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Court Records Research for Reporters

NYS Courts Glossary and Court Structure

NYS Courts glossary of legal terms (see also the Manhattan DA’s Glossary of Legal Terms). Important terms from this site include:

  • jurisdiction: the geographical, subject matter, and monetary limitations of a court.
    • Civil or Criminal – State or Federal – Misdemeanor or Felony – Etc.
  • index number: a number issued by the county clerk, which is used to identify a case – in civil matters there is usually a charge
  • docket: a document that summarizes a case, provides a list of actions/events in a case
  • caption: in a pleading, deposition, or other paper connected with a case in court, it is the heading or introductory clause which shows the names of the parties, name of the court, number of the case on the docket or calendar, etc
  • complaint: initial pleading in an action formally setting forth the facts and reasons on which the demand for relief is based. In a civil case, a plaintiff files the complaint. In a criminal case that is a misdemeanor, the state files the complaint. In felony criminal cases, the grand jury indicts the defendant
  • answer: a paper submitted by a defendant in a civil case in which s/he responds to and/or denies the allegations of the plaintiff
  • plaintiff: the party bringing a civil action
  • pleadings: complaint or petition, answer, and reply
  • motion: an oral or written request to the court made by a party for a ruling or order