Friday, March 24, 2023

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Frequently Asked Questions

 

Common Definitions

What is a litigation?

Litigation - A case, controversy, or lawsuit. Participants (plaintiffs and defendants) in lawsuits are called litigants.

What is a Plaintiff?

Plaintiff - The person who files the complaint in a civil lawsuit.

What is a Defendant?

Defendant -  In a civil suit, the person complained against; in a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.

NOTE: The person who files the claim in Magisterial District Court is the Plaintiff.  The person who is being sued is the DefendantThese parties stay the same even if there is an appeal.  In other words, if the Defendant files an appeal from the decision of the Magisterial District Judge, that person is still the Defendant in the Court of Common Pleas and the other person is still the Plaintiff.  Please be aware of this when filling out the appeal paperwork as well.

What is an Appeal?

Appeal - A request made after a trial, asking another court (usually the court of appeals) to decide whether the trial was conducted properly. To make such a request is "to appeal" or "to take an appeal." Both the plaintiff and the defendant can appeal, and the party doing so is called the appellant. Appeals can be made for a variety of reasons including improper procedure and asking the court to change its interpretation of the law.

What is the difference between a CIVIL lawsuit and a CRIMINAL lawsuit?

Civil Lawsuit - In general terms, a civil lawsuit is the court-based process through which Person A can seek to hold Person B liable for some type of harm or wrongful act. Usually, if Person A is successful, he or she will usually be awarded compensation for the harm that resulted from Person B's action or inaction.

Four of the most important types of civil law deal with 1) contracts, 2) property, 3) family relations, and 4) civil wrongs causing physical injury or injury to property (tort).

Criminal Lawsuit - Criminal lawsuits involve felonies and misdemeanors — specific crimes with punishment attached.  

Key Differences are that Civil cases usually involve private disputes between persons or organizations. Criminal cases involve an action that is considered to be harmful to society as a whole (hence, these are considered offenses against the "state" or the jurisdiction of the prosecution).‚Äč

For more definitions of legal terms commonly used by MDJ courts, please click HERE.


Magisterial District Courts Calendar Schedule

When is my court hearing scheduled for?

You can access the Public Calendar Schedule HERE which provides access to search, view and print case events scheduled in the Magisterial District Courts.  Be sure to change the "search type" to Participant Name.  Then type in your last and first name to search for your court hearing date.  

If you are unable to find your court hearing date on the Public Calendar Schedule, please contact the MDJ office directly.  Contact information can be found HERE.


Docket Sheet

Docket sheets provide a general overview of who is involved in a case and what actions they have taken. ... Information about the case, such as the docket number, nature of suit or case type, judge, related cases, date filed, and whether the case is open or closed.

Where can I get a copy of my Docket Sheet?

MDJ Docket sheets are available HERE.


Appeal

How do I file an Appeal from a judgment entered in Magisterial District Court?

If the judgment is a money judgment, you have thirty (30) days to appeal.  The appeal is filed in the Court of Common Pleas, at the Prothonotary’s Office on the first floor of the Lycoming County Courthouse, at 48 West Third Street, Williamsport, PA 17701. 

If the judgment is a judgment of possession (an eviction), you have ten (10) days to appeal.  The appeal is filed in the Court of Common Pleas, at the Prothonotary’s Office on the first floor of the Lycoming County Courthouse, at 48 West Third Street, Williamsport, PA 17701. 

The forms for filing an appeal from a money judgment, and instructions on how to file the appeal and what to do after you file can be found HERE.

The forms for filing an appeal from an eviction, and instructions on how to file the appeal and what to do after you file can be found HERE.


Civil Lawsuit

Where and how do I file a Civil Complaint in Magisterial District Court?

The lawsuit must be filed in the magisterial district where the defendant (the person you are suing) lives, or where the cause of action arose.   If you are unsure which district that is, go HERE and enter the address in the search box at the top of the page.

Note – you can only sue for money (up to $12,000), not to get property back.

The lawsuit is filed on a Civil Complaint form, which is available at the magisterial district judge’s office, or you can get the forms and instructions on how to file a complaint and what to do after you file HERE.

