Last updated: November 14, 2013
The New York Court system is comprised of three layers at the trial level that handle different cases depending on their severity. At the bottom, small-time City Courts handle small civil suits and misdemeanors. In the middle, County Courts handle medium civil cases and most criminal prosecutions. At the top, the Supreme Court has unlimited trial jurisdiction, primarily for large civil lawsuits and major criminal cases. Knowing which court is appropriate for your legal matter is essential to your success, so FindLaw has created this guide to the courthouses in and around Albany.
This building houses the Albany Supreme Court, County Court and Surrogate Court. Contrary to intuition, the Supreme Court is a trial court in New York, not the highest level of appeals like other states. They have unlimited jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, but typically only hear cases that are outside the jurisdiction of other trial courts of more limited jurisdiction. The County Court handles all criminal prosecutions within the Albany County. They also have jurisdiction over civil cases worth up to $25,000. The Surrogate Court (Room 123) is similar to probate courts in other states. They handle wills, estates and property of deceased individuals, adoptions and guardianships. Metered parking is available at $1.25 per hour throughout downtown, but some meters have a two hour time limit.
As its name suggests, the Family Court handles issues of domestic relations, such as divorce, protective orders and child custody. If you have business with the court but don’t want to babysit your crying child the entire time, try using their Child Care Center. There is a free parking lot available.
The City Call houses the Civil and Traffic divisions of the Albany City Court. The Civil Court is in room 209, while Traffic Court is in the basement. The City Court have jurisdiction over civil claims worth up to $15,000. There is also a small claims division for claims worth up to $5,000.
The City Court has jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanors and lesser offenses. They also conduct arraignments and preliminary hearings for felony cases.
The Cohoes City Court serves the same function as the Albany City Courts, but for the city of Cohoes. It is located in the Cohoes City Hall. They handle civil claims worth up to $15,000, criminal misdemeanors, arraignments and felony preliminary hearings. There is free public parking on the street.
The Watervliet City Court serves the same function as the Albany City Courts, but for the city of Watervliet. They handle civil claims worth up to $15,000, criminal misdemeanors, arraignments and felony preliminary hearings. There is free public parking across the street from the courthouse.
The James T. Foley Courthouse holds the Albany branch of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. They handle both civil and criminal cases at the trial level. They only handle federal cases. The Northern District of New York lay within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which has jurisdiction over federal appeals arising from New York, Connecticut and Vermont, and is headquartered in Lower Manhattan. Before you get in too deep, read up on how to represent yourself in federal court.