The Supreme Court of New York



     The Supreme Court was established in 1691 and until 1847 was 
known as the Supreme Court of Judicature.  The Court had original 
and appellate jurisdiction over major civil and criminal matters. 
Originally, the court held four terms a year in New York City. 
During the early 19th century, terms were moved to Albany, Utica, 
and Geneva.  In each county, a circuit court was held for trials of 
civil matters and a Court of Oyer and Terminer was held to try felony cases.  
At this time the Supreme Court rarely tried cases; its business was 
largely appeals.  Supreme Court civil cases were sent to the Circuit 
Court for trial. 
     The court was reorganized under the Constitutions of 1777 
and 1822 but the major change came in 1847.  The entire New York 
State court system was then reorganized and the Supreme Court 
of Judicature became simply the Supreme Court.  The new court 
was now the state's "highest court of original unlimited jurisdiction 
in both law and equity". 
     For more information on the pre-1847 Supreme Court see James Folts' 
Duely and Constantly Kept, published by the New York State Court of Appeals 
and the New York State Archives and Records Administration.



Circuit Court

     Established in 1692, the Circuit Court was the civil trial branch 
of the Supreme Court.  Originally, the Supreme Court justices 
"rode circuit", holding court at least once a year in each county, but 
in 1822 the state was divided into eight circuits, each with its own 
appointed judge, In 1847, the Court reverted to the old system of the 
Supreme Court Justices riding circuit.  In 1896, the Circuit Court was 
replaced by the Trial Term of the Supreme Court.

MINUTES. (1808-1893). 24 Volumes.  Arrangement: Chronological. 
Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten. Indexed. 
AVAILABLE OF MICROFILM.

     Minutes of the court record the plaintiff’s and defendant's name, 
date of session, and synopsis of the case, including the final verdict 
and damages awarded.  The minutes were kept by official clerks 
appointed by the court.


Court of Oyer and Terminer.

     According to Black's Law Dictionary, the term Oyer and Terminer is 
half Old English, half French and means "to inquire, hear and determine".  
In New York, the Court of Oyer and Terminer was established in 1691 and 
was the criminal branch of the Supreme Court until 1896 when its duties 
were absorbed by the Trial  Term of the Supreme Court.


MINUTES. (1805-1896). 15 Volumes.  Arrangement: Chronological. 
Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten. 
AVAILABLE ON MICROFILM.

     Recorded in these minutes is information concerning the jury selection 
process, recognizances (the setting of bail), and indictments. 
One could be indicted in the Court of Oyer and Terminer and tried in 
another court; the court determined that the defendant could be tried in 
"the next court holding criminal jurisdiction in the offense to be held at 
the city of Albany".  The more common crimes tried were burglary, 
perjury, petit larceny and assault and battery.

RECORD OF CONVICTIONS. (1866-1874). 2 Volumes.
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.
Handwritten.  Indexed.

     These records are organized in a chart with three labeled columns: 
Name, Offense and How Disposed.  The "how disposed column 
usually has only an arraignment date.  
The crimes recorded cover everything from public intoxication 
to murder.

Trial, General and Special Terms of the Supreme Court


     The "term" of a court is the time prescribed by law during which it may 
be in session.  The Trial Term is the regular sitting term of the court.  
he Special Term handled equity proceedings. 
     A court of equity was a civil court where a plantiff could obtain 
"equitable relief" or "specific performance" (e.g. an injunction, a 
foreclosure, or a divorce), whereas in a court of law he could only obtain 
money damages or the restitution of real or personal property.  Courts of 
equity no longer exist in New York State; equity relief is obtainable in 
courts of law.
     The Special Term also handled "nonenumerated" business 
(i.e. business not on the court calendar) and special procedural rulings, 
like a change of venue or certain motions, that did not involve the
merits of a case. 
     The General Term heard cases on appeal from the 
Trial Term and other courts, but this branch of the court ceased to 
function in 1896 when the Appellate Division was established.


MINUTES, GENERAL AND SPECIAL TERM. (1847-1931, Bulk 1847-1856). 
1O Volumes.  Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency
Origin:	Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten.  Indexed.

     These minutes summarize cases heard by both the General and Special 
terms of the Supreme Court.  Most of the cases deal with property disputes 
with several references to bonds, morgages and the appointment of guardians.  
It should be noted that as a court of equity the special term 
heard many divorce cases.

ORDER BOOKS, SPECIAL TERM. (1856-1936). 187 Volumes. 
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk. 
Handwritten-early, Typed-later.  Indexed.

     These records are quite useful in that they provide a summary of the 
case, often revealing some important facts, including who won. 
Also recorded are court orders handed down in the case, often involving the 
appointment of a referee or guardian.  It should be noted that as a 
court of equity the Special Term did not hear cases involving money damages.


MINUTES, SPECIAL TERM. (1928-1937). 3 Volumes.  
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk. 
Typed.  Indexed.

     The information in these records is scant, only including the case 
name, the judge's name and requests for motions.


