Thursday, August 17, 2006

The State Court System

Hon. Eugene Pigott, the presiding judge on the 4th Department, is reported by the Buffalo News to be the leading contender to the Court of Appeals.

New York has a somewhat unique system for selecting state court judges. The lowest level general state court, the Supreme Court, theoretically has a branch in every county. However, judges are elected in multi-county judicial districts and then assigned within the district. Supreme Court justices are elected for 14 year terms.

There are four intermediate level appellate courts, the Appellate Division(s) of the Supreme Court. The multitude of judicial districts are grouped into four departments and each department has an appellate court. The judges on these courts are appointed by the Governor from the existing body of Supreme Court judges. So Judge Pigott, for example, is elected from the 8th Judicial District but instead of hearing cases in the District, sits on the Appellate Division for the Fourth Department.

The top court in New York is the Court of Appeals. Judges of this court sit in fourteen year terms. However, these are all appointed positions and it is not required that one be a sitting Supreme Court justice to become a Court of Appeals judge.

This brief summary leaves out Family Court and Surrogate Court judge, state judges elected and assigned within an individual county, and ignores the overlapping duties/offices that often occur in less populated areas (ie, Cattaragus County has two judges who share the duties of County Court/Family Court/Surrogate's Court, or, ie, the Chautauqua County Surrogate is also an Acting Supreme Court Justice, handling divorce cases.)


Blogger Matt said...

What? No breakdown on the town, village and city courts? LOL

2:48 PM  
Blogger TMT said...

Well, since you asked, in two paragraphs or less: NY has enacted a system wherein they attempt to bring all courts into line with procedures and such. This Unified Court System includes those mentioned earlier, plus those "Spin City" mentioned above.

NY's town and village courts are known as the "justice courts" and the judges here were formerly "justices of the peace." They are the only judges that don't need to be lawyers and are generally elected on a town/village bases on two or four year terms. City Courts have much greater jurisdiction and the judges are required to be lawyers, and they are elected for 10 year terms.

4:36 PM  

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