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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

New York City Criminal Courts: Historical Research: Federal Courts in NYC: Southern and Eastern Districts of NY

Links and information on historical research on documents produced by NYC, NY State and Federal court proceedings in NYC.

Federal Court Jurisdiction

Exerpted from Federal Courts and Jurisdictions. (2006). In J. Wilson (Ed.), Gale Encyclopedia of Everyday Law (2nd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 387-393). Detroit: Gale.

Article III of the United States Constitution establishes the judicial power of the federal government. Under the Constitution, the authority of the federal judiciary extends only to certain "cases" and "controversies," which are identified by either the nature of the suit or the parties involved. The Constitution establishes the Supreme Court of the United States and permits Congress to establish "inferior" federal courts. The federal judiciary currently consists of the Supreme Court, courts of appeals in 12 regional judicial circuits, two intermediate appellate courts with special power to hear cases originating nationwide, a total of 94 judicial districts throughout the 50 states that contain at least one federal district court and one bankruptcy court, territorial courts that function as district courts in several territories, and specialized tribunals that have been established by Congress pursuant to power provided in Article I of the Constitution. The district courts serve as the trial courts in the federal system, while the courts of appeals serve as intermediate appellate courts.

The power or authority of a court to hear and decide a case or controversy is called the jurisdiction of the court. Jurisdiction may be divided into two broad categories: subject-matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction. Subject-matter jurisdiction refers to the authority of a court to hear a certain type of case, while personal jurisdiction refers to the power with which a court may bind an individual party.... [Read more of this article, CUNY login required]

PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) is the Federal database for searching U.S. Court Records, it is not currently free unless used in the records room of the SD-NY (see below). See also: The Free Law Project. You can follow H.R.8235 Open Courts Act of 2020 which would make PACER free.

U.S. Southern District of New York Court Records

The The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York encompasses the counties of New York (Manhattan), Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, and Sullivan.

The public records room offers free access to PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) for searching U.S. Court Records and is the location that open court records can be requested, copied and studied

See also: The Free Law Project.

U.S. Eastern District of New York Records

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York comprises the counties of Kings (Brooklyn), Nassau, Queens, Richmond, and Suffolk and concurrently with the Southern District, the waters within the counties of Bronx and New York.

Archived court records can be requested through either in the Brooklyn or Islip Records Management offices.


Many federal court records have been transferred to NARA (The National Archives and Records Administration).

This page provides information on researching and requesting these records. There is also a finding aid to NARA records from the Southern and Eastern District of NY Courts.

See also Family Search information page on Federal Court Records.