While you may have read about political fights over New York City’s criminal courts or high-profile cases weaving their way through federal courts, how about your civil court?
The Villager and amNY are starting a series introducing readers into the various levels of the judicial system and we’re starting with the civil court in the state’s first judicial district: New York County.
A civil court is one that involves cases that result when one person sues another person, business or agency as opposed to a criminal court.
The first district of the Civil Branch of the state Supreme Court New York County is a trial court, the highest of its kind in Manhattan that resolves disputes by determining the facts and applying legal principles. That being said, its stakes are limited: only cases involving $25,000 or less go through the court.
The caseload in this court is large, and in line with trends across the totality of New York’s court system, the number of pending cases has only increased during the pandemic. In 2018, Manhattan’s Supreme Civil had around nearly 33,000 ending cases. As of the end of April 2022, the number has swelled to over 39,000.
Fun fact: New York State Supreme Court was created prior to the founding of the United States in 1691, making it one of the country’s oldest continuously operating courts.
Change later came in the 19th century after the social and economic transformations of the industrial revolutions expanded the city and ushered in a modernized court system through the state constitution of 1846. The constitution expanded the state Supreme Court and redrew its districts along county lines.
Overseeing the numerous justices who handle individual cases, Administrative Judge Adam Silvera serves as the official who supervises the civil court’s adjudication proceedings. The major state courts inside New York City are different from others in the state in that an administrative judge supervises each major court alone whereas judicial districts outside the city install district administrative judges who are responsible for supervising all courts and agencies.
Silvera was appointed to his current post at the end of 2021 by New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. He initially took a seat in the New York City Civil Court after winning a 2014 election. He began as a New York City Family Court judge in Brooklyn, handling cases involving custody, visitation, paternity, adoption and family offenses, before being assigned to the New York City Civil Court bench in Brooklyn responsible for cases involving consumer credit and self-represented parties. He later moved over to Civil Court in Manhattan, where he took over a similar set of duties.
In 2018, he was elected to Manhattan’s Supreme Court Civil Court branch, first presiding over a motor vehicle part and later serving as the New York City Asbestos Litigation Coordinating Judge, along with other responsibilities. Since October 2021, he has been serving as an Associate Justice in the Appellate Term, First Department, hearing appeals from the New York City Civil Court and the New York City Criminal Court.