What is a Magisterial District Judge?
Magisterial District Judges are judges elected by the people of their district to handle criminal preliminary arraignments and preliminary hearings, summary criminal offenses, traffic offenses, municipal code violations, landlord / tenant actions, and civil actions where the damages do not exceed $12,000 (commonly known as small claims court).
After the Judge Makes a Decision
If the plaintiff prevails, the defendant may arrange to make payments on a twelve month installment plan (which will be set by the judge). 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 plaintiff cannot take any steps to collect money from the Defendant based on the Magisterial District Court’s judgment until the appeal has been decided. The plaintiff can also appeal the Magisterial District Judge’s decision if the judge ruled for the defendant at the hearing.
Magisterial District Court in Susquehanna County
Susquehanna County has 3 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 34-3-01 is Jeffrey L. Hollister . The 34-3-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:71 Lake Avenue Montrose, PA 18801
The phone number for 34-3-01 Magisterial District is: 570-278-4600. The fax number for 34-3-01 Magisterial District is: 570-278-9675.
The Magisterial District Judge for 34-3-02 is Jodi L. Cordner . The 34-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:17544 State Route 11, Suite 1 PO Box 295 New Milford, PA 18834
The phone number for 34-3-02 Magisterial District is: 570-465-3551. The fax number for 34-3-02 Magisterial District is: 570-465-7997.
The Magisterial District Judge for 34-3-03 is Suzanne M. Brainard . The 34-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:1866 State Route 106, Suite 10 Clifford, PA 18413
The phone number for 34-3-03 Magisterial District is: 570-222-6356. The fax number for 34-3-03 Magisterial District is: 570-222-6357.
Susquehanna County Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court cases are handled in Pennsylvania at the Magisterial District Court. 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 required to file a filing fee when filing the complaint. 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 in Small Claims Court in Susquehanna County
A Magisterial District Judge generally hears negligence and breach of contract actions with respect to civil cases. A contract is where two parties enter into an agreement (either written or oral). Contracts are common and used in a wide variety of situations including between:
- homeowners and contractors to make repairs
- insurance companies to provide insurance services
- credit services between a credit card company and a consumer
A breach of contract is when one party does not do what they promised under the agreement (pay money or provide services usually). Negligence is where a party that is supposed to act with reasonable care fails to do so and someone else is injured from that. These actions usually include traffic accidents or other types of situations resulting in personal injury or property damage.
Filing a Case in Susquehanna County Magisterial District Court
A claim of $12,000 or less is also able to be filed in Common Pleas Court. But, the Common Pleas Court is more formal and expensive than Magisterial District Court. Additionally, you need an attorney to file your case in the court of common pleas. An attorney is not required at the Magisterial District Court.
Small Claims Court Hearings in Susquehanna County Magisterial District Court
Once the claim has been filed, the clerk will set a hearing between 12 and 60 days from the date of the filing of the claim. Each party should gather all documents and papers related to the case before the hearing. Both the plaintiff and defendant should also arrange to have any witnesses with knowledge about the case present in court on the date of the hearing. The hearing is open to the public and usually includes the following: judge, clerk, plaintiff, defendant, and any witnesses for either party. Courtrooms are open to the public so there may be additional persons in the gallery (who may include additional parties if there is more than one case set for a hearing that day). The judge will explain the procedures at the beginning of the case (or at the beginning of the docket if there are multiple cases set for a hearing on the same day). Plaintiff and Defendant will both be sworn in at the beginning to present testimony to the court. At the hearing, the judge will give the plaintiff an opportunity to testify about the circumstances surrounding the case. During this time, the plaintiff should present any evidence supporting the case including paperwork, receipts, records, photographs, or videos of the case. The court will then give the Defendant a chance to ask questions to the plaintiff. Once the plaintiff is done, the witnesses that the plaintiff brought will also be given a chance to provide testimony. 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 will also be allowed to present testimony from any witnesses that he or she brought. The judge will usually make a decision at the hearing (or within five days).
Where Can a Small Claims Court Case Be Filed?
Courts in Pennsylvania are divided into districts. Each district has a Magisterial District Judge. The plaintiff should file the case in the Magisterial District where:
- the business is located or where the defendant lives
- the contract was signed or where the contract was supposed to be performed
- the damage or accident involved happened
- the property from the case is kept
The plaintiff should contact the Magisterial District Court where the plaintiff thinks the case should be filed and inquire if it is the correct court. You should also contact them to determine what the filing fee will be. The filing fee can be paid by the plaintiff when the case is actually filed. The plaintiff needs to complete the form “Civil Complaint.” If the plaintiff intends to place confidential information on the “Civil Complaint,” the plaintiff also needs to complete the “Confidential Information Form” which is located on the same page.
Before Filing a Small Claims Court Claim in Susquehanna County
You should send a demand letter to the defendant asking for payment before filing your claim. A demand letter can be the easiest and shortest way to resolve your case. 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 your demands, then you may consider filing your case once the deadline has passed. Prior to filing your claim, you need to ascertain the name and physical address of the party you intend to sue. The court is unable to accept a P.O. Box. It needs a physical 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 is a great resource for assisting with this task (Phone: 717-787-1057). Before heading down to the courthouse to fill out your claim, you should have the following information:
- your name and address
- defendant’s name and address
- the amount of money you are filing your claim for (including all expenses)
- brief statement about why the plaintiff is entitled to the amount of the claim (you should include specifics like locations and dates to assist the court and the defendant from learning what the case is about)
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. Additionally, you can pay the filing costs in person (which can be recovered if you prevail in your lawsuit). In addition to the filing fee, the plaintiff will have to pay a fee to have the Defendant served. A Defendant can be served by certified mail or in person by a deputy sheriff or constable. Service by certified mail is cheaper but might not be as quick as personal service by a sheriff or constable.