Centre County Magisterial District Court Hearing
Once you file your claim, the clerk will schedule a hearing (usually between 12 and 60 days from the date you filed your claim). Prior to the hearing, you should gather all documents and papers related to your case. Plan on having any witnesses that can support your position ready to be present in court on the date of the hearing. At the hearing, there will usually be the judge, clerk, plaintiff, defendant, and any witnesses for both sides. Because the hearing is open to the public, there may be members of the public watching court from the gallery (along with maybe other parties waiting for their cases to be called). At the beginning of the hearing, the Magisterial District Judge will explain the procedures. Plaintiff and Defendant will both be sworn in at the beginning to present testimony to the court. The court will give the plaintiff a chance to present its case through testimony. The plaintiff can present papers, bills, records, receipts, photographs, or video to the judge. The court will then give the Defendant a chance to ask questions to the plaintiff. After the plaintiff is finished, the court will give the plaintiff a chance to present testimony from any other witnesses brought to testify. The defendant will also be granted the opportunity to ask questions of these witnesses as well. After the plaintiff is done presenting his or her case, the judge will give the defendant an opportunity to testify (and the plaintiff will be given the chance to ask questions as well). The defendant can also bring witnesses to provide testimony to the judge as well. After all the evidence has been presented, the judge will make a decision (either at the hearing or within five days).
Prior to Filing a Small Claims Court Claim in Centre County Magisterial District Court
Prior to filing a claim, it is recommended that you send a demand letter to the defendant asking for payment. A demand letter can be the cheapest and quickest way of resolving your situation. In addition to the amount you are requesting, you should also set a reasonable deadline for the defendant to respond by. If the defendant does not agree to the terms in your letter (or fails to respond), you may consider filing your case. It is also important to know the name and address of the party you wish to file your action against. The court clerk is unable to accept a Post Office Box for an address. If the party the plaintiff is suing is not an individual, the plaintiff needs to ascertain what corporate form the defendant is using as well as the name of that corporate entity. The Pennsylvania Corporation Bureau (717-787-1057) can assist with learning this information. Before going to the Magisterial District Court to file your claim, you should know the following information:
- plaintiff’s name and address
- name and address of the person you want to sue
- the dollar amount of damages
- short statement of facts surrounding the circumstances of the case (including dates and locations)
While it is possible to file your claim through the mail, the plaintiff should file it in person at the courthouse with the clerk, so the clerk can let the plaintiff know if there are any problems with the claim. While at the courthouse, the plaintiff can pay the filing fees. The plaintiff will also have to pay for a cost to serve the defendant. The plaintiff can have the claim served on the defendant by certified mail or personally by a sheriff or constable. Personal service can be more expensive than certified mail but can be quicker than certified mail.
After the Judge Makes a Decision
If the plaintiff wins at the hearing, the judge may set up a twelve month installment plan for payments from the Defendant. The defendant has thirty days to appeal the Magisterial District Judge’s decision to Common Pleas Court. If there is an appeal, a Notice of Appeal is filed with the prothonotary in the county courthouse. The Notice of Appeal (once filed) will be served on the Magisterial District Judge (who made the decision) and the plaintiff. The Notice of Appeal will prevent the plaintiff from taking any steps to collect money from the defendant until the appeal is decided. If the plaintiff does not prevail at the initial hearing, the plaintiff has the option of appealing the Magisterial District Judge’s decision as well.
Advantages of Filing in Magisterial District Court in Centre County
A claim of $12,000 or less is also able to be filed in Common Pleas Court. But, the Magisterial District Courts are less formal, less expensive, and faster than common pleas courts. Also, you need an attorney to file your case in common pleas court. In Magisterial District Court, an attorney is not required.
Where to File a Small Claims Court Case?
Courts in Pennsylvania are divided into districts. Each district has a Magisterial District Judge. A case should be filed in the Magisterial District where:
- the business is located or where the defendant lives
- the contract for the case was signed or where work was to be performed
- the accident occurred
- the property from the case is kept
Once you locate what the appropriate court should be, you should contact the court to determine whether it is the appropriate place to file your claim. The plaintiff should also inquire from the clerk what the filing fee will be. The filing fee will be paid when the Complaint is filed with the court. The form “Civil Complaint” need to be completed by the plaintiff. Note: if you need to include confidential information in your complaint, it is important to use the Confidential Information Form found on the same page.
Centre County Small Claims Court
Magisterial District Courts in Pennsylvania handle a wide variety of cases including what are commonly known as small claims court cases. In Magisterial District Court, a party is not required to have an attorney. The amount of the claim you are filing cannot exceed $12,000.00. The plaintiff is also required to file a filing fee (which varies depending on how much money the plaintiff is asking for). There may also be an additional cost for serving the Defendant. If the plaintiff prevails in the case, these costs can be recovered from the defendant.
Types of Cases Handled by a Magisterial District Judge in Centre County
A Magisterial District Judge is a judge elected by the people of the district to handle certain types of cases including criminal (preliminary hearings and arraignments, traffic offenses, municipal code violations) and civil (landlord/tenant cases and cases where the amount in dispute does not exceed $12,000).
Magisterial District Court in Centre County
Centre County has 6 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 49-1-01 is Carmine W. Prestia . The 49-1-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:131 South Fraser Street PO Box 238 State College, PA 16804
The phone number for 49-1-01 Magisterial District is: 814-231-1420. The fax number for 49-1-01 Magisterial District is: 814-231-1428.
The Magisterial District Judge for 49-2-01 is Casey M. McClain . The 49-2-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:
The phone number for 49-2-01 Magisterial District is: 814-237-4981. The fax number for 49-2-01 Magisterial District is: 814-231-1429.
The Magisterial District Judge for 49-3-02 is Kelley S. Gillette-Walker . The 49-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:3555 Benner Pike, Suite C Bellefonte, PA 16823
The phone number for 49-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-355-6739. The fax number for 49-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-355-8644.
The Magisterial District Judge for 49-3-03 is Allen W. Sinclair . The 49-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:Moshannon Valley Enterprise Center II, 118 Enterprise Drive Philipsburg, PA 16866
The phone number for 49-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-342-4557. The fax number for 49-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-342-0292.
The Magisterial District Judge for 49-3-04 is Thomas N. Jordan . The 49-3-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:2795 Earlystown Road Centre Hall, PA 16828
The phone number for 49-3-04 Magisterial District is: 814-364-1492. The fax number for 49-3-04 Magisterial District is: 814-364-5110.
The Magisterial District Judge for 49-3-05 is Steven F. Lachman . The 49-3-05 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:121 South Pugh Street State College, PA 16805
The phone number for 49-3-05 Magisterial District is: 814-861-7406. The fax number for 49-3-05 Magisterial District is: 814-861-7453.
Centre County Small Claims Court Case Types
Two types of civil cases are generally heard in Magisterial District Court in Centre County: negligence and contract actions. A breach of contract action is where parties enter into an agreement that can be either oral or in writing. Contracts are common and used in a wide variety of situations including between:
- home improvements between a contractor and a homeowner
- insurance companies to provide insurance services
- credit card companies when providing credit to consumers
Breach of contract is where a party to a contract either doesn’t pay or doesn’t perform what they are supposed to under the contract. A negligence case occurs when a party who is responsible to protect someone or something using due care, fails to do so. Negligence actions usually arise in an automobile accident or other times where someone sustains personal injuries or property damage.