State Courts

Each of the 50 states of the United States has its own system of courts, whose structure mirrors the federal court system. While the court nomenclatures differ from state to state, they follow the same hierarchy and common law principle like the federal court system.

State decisions from the “lowest” (or trial) courts have to follow the precedent established by similar decisions from higher (appellate courts) and the highest (or the court of last resort) courts.

As shown below, in New York, disputes that involve state law-either statutory or case law-will be tried in trial courts, which are known as the “Supreme Court.” Those decisions can be appealed to the Appellate Divisions of the Supreme Court. The court of last resort in New York, unlike in most other states, is the Court of Appeals.

Civil Court Structure
Civil Court Structure

Most court opinions are published either in paper, in court reporters, or online, in digital repositories. Reporters are available both online and in print.

If federal court opinions are collected in federal reporters, which remain a West-publishing monopoly to a large degree, state court opinions are collected in state and regional reporters.