Records and Briefs

Locating New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division Records and Briefs

Introduction

Records and briefs are the “materials submitted by the parties in appellate court cases”, The record is composed of documents that were generated during the life of a case, such as pleadings, motions, trial transcripts and expert witness testimony, exhibits, and the actual decision that is being appealed. The briefs are actual written arguments that the attorneys use in their appeal.

Purpose 

The briefs that are submitted to the Appellate Division can be used to study the specific arguments used by the parties in a particular case, and the authorities (case law, statutes, and secondary sources) these arguments relied on. If the record is also available, it can provide invaluable access to a case’s documentary and procedural history, and may include unique, hard-to-find documents that may not be available anywhere else.

Access Methods

Records and briefs for Appellate Division cases from 1984 to the present are distributed on microfiche. Each case is assigned a fiche ID index number composed of the department the case was decided in, the year of the decision, and a unique four-digit number based on the order the case was argued.

For example, the fiche ID number 2-06-300 means the 300th case that was argued before the 2nd Department in 2006.

The fiche are filed in sequential order by that ID number within each department from the first case argued during a particular year, to the last. 

The case’s official Appellate Division Reports citation serves as a point of access to the fiche ID index numbers. However, without these ID numbers, the citation alone is not sufficient to locate and retrieve the record and briefs. An online index to the numbers is maintained on the NYS Unified Court System’s Trial Law Libraries website, at http://www.ucsils.nycourts.gov.

To use the index, click on the ‘Index to Appellate Division Records & Briefs’ link on this page. The home page for the Index will then open in a new window. Search options on this page include a full-text search for words appearing in the case’s caption (i.e. party names), or the citation. You can also click on the ‘NYS Unified Court System Index to Records and Brief Internet’ link to open a guided search box allowing searches in specific fields such as the citation, case number, plaintiff, defendant, department, and decision date.

A note indicates that the scope of this database is currently limited to cases decided in the 1st Department in 1984, in all four departments from 1986 to 2009, and in the 1st Department in 2010. This is not correct: many cases that fall outside those dates are included, while some that should be included, especially between 1984 and 1992, are currently missing.

Once a fiche ID number has been retrieved, use the Request a Document form place a document delivery . Fiche pages can be copied and e-mailed to you at a cost of $1.50 per page. Keep in mind that while briefs filed in a case rarely run over 50 pages, the record can range up to several thousand pages, or may not be included at all. If you don’t know what exactly you are looking for, it may be a good idea to first ask for copies of just its table of contents.

Records and briefs for cases from 38 AD2d (1972) to 99 AD2d (1984) are on microfilm, arranged in sequential order by citation.

FAQ:

Q: Are records and briefs available for all cases on appeal?

A: No. For the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, no briefs are released for cases that have been sealed by the court, identify the victims of sex crimes, or deal with matrimonial actions, and family court or youthful offender matters. 

Q: Are records and briefs available electronically?

A: Sometimes. The Westlaw NY-BRIEF-ALL database contains some briefs filed for Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, Appellate division cases since 1992. The website of the Second Department of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division includes a database of briefs filed starting in January of 2004. This database can be searched by case number or case title, or by any word appearing in the actual text of the brief – but not by official citation.

Q: Where can I learn more about records and briefs? 

Records and briefs are described in major legal research textbooks and articles on legal research practice

More specific discussion of preparing and researching appellate briefs in New York can be found in: