts in New York may have jurisdiction in certain civil and criminal proceedings. However, this will not generally exceed the possible authority of a District Court and may vary from court to court.
Cases typically heard by a City Court include the following:
- Misdemeanor criminal cases, crimes that are less serious than misdemeanors, and preliminary hearings in felony criminal cases
- Civil cases involving money or personal property, the establishment of certain liens for under $15,000, the foreclosure of liens on personal property valued at under $15,000, civil violations of local and state housing laws, eviction, and some general civil counterclaims with no financial cap
City Courts also include a Small Claims division for most civil claims under $5,000 and a Commercial Claims division for most consumer transaction claims less than $5,000.
Town and Village Courts
New York Town and Village Courts, commonly called Justice Courts, have authority over certain civil and criminal proceedings.
Common types of cases considered by Town Courts and Village Courts in New York are:
- Misdemeanors, local code and traffic offenses, and infractions
- General civil claims and small claims actions for less than $3000
- Evictions, demands for unpaid rent, and other landlord-tenant issues
- Breaches of the building and zoning codes
- Dog complaints
In criminal proceedings, Town and Village Court Judges also conduct arraignments, conduct preliminary hearings, and set bail.
What are the Common Public Court Records in New York?
The following are the types of New York Court Records that are most often available to the public:
New York Civil and Small Claims Records
A New York Small Claims Record is a file where the clerk of court documents the proceedings in a small claims lawsuit.
By law, the Small Claims Courts in New York must consider cases requiring financial recompense between individuals or groups. The benchmark is $3,000 in Town and Village Courts, $5,000 for the Small Claims Division of the City Courts, and $10,000 in New York City. However, the amount varies throughout the state.
On the other hand, New York Civil Records refer to the official documents generated during a civil lawsuit filed in the state. In most cases, these records document civil disputes involving claims worth up to $25,000 but may also vary from court to court.
You can find New York Civil and Small Claims Records in the court clerk's office that filed and heard the case.
New York Criminal Records
New York Criminal Records are official documents containing information about a person's criminal history within the state. It may include their arrests, charges, convictions, and sentences.
Together with the courts, law enforcement agencies maintain these records and make them available to the public, although some laws restrict access to certain information.
The New York Division of Criminal Justice Services (NYDCJS) can provide you with New York Criminal Records. You can get a copy of your criminal record by complying with or submitting all requirements to the NYDCJS.
If you request someone else's criminal record, you may need to provide a notarized release form signed by the individual or a court order. Alternatively, you can ask the New York State Office of Court Administration, either online or by mail, to look at another person's state public criminal records.
New York Traffic Records
The New York Traffic Records, often known as driving records, are exhaustive documentation of an individual's driving history.
With the help of the traffic courts in the counties where the violations occurred, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) generates and maintains these official publications to provide drivers with a summary of pertinent information about road usage.
You can get access to New York Traffic Records online through MyDMV.
Once you obtain a traffic record in New York, it typically includes personally identifiable information, records of traffic law violations, accumulated points, and accident reports,
New York Property Lien Records
A property lien in New York is a legal claim on a piece of real estate used to secure debt payment. If the debtor fails to pay, the lienholder may be able to foreclose on the property and sell it to collect the amount owed.
Each lien type in New York is a creditor's legal claim on a debtor's assets if the debtor cannot repay a loan or fulfill a contractual commitment. When a creditor registers a lien on a debtor's property, the property becomes collateral, and the lien secures the creditor's interest.
Aside from the court that filed the lien, you can also find some lien records in New York at the local county's property appraiser.
New York Probate Records
New York Probate Records refer to the papers and data about the state's legal requirements and judicial oversight for administrating a decedent's estate.
These rules govern probating a will and settling an estate in New York, including appointing an executor or administrator, paying debts and taxes, inventorying and assessing assets, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.
New York Probate Records typically contain the following information:
- Will: A document that outlines the deceased person's instructions for distributing their assets after death.
- Distribution of Assets: Information about the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
- Inventory of Assets and Debts: A list of the deceased person's assets and debts at the time of death.
- Final Account: A report summarizing the estate's financial activities and asset distribution.
- Appointment of Executor or Administrator: Information about who was appointed to manage the deceased person's estate.
- Court Orders and Decisions: Orders and decisions made by the court regarding the administration of the estate.
- Estate Proceedings: Details about the probate proceedings, including any objections or disputes that may have arisen during the process.
The New York Surrogate's Courts are mainly responsible for overseeing probate proceedings in the state. Thus, visit or contact the appropriate court to request a probate file or information in New York.
New York Family Records
New York Family Records refer to a collection of records and information about New York residents' personal and family history.
Some of the New York Family Records include the following:
- Vital records such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates
- Divorce records such as divorce decree
- Census records
- Immigration records
- Other genealogical records
Aside from the local county clerk's offices, various government agencies and institutions, such as the New York State Department of Health, New York State Archives, and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), maintain these records.
New York Bankruptcy Records
Unlike all other New York Court Records, these documents are not within the state's authority of the trial courts. Instead, these are under the jurisdiction of federal courts.
New York Bankruptcy Records refer to the official documents filed by individuals or businesses in New York when they declare themselves unable to pay their debts and seek protection under federal bankruptcy laws.
These records include information such as the following:
- Name and address of the debtor
- The type of bankruptcy petition filed
- The assets and liabilities of the debtor
- The outcome of the case
The two most common bankruptcy filings in New York are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies.
Chapter 7, also called "liquidation" bankruptcy, is where the court appoints a trustee to sell the debtor's assets to pay off creditors. It is typically for individuals with few assets and a high amount of unsecured debt.
On the other hand, Chapter 13 bankruptcy, also known as a "wage earner's" bankruptcy, is where the debtor proposes a payment plan to repay their creditors over three to five years. It is usually for individuals with a regular income and assets they want to keep, such as a home or a car.
If you want copies of bankruptcy records in New York, consult with the following federal courts in the state:
- Northern District Bankruptcy Court
- Southern District Bankruptcy Court
- Eastern District Bankruptcy Court
- Western District Bankruptcy Court
Visit the appropriate office and ask a clerk for information. Some courts may have particular request forms for bankruptcy records, while others may not.
Furthermore, all non-confidential New York Bankruptcy Records are accessible via Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), the federal judiciary's online record system.
Does New York Have a Case Search?
Most New York Court Records are accessible online through the eCourts of the New York State Unified Court System. You can use this case information service for free. Furthermore, finding court documents in the state becomes more manageable using the eTrack case tracking service or the New York Court record search portal.
If you don't find the court records you need using those case search systems, you can obtain them by determining the correct courthouse or agency that maintained them.
Typically, the relevant case files are kept by the court that heard the matter. You can use this directory to locate the appropriate courthouse. After identifying the proper court, make your request letter directly to the court or county clerk.
It is worth noting that county clerks' offices in New York often exchange court records between the state's Supreme Court and County Court. Therefore, you should check with each of these agencies to determine whether they house the necessary documents.
For requests made in person, you usually need to submit an application form that you can often acquire through the court website. If not available online, visit the local courthouse.
New York mandates that requests for court documents must be precise, that requestors accurately identify the material sought or give pertinent information about it, and that requests comply with the court's indexing and record retrieval system.
Court clerks may charge fees for copying and certifying court documents under section 225 of the State's Judiciary Law.
Counties in New York
- New York
- Saint Lawrence
Courts in New York
List of Content
- Which New York Courts Maintain Publicly Accessible Records?
- What are the Common Public Court Records in New York?
- Does New York Have a Case Search?