|Formed||September 1, 1962|
|Jurisdiction||New York City|
|Parent department||New York State Unified Court System|
The Civil Court of the City of New York is a civil court of the New York State Unified Court System in New York City that decides lawsuits involving claims for damages up to $25,000 and includes a small claims part (small claims court) for cases involving amounts up to $5,000 as well as a housing part (housing court) for landlord-tenant matters, and also handles other civil matters referred by the New York Supreme Court. It handles about 25% of all the New York state and local courts' total filings. The court has divisions by county (borough), but it is a single citywide court.
In 1759, so-called justices' courts held by the mayor, recorder or an alderman could try cases in controversy of not more than £5. In 1781, they were replaced by assistant justices' courts held by associate justices appointed by the governor. In 1787, these were replaced by assistant justices with the power of justices of the peace in other counties. In 1797, these were replaced with justices of the peace for the city and county of New York and were constituted as one court.
In 1807-1808 these were replaced by justices' courts and assistants justices' courts. In 1819, the justices' courts were replaced by the marine court of the city of New York, and in 1883 was renamed as the City Court of the City of New York. In 1852, the assistant justices' courts were renamed as the District Courts in the City of New York, and by the city charter in 1897 the district courts of New York City and justices' courts of Brooklyn and Long Island City were consolidated into the Municipal Court of the City of New York.
On September 1, 1962, the City Court of the City of New York and the Municipal Court of the City of New York were merged to form the current Civil Court.
The Civil Court has monetary jurisdiction up to $25,000, including replevin when the value of the chattel does not exceed that amount, real property actions such as partitions, and foreclosures within the monetary limit, and also has equity jurisdiction limited to real property actions, ejectment actions, and actions to rescind or reform a contract not involving more than the $25,000 jurisdictional limit.
There are approximately 120 Civil Court judges and 50 Housing Court judges in the New York City Civil Court. Civil Court Judges may be assigned by the Chief Administrative Judge of New York to the New York City Criminal Court, the New York City Family Court or the Supreme Court of the State of New York]. At any given time, about 50 Civil Court judges are assigned to the New York City Civil Court, with the rest assigned to the Criminal, Family or Supreme Courts. All 50 Housing Court judges serve in the Civil Court and cannot be assigned to other courts.
Civil Court judges are elected countywide or from districts to 10-year terms, with vacancies filled by the mayor and with their service continuing until the last day of December after next election. The Legislature has consistently opted to fill judgeships using the preexisting mixed pattern of countywide and Municipal Court districts--
A candidate needs to file petitions to be considered a candidate for a political party's nomination in the general election; petitions containing 4,000 signatures are needed for a county-wide seat, and petitions containing 1,500 signatures are necessary for a district seat. Party leaders frequently designate candidates for the Civil Court judgeships, who then face an open primary against others who qualify for the ballot. The party machine usually manages to elect most of its judicial candidates.
Housing Court judges handle the housing parts of the New York City Civil Court but are not judges provided for under Article VI of the New York Constitution. Housing judges are appointed by the Chief Administrative Judge to five-year terms from a list of qualified applicants screened and selected by the Housing Court Advisory Council.
With the consent of the parties, a volunteer arbitrator hears and decides disputes in small claims parts. Over 2800 arbitrators preside over 95% of the cases heard in small claims parts. They are appointed by the administrative judge of the court.
Landlords in New York City may use a blacklist of persons who have appeared in housing court as a plaintiff or defendant. Known among housing advocates and lawyers as the tenant blacklist, it is compiled by tenant-screening database companies from housing court records.