How judges are elected in New York City

Not sure who all those judges are on your ballot? 

You’re not alone. The elections of New York judges can get confusing.

Some judges in New York City, including those on family and criminal courts, are appointed by the mayor. Others are elected, although voters often aren’t offered a choice of candidates on Election Day.

Scroll down to find out more about the process of judicial elections.

What positions are elected?

The Civil Court of the City of New York

What it does: Decides lawsuits that involve claims up to $25,000. 

Terms of judges: 10 years

The Supreme Court (statewide)

What it does: Decides cases outside the authority of lower courts, including civil matters involving claims of more than $25,000, divorce, separation and annulment and criminal prosecutions of felonies. 

Terms of judges: 14 years

How are judges nominated?

Nominees for the state’s Supreme Court are selected at a judicial convention. There, judicial delegates vote for the nominees who will appear on the general election ballot.

Delegates, who are elected during the primaries, are typically “handpicked” by party officials, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. They don’t run campaigns so voters don’t know who they are when they appear on the ballots. Then, at the convention, the delegates usually vote to approve the judges preferred by the party leaders, the Brennan Center for Justice says.

Because of this, voters often don’t get a choice on Election Day. The ballot will instruct you to choose four names from the four names listed below. Additionally, because of cross-party endorsements, the same names are sometimes listed under all party lines. 

The nominees for Civil Court are elected in primary elections like any other candidate, but they often run uncontested.

How to learn more about the judges on your ballot

In addition to searching their names for media coverage or websites, voters can check the court system’s Voter Guide to read bios of the candidates (if they submitted them). 

They can also check the Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commissions’ ratings and the New York City Bar Association’s evaluations of each candidate.