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New York State Unified Court System

Court of Appeals
Supreme Court, Appellate Division
Supreme Court
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Surrogate's Court
New York City Courts (Civil, Criminal)

The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division is the intermediate appellate court in New York State. It was created by the New York State Constitution of 1894 to succeed the General Term of the Supreme Court, effective January 1, 1896.[1] The Appellate Division hears appeals from the New York Supreme Court, which is the state's general trial court; decisions by the Appellate Division may be appealed to the state's highest court, the New York Court of Appeals. The Appellate Division is composed of four departments (the full title of the "Fourth Department," for example, is New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department).[2]

Contents

Subject-matter Jurisdiction

The Appellate Division may make decisions of law and fact. In contrast, the New York Court of Appeals may decide only questions of law.

When a particular department rules on a given issue, that ruling is generally binding on all the courts below and generally in every department. The First and Second Departments have issued case law indicating that trial courts within their respective jurisdictions should follow the decisions of the other departments if the First or Second Department, respectively, have not ruled on a particular issue. If two different departments have made different rulings on the same issue, then the lower courts in each departmental area must follow the ruling made by the higher court for their particular department. This can sometimes result in the same law being applied differently in different departments. When this occurs, the highest court in the state, the Court of Appeals, can remedy the situation by hearing the case and issuing a single ruling, which is then binding on every court in the state. See Mountain View Coach Lines v. Storms, 102 A.D.2d 663, 476 N.Y.S.2d 918 (2d Dept. 1984).[3]

New York's rules of civil procedure allow for interlocutory appeals of right from nearly every order and decision of the trial court,[4] meaning that most may be appealed to the appropriate appellate department while the case is still pending in the trial court. In contrast, the federal court system and the courts of most other U.S. states prohibit interlocutory appeals in the vast majority of instances, meaning that a case must be fully concluded before any appealable issues can be raised before the appropriate federal appellate court. As a result, appellate department dockets are busy ones. Different issues in the same case may be heard on appeal time and time again before the case is even tried in the lower court.

The Appellate Division has several other unique features. New York attorneys are admitted in an Appellate Division department rather than by the Court of Appeals, while in practically all other states, attorney admissions are officially conducted by the state's highest court (upon the recommendation of the state bar association or a special admissions office or committee). While most states have a unified set of appellate rules modeled on or at least inspired by the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, each department of the Appellate Division has its own sui generis set of rules; there is no set of appellate rules shared by all departments.

Jurisdiction of the Four Departments

The First Department (seated in Manhattan) covers only the Bronx (Bronx County) and Manhattan (New York County).[2][5]

The Second Department (seated in Brooklyn, Kings County) oversees the supreme courts of the remaining boroughs of New York CityQueens (Queens County), Brooklyn (Kings County), and Staten Island (Richmond County)—as well as the remainder of Long Island (Nassau County and Suffolk County), and the New York City suburbs in Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester Counties.[2][6]

The Third Department (seated in Albany) includes an area extending from the territory of the Second Department north to New York's borders with Vermont and Quebec, and includes the cities of Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga Springs, and Binghamton. This territory extends nearly as far west as Syracuse.[2][7]

The Fourth Department (seated in Rochester) covers the remainder of the state (west of the Third Department's territory), and includes the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse.[2][8]

Appointment of Justices

Justices of the Appellate Division are chosen by the Governor from among those elected to the State Supreme Court. A justice does not have to have been elected from one of the judicial districts within a Department to be appointed to the Appellate Division for that Department. They serve at least 5 years, or until the completion of their 14-year elected terms, or reaching the constitutional age limit of 70, beyond which the governor may choose to reappoint them for up to three two-year terms.

References

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