The court system can be confusing and it is a good idea to get a lawyer if you can. The law, the proofs necessary to present your case, and the procedural rules governing cases in the Law Division, Civil Part are complex. Since valuable claims or potentially heavy judgments may be at stake, most litigants appearing in the Law Division, Civil Part have a lawyer. If you are being sued, please contact your insurance company to see if they might provide a lawyer for you. Most likely your opponent will be represented by a lawyer. It is recommended that you make every effort to obtain the assistance of a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may contact the legal services program in your county to see if you qualify for free legal services. The telephone number can be found online or in your local yellow pages under “Legal Aid” or “Legal Services.”
All debt collection agencies that seek to collect personal or household debts from New York City residents must have a DCA license no matter where the agency is located. Creditors often use debt collection agencies to help them collect overdue debts. A “creditor” is the individual or business that provided the original service or credit for which you owe money. For example, credit card companies and cellular phone companies are creditors. Sometimes, creditors sell your debt to a third party called a debt buyer. No matter if the debt collection agency is working for a creditor or for itself as the debt buyer, it must have a DCA license and follow all laws or risk fines, penalties, or the suspension or loss of its license.
City Courts: A City Court exists in every city in the state excluding New York City, and hears both civil and criminal cases. Its criminal caseload includes misdemeanors, violations, traffic offenses, and the preliminary stages of felonies. The City Court hears civil cases involving amounts up to $15,000, small and commercial claims, and disputed traffic tickets. City Court judges are elected to 10-year terms.
New York City Courts: : The Criminal Court of the City of New York hears misdemeanors, other violations, and the preliminary stages of felony cases. The mayor appoints Criminal Court judges from a list of candidates submitted by the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary for 10- year terms.
Write the debt collection agency within 30 days of receiving validation— phone calls are not enough—to confirm that its information on the debt is wrong. For example, alert the collector that the amount owed is wrong because it doesn’t include payments you’ve made. Include with your letter copies of any proof that the collector’s information is wrong.
You can also stop the collector from contacting you during the time you dispute the debt by writing a cease collection letter. Simply write:
Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is a statewide trial court that has the broadest jurisdiction of any court. The Supreme Court hears civil and criminal cases, but not claims against the state. It is the only court that handles divorces, annulments, and separations. Supreme Court justices are elected for 14-year terms.
Family Court: The Family Court, present in every county in New York State, hears cases involving children and families including child custody and support, neglect and abuse, juvenile delinquency, family offenses (i.e. domestic violence), and paternity. The Family Court does not decide divorce, annulment, or separation proceedings. In New York City, pursuant to an executive order, the Mayor appoints Family Court judges from a list of candidates submitted by the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary. In all other counties, Family Court judges are elected. All Family Court judges serve 10-year terms.
When a debt collector contacts you the first time, it is usually in the form of a dunning letter (collection letter) or a phone call. Never ignore a debt collector, even if you do not recognize the debt. DCA offers a checklist to help you protect your rights:
Check that the debt collection agency is licensed. Debt collection agencies must include their DCA license number in all letters sent to you. To verify if a debt collection agency is licensed, call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside NYC) or search DCA’s Instant License Check, available online at nyc.gov/dca
Court of Appeals: The Court of Appeals is the highest court in the state. As the state’s court of last resort, the Court of Appeals hears appeals from the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. The court has seven judges, six associate judges and the chief judge. Court of Appeals judges are appointed for 14-year terms by the governor who must make an appointment from a list of seven “well-qualified” candidates submitted by the bipartisan 12-member Commission on Judicial Nominations. The New York State Senate must also confirm the nomination.