There are close to 1300 Town and Village Courts (collectively known as the Justice Courts) located in most of New York State’s town and villages (none are located in New York City). The nearly 2,200 Town and Village judges handle close to 2 million cases a year. The hours and frequency of operation of the individual Justice Courts varies, depending on the size of the locality and the size of the court’s caseload.
What are the functions of the Town and Village Courts?
The Town and Village Courts play a vital role in the New York State Unified Court System. These courts have broad jurisdiction and they hear both civil and criminal matters.
On the civil side, the Town and Village Courts hear actions seeking monetary awards up to $3,000 and small claims proceedings for awards up to $3,000. These courts also handle landlord/tenant matters that may result in an eviction as well as a money judgment for back rent that is due.
Town and Village Courts are best known for their small claims parts. Small claims proceedings are intended to provide a low-cost, simplified and informal procedure for individuals to resolve disputes involving limited monetary claims. Often individual litigants do not use an attorney in these matters and are not required to do so.
On the criminal side, these courts are authorized to handle matters involving the prosecution of misdemeanors and violations that are committed within the town's or village's geographic boundaries.
The Town and Village Courts also conduct arraignments and preliminary hearings in felony matters. In addition, these courts hear Vehicle and Traffic Law misdemeanors and traffic infractions.
Town and Village Justices are required to be on-call 24 hours a day and are often called upon to arraign misdemeanor and felony charges as well as to act as Family Court judges when Family Court is not in session. In cases involving domestic violence, the judges are also authorized to issue orders of protection.