MINUTES, GENERAL TERM. (1856-1901). 15 Volumes. 
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.
Handwritten.  Indexed.

     This series contains cases on appeal from the County Court, 
Court of Special Sessions and the Circuit Court.  These minutes 
reveal whether the lower court's verdict was upheld, reversed or 
a new trial ordered.


CIVIL MINUTES, TRIAL TERM., (1856-1956, not inclusive). 11 Volumes. 
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk. 
Typed.  Indexed.

     Labeled "Civil Causes", these minutes record orders and motions.  
The years 1901, 1911-1913 and 1930-1948 are missing from this series.

CRIMINAL MINUTES, TRIAL TERM. (1896-1927). 2 Volumes. 
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency 0rigin: Albany County Clerk. 
Typed.  Indexed.

     Label "Criminal Causes", these minutes document the jury selection 
process, the names of witnesses and for whom they spoke (prosecution or 
defense), and the verdict.  The sentencing information includes the 
convict's place of birth and occupation.  Among the cases heard were 
bribery, violation of the liquor law, sodomy, burglary, and larceny.  There 
were also a few capital (murder) cases recorded here.




Supreme Court-Miscellaneous Records

     Each of the following series of records contains infornation from more 
than one branch of the Supreme Court.


MINUTES. (1932-1943). 26 Volumes.  Arrangement: Chronological. 
Agency 0rigin: Albany County Clerk.  Typed.  Indexed.

     Labeled "Proceedings", these minutes cover both the Special and Trial 
terms of the court and record orders, motions, etc.  Most of the cases deal 
with real property, especially foreclosures.

ASSIGNMENT OF JUDGEMENTS. (1894-1945, not inclusive). 3 Volumes. 
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  
Handwritten-early, Typed-later.  Indexed.

     These are records from civil suits in which one party was an Albany 
County resident and the other party resided outside the county.  
The records contain information concerning the recovery of a judgement 
from the losing party of a lawsuit by the winner of the suit.

JUDGEMENT ROLLS IN PARTITION. (1849-1880). 16 volumes.  Arrangement: 
Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Typed.

     These records were damaged (in the February 10, 1880 fire that 
destroyed Albany City Hall.) and were rerecorded in this series.  
These are civil cases concerning the partition (court-supervised division) 
of real property.  Among the information recorded here is the transcription 
of wills, orders to referees to calculate the worth of certain properties 
and other similar orders and motions concerning the case.


LIST OF JUDGEMENT ROLLS PRESERVED IN FIRE. (1850-1865). 2 Volumes.  
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk. 
Handwritten.

     Apparently, this series relates to the Judgement Rolls in Partition 
above. It is a chart with the following labeled columns: Against Whom, 
In Favor Of, Filed.


CLERK'S MINUTES OF CAUSES. (1842). 1 Volume. 
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk. 
Handwritten.- AVAILABLE ON MICROFILM.

     These minutes contain scant information, simply stating "motion denied" 
or recording the fact that a certain paper was filed.  Occasionally, 
a judgement is recorded.


INDEX TO CAUSES. (1847-1848). 1 Volume.  Arrangement: Alphabetical. 
Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten.

An alphabetical listing of cases with a page number listed for each 'Case.' 
It is unclear what records this volume indexes.


SUPREME COURT IN EQUITY LEDGERS. (1841-1844). 2 Volumes. 
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  
Handwritten.

     These two volumes are labeled "Ledger of Goods Bought and Received" 
and "Financial Ledger Number Seven".  They appear to be an administrative 
record, recording a list of names with debits and credits.

ROLL OF ATTORNEYS. (1858-1898, not inclusive). 1 Volume. 
Arrangement: Chronological.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk. 
Handwritten.

     This series contains the oath taken by attorneys to support the 
Constitutions of the United States and the State of New York.  
Also recorded are the name of the attorney, the date of the oath 
and when the attorney  was admitted.  The years 1896-1897 are 
missing from this series.

JUDGEMENT ROLLS. (1800-1924, Bulk 1850-1918). 1,535 Cubic Feet. 
Arrangement:  Chronological Then Alphabetical.  
Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk.  Handwritten-Early, Typed-Later.

     Located in this series is the most complete information on a case, 
including complete copies of summons, complaints, answers, etc., 
and often there is a whole collection of documents on one case.  
Some major cases are transcribed in a printed bound volume: 
these are cases which were appealed to a higher court and 
remitted to the lower court after the judgement was affirmed, 
reversed, or modified. 
     Civil cases comprise the bulk of material, but criminal cases are 
also present.  Records from all branches of the court are preserved 
in these boxes.  There are sporadic gaps, both chronologically and 
alphabetically.

LEDGER OF SURETIES/MORTGAGES. (1823-1877). 1 Volume. 
Arrangement: Alphabetical.  Agency Origin: Albany County Clerk. 
Handwritten.

     This volume contains charts with the following labeled columns: Name, 
Surety, Name of Collector, Town, Dollar Amount and Date.

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