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New York Practice
Rutgers University, Newark School of Law
Gugig, Michael S.

I. Overview

The Civil Practice Law and Rules (“CPLR”) governs civil practice in every court in the state of New York.

Some lower level courts have their own Court Acts that prescribes the courts subject matter jurisdiction of each court and regulations that govern practice.

Example: New York City Civil Court (New York City Civil Court Act, governs civil court for New York City); Nassau and Suffolk County District Courts (Uniform District Court Act – these are the only two counties that have district courts); All City Courts (Uniform City Court Act, governing civil practice in all 61 city courts outside New York City); Town and Village Courts (Uniform Justice Court Act, governing civil practice in all of the town and village courts of the state).

CPLR § 101: But the only time the CPLR will not govern is where there is a specific rule in a Court Act that directly conflicts with the CPLR.

CPLR Basics:

CPLR § 103: One Form of Civil Judicial Proceedings

(a) Does away with the distinction between courts of equity and law in NY. There is only one form of civil action. *This is a key difference between NY and NJ, which has a Chancery (equity) and Law Division.
(b) Action vs. Special Proceeding – An Action is what you think of as a lawsuit. A “Special Proceeding” is a subset of actions that short-circuit the litigation process. E.g., no discovery in special proceedings, π (called petitioner) commences the action by briefing an issue (normally pure questions of law) as soon as the petition is filed, Δ (called “respondent”) opposes and the court rules. All Article 78 motions are special proceedings. ** The general rule is that all judicial proceedings shall be prosecuted in the form of an action, except where the law specifically authorizes a special proceeding.

CPLR § 104: Liberal Construction

Requires that the CPLR and its rules be “liberally construed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every civil action.”
It’s supposed to mean that the CPLR and the rules therein are not designed to be an end unto themselves, but merely a means of getting to an end. However, if you know procedure better than your opponent, you will win more cases than “justice” would otherwise direct.

CPLR § 2004: Extensions of Time

Where a time limit is placed on a particular act, a court can change the time limit unless a statute says that a court can not, like a prescribed statute of limitation.
Things like filings, etc. can be extended, but the statute of limitations rule says that no court may extend it. The rule says a court may extend time “upon such terms as may be just and upon good cause shown.” If an adversary asks for more time, you should agree b/c you want the favor extended to you too.

II. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
A. Generally

· Subject Matter Jurisdiction (“SMJ”) concerns whether a court is allowed to consider a topic – the outer limits of a court’s authority to hear a particular case or controversy.
· In NY, SMJ is conferred either by (a) statute (Court Acts) or (b) by the state constitution. Parties can not stipulate to expand it. Nor can a court rule expand its own SMJ.
· SMJ can be raised at any time, whether before an initial verdict, or for the first time on appeal.
· SMJ can not be waived.

B. Court Structure and Subject Matter Jurisdiction
i. Generally

· LIKELY EXAM QUESTION (#1):There are two types of courts in New York: (1) limited jurisdiction; and (2) general jurisdiction.
o A court of general jurisdiction can hear any type of case, with very limited exceptions. It has all the subject matter jurisdiction that it is permitted to have. It is pretty close to unlimited. Jurisdiction in these courts is presumed.
§ In NY, the Supreme Court is the only court of general jurisdiction.
o A court of limited jurisdiction is vested w/ less than the full jurisdiction it is permitted to have. The jurisdiction of these courts, if challenged, must be specifically demonstrated (it must be shown that the claim is within the provision conferring jurisdiction).
§ Example: federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. There is no federal court of general jurisdiction. In NY, eg, City Civil Courts can only hear claims of limited monetary value; Family Ct; Ct. of Appeals; Appellate Div; etc. (see below).

ii. Court Structure & SMJ
a) Highest Court – Court of Appeals

· The Court of Appeals can only decide issues of law. Two exceptions: (1) appeal from criminal judgment where the death penalty is imposed (appeal goes right to Court of Appeals and facts can be considered; and (2) appeal from an appellate decision that reversed or modified a trial court decision, finding new facts b/c trial court erred.
· LIKELY EXAM QUESTION (#2)The Court of Appeals is the only court in NY that is permitted to issue Advisory Opinions (where there is no case or controversy). This occurs only when:
· ****When a question of New York Law is presented to the Court of Appeals by (1) the highest court of another state; or (2) by any federal appellate court (which includes any federal court of appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court).****

b) Intermediate Court – Appellate Division

· All appeals by the Supreme Court go to one of four appellate division judicial departments
o 1st Judicial Dept.: covers Manhattan and the Bronx.
o 2nd Judicial Dept.: covers Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island, and some Westchester Counties.
o 3rd Judicial Dept: covers Eastern New York.
o 4th Judicial Dept.: covers Western NY.
· Possible Exam Question (#3) – Decisions by Appellate Division Judicial Departments are binding on the trial courts within each respective department. Example: NY County not bound by 4th Judicial Dept. Decisions. Decisions by outside

itted in county courts (unlike NYC Civil Court). Example: 4 K actions for $10K/each cannot be brought together.

f) NYC Criminal Court

· Exists only in the five boroughs and can only hear misdemeanor actions. ***All felony actions must be heard in the Supreme Court.
· Appeals go to the Appellate Term of the Supreme Court
g) NYC Civil Court

· Exists only in the five boroughs. One of the largest courts in the world. One civil court in each of the five counties.
· Appeals go to the Appellate Term of the Supreme Court
· ***Can hear money actions up to $25,000.***
o Also replevin actions (to recover personal property) up to $25,000.
o Counterclaims can be brought w/o monetary limit.
o Can also hear real property actions, but it has a monetary limit of $25,000 (unlike county courts)
· AGGREGATION OF CLAIMS: is permitted in NYC Civil Court [need clarity on the difference between NYC Civil Court and County Courts]

h) Other Courts

District Courts: Only two in the state, one covering Nassau County and the other covering Suffolk County. Unrelated to federal district courts.
· Civil and replevin jurisdiction limited to $15,000. (Counterclaim w/o limit)
· Process generally limited to the county.
· Criminal jurisdiction only for misdemeanors and lesser offenses.
· Appeals go to county court unless Appellate Term is established.

City Courts: One in each of the 61 cities outside NYC.
· Monetary jurisdiction limited to $15,000 (money & replevin claims).
· Appeals go to county court unless Appellate Term is established

Town & Village Courts: Local level courts in respective counties. Town Court known as “justice of the peace” and village court as “village police justice”
· Monetary jurisdiction up to $3,000.
· Criminal jurisdiction of misdemeanors or below.
· Appeals to County Court.

C. Transfer Between Courts
i. Mistake in Choice of Court

· If a case is brought in the “wrong court” (ie, a court that lacks subject matter jurisdiction) it need not be dismissed. Instead it should be transferred to the court that does have jurisdiction.
· CPLR § 325(a): If a mistake was made in the choice of court, the Supreme Court, may, upon motion, remove the case to the proper court; as an alternative, the incorrect court can sua sponte transfer the case up to the right court. (Example: Complaint for $50k filed in NYC Civil Court).