There is a filing fee and you will also have to pay costs to serve the complaint on the defendant.  You should contact the magisterial district judge’s office for the amount of each of these costs.  If you feel you are unable to pay the costs, you may file an In Forma Pauperis Petition asking the judge to waive the fee.  That form can be found HERE.


Complaint about a Magisterial District Judge

If you believe you have been harassed or discriminated against by a Magisterial District Judge or Related Staff, please report this harassment/discrimination by following the procedures found HERE.


Do Not Agree with MDJ Decision

What if I do not agree with the MDJ decision on my case?

You have the right to appeal a judgment entered against you by following the instructions found at the top of this page under “Appeal”.


Different Magisterial District Judge

What if I want my hearing before a different magisterial district judge?

While a change of “venue” is rarely granted (“judge shopping” is not allowed), you may ask the magisterial district judge to “recuse” himself from hearing your case, by filing a written request  in the office where your case is filed.  You will need to explain your reasons, and if your request is granted, the judge will either secure another judge to hear the matter, or ask the Court Administrator to appoint another judge.


Landlord/Tenant Complaint

Where and how do I file a Landlord/Tenant Complaint in Magisterial District Court?

The lawsuit must be filed in the magisterial district where the property is.   If you are unsure which district that is, go HERE and enter the address in the search box at the top of the page.

The lawsuit is filed on a Landlord/Tenant Complaint form, which is available at the magisterial district judge’s office, or you can get the forms and instructions on how to file a complaint and what to do after you file HERE.

There is a filing fee and you will also have to pay costs to serve the complaint on the defendant.  You should contact the magisterial district judge’s office for the amount of each of these costs. 


Legal Advice

Where can I get legal advice?

The staff of the magisterial district judge’s office CANNOT (by rules of court) give legal advice.  The magisterial district judge also cannot advise you about your case.  If you have questions about your situation and need legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.

If you think you qualify for free legal services, you may apply for legal services through North Penn Legal Services by calling their intake number:  1-877-953-4250

Their address is:  

25 West Third Street, Suite 400

Williamsport, PA 17701

Or, if you have questions regarding a criminal matter, you may contact the Public Defender’s Office at the Courthouse at  570-327-2367.

If you do not qualify for free legal services, you may contact the Pennsylvania Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service at: 1-800-692-7375

Their address is:

100 South Street

Harrisburg, PA 17108


License Restoration

How do I get my driver’s license back after it has been suspended?

To learn how to restore your driving privileges, call 1-717-412-5300 or go HERE.

For questions about points on your driver’s license, call 1-800-932-4600 (or out-of-state 1-717-391-6190).


Payment of Costs and Fines

Can I pay costs and fines online?

YES! Simply go HERE.

Know that to make a partial payment, you must make prior arrangements with the magisterial district judge’s office.


Points

Will points be put on my license if I plead guilty to a certain traffic offense?

To find out the points assessed for a conviction of or guilty plea to certain traffic offenses, and to learn about the Pennsylvania Point System, go HERE.

For questions about points on your driver’s license, call 1-800-932-4600 (or out-of-state 1-717-391-6190).


Private Criminal Complaint

How do I file a private criminal complaint?

Private criminal complaints are either summary cases (minor offenses) which are filed in magisterial district judge court and must be approved by the Magisterial District Judge, or court cases (serious crimes), which must be submitted to the District Attorney for approval.  The form for the complaint can be found HERE.

If the complaint is filed in magisterial district court and is approved, you will have the burden, as the prosecutor of the case, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the crime charged against the defendant, including his criminal intent.  All proof must be presented on the day of the hearing, unless the magisterial district judge allows you more time.  Hearsay is not allowed and all witnesses must be present in court.

If the complaint is submitted to the District Attorney and is approved, the District Attorney will prosecute the case on behalf of the Commonwealth.  If the complaint is denied, you may petition the Court of Common Pleas for review of that decision by filing an Appeal of Denial of Private Criminal Complaint.  The form for that petition is found HERE.


Representative

Can I designate someone else to represent me or my company?

Yes.  An individual can designate another person to act as his or her authorized representative in the matter before the Magisterial District Judge.  That person must have personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances of the matter before the court.  You may designate your authorized representative by completing and filing the form found HERE; your representative must also sign this form.


Need More Help?

Still have questions?  Try the Law Library page for more information, forms, and kits by clicking HERE.

 

 

 

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