|John M. Kennedy||845-229-1620||845-229-2137||1 Cardinal Road|
Hyde Park, NY 12538
|David L. Steinberg|
The Town of Hyde Park Justice Court handles minor civil and criminal litigation and the early stages of major criminal litigation arising within the town limits. This court has wide-ranging jurisdiction but is limited in some situations in what it can do. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as a court of "inferior jurisdiction,". Such courts include some of the oldest of the state -- town justices date back to the seventeenth century. The courts follow sections of the Uniform Court Acts, enacted by the New York State Legislature, which assure that procedures they followed are substantially the same throughout as other courts the state.
Until 1934, justices of the peace were members of the town board and thus had legislative as well as judicial functions. In 1934, the Town Law, substituted town councilmen for justices on the town board in some towns and in 1976, the Town Law was amended again to preclude all town justices from serving on town boards during the tenure of their judicial office.
There are two Town Justices in Hyde Park and they are elected positions with 4 year terms. Although they each hold court sessions separately, the Court Reorganization Amendment of 1962 and the Uniform Justice Court Act of 1966 require them to be considered justices of a single court. The proceedings of of each of them separately are treated as acts of the single Justice Court of the Town of Hyde Park. The Town Justices deal with many problems, including simple traffic offenses, bill collection cases, small claims suits, felony hearings, and complex commercial litigation. The justices can also perform civil marriage ceremonies. Each justice holds court at Town Hall but on separate dates.
Currently John M. Kennedy and David L. Steinberg are serving as the Town of Hyde Park Justices. Matters that come before the court are generally scheduled as indicated below but a justice may consider any any type of matter in a court session as is necessary.
|Town Justice John M. Kennedy|
|Small Claims Court||1st Tuesday of the Month||5:00pm|
|Criminal Court||2nd Tuesday of the Month||8:30am|
|Traffic Court||3rd Tuesday of the Month||5:00pm|
|Landlord/Tenant Court & Animal Violations||4th Tuesday of the Month||5:00pm|
|Town Justice David L. Steinberg|
|Traffic Court||1st Thursday of the Month||6:00pm|
|Animal Violations& Small Claims Court||2nd Thursday of the Month||6:00pm|
|Landlord/Tenant Court||3rd Thursday of the Month||6:00pm|
|Criminal Court||4th Thursday of the Month||6:00pm|
There are three Court Clerks who can answer questions about court procedures but cannot give legal advice. The Clerks collect fines and respond to requests for documents such as certificates of disposition. The Court Office is located in the Police/Court building at 1 Cardinal Road in Hyde Park. The Court Clerks can be reached at 845-229-1620. The fax number is 229-2137. The Court Clerks' hours are Monday through Thursday, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM and Friday 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
The Hyde Park Town Court hears formal civil cases when either the Plaintiff or the Defendant resides in, is employed in or has a place of business within the Town.
Defendants are not guaranteed legal representation in civil court as they are in criminal court but may retain legal representation. People with low income may wish to contact Legal Services of the Hudson Valley which is funded, in part, by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the New York State Office for the Aging, and Westchester County.
Vehicle and Traffic Court
Cases charging the commission of a traffic infraction within the town limits are filed in the Hyde Park Justice Court. Information regarding how to proceed with a traffic ticket may be found on the back of the ticket issued to the motorist. If the motorist responds by pleading not guilty, the Court Clerk will schedule an appearance date for a pre-trial conference. This conference gives the motorist the opportunity to discuss the case with the traffic prosecutor and, if the parties agree, to enter into a plea agreement subject to the approval of the court. If no plea agreement is agreed upon by the parties, a trial date will be scheduled. The court conducts non-jury or bench trials for vehicle and traffic infractions. If the motorist pleads guilty by mail, a letter will be issued that informs the motorist regarding the amount of the fine and surcharge, and payment procedures.
Small Claims Court
The Court hears small claims cases up to $3000 when the Defendant resides in, is employed in, or has a place of business within the Town. Individuals and sole proprietors of businesses may bring a suit against an individual, corporation, partnership, association or assignee in Small Claims Court by filing a claim with the Court. There is a filing fee of $10 for claims up to $1000 and $15 for claims up to $3000. You may not file a claim in Small Claims Court for over $3000.
Small Claims Court is intended to provide a simple, informal and inexpensive procedure for prompt determination of small claims. The hearings are conducted in a way that ensures justice according to law without requiring a detailed knowledge of courtroom procedures or rules.
The New York State Division of Local Government Publications page has a link to the State of New York Local Government Handbook which describes Small Claims Court in the chapter on the Judicial System and the New York State Unified Court System webpage includes a link to a Small Claims Court Question and Answer page on the Small Claims Court process. The New York State Magistrates Association provides a Small Claims Quick Check list that summarizes the Small Claims Court process.
The Court also hears Summary Proceedings/Evictions when the property and the Respondent are located within the Town. These proceedings include non payment of rent or holdover evictions. Plaintiffs may claim the full amount in dispute as there is no arbitrary limit on the amount of the claim for which the Court has civil jurisdiction in such cases.
The Court hears both residential and commercial landlord/tenant cases.
The Hyde Park Town Court hears criminal cases originating within the Town and has full jurisdiction for non-felony cases (midemeanors and violations) to accept guilty pleas or hold trials. On felony charges, the court conducts the arraignment and preliminary inquiry and may set bail or hold without bail. If the charges are not reduced to misdemeanors, the Town Court transfers them to Dutchess County Court for final disposition. The Town Court may not accept pleas in felony cases. The Town Court must set bail or order release in all non-felony cases.
Defendants have the right to legal counsel for all criminal cases, including felony, misdemeanor and violation cases. They also have the right to counsel for traffic misdemeanors (DWI). The Dutchess County Public Defender's Office provides legal services to criminal defendants who have been determined to be indigent.