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Magisterial District Courts
Magisterial District Court is the first level of judicial authority in Pennsylvania and is the court where most people experience the judicial system for the first time. Magisterial District Judges handle all traffic cases, minor criminal cases, and civil cases involving amounts up to $12,000. Magisterial District Judges also set bail and conduct preliminary hearings in misdemeanor and felony criminal cases to determine if the cases should be dismissed or transferred to the Court of Common Pleas for further proceedings.
There are 19 Magisterial District Judges located in offices throughout Lancaster County. They are elected to six-year terms and are employees of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
If you decide to file a civil suit in a magisterial district court, you must decide which Magisterial District Judge has the authority to handle the suit. There are rules which govern where a suit may be filed. Generally, the suit must be filed in the magisterial district where the cause of action arose or where a transaction or occurrence took place which gave rise to the cause of action.
In addition, if the defendant is an individual, the suit may also be filed in any other magisterial district where the defendant can be served the suit papers. If the defendant is a corporation, an unincorporated association, or a partnership, suit may also be filed in the magisterial district where the defendant regularly conducts business. If you are still unsure where to file, the magisterial district judge closest to you can advise you on where to file, or you can contact the Court Administration Office at 717-299-8041 for more information.
You need to have a copy of the complaint for the plaintiff, two copies for each defendant and a copy with an original signature for the magisterial district court. You may photocopy the completed complaint to produce the needed number of copies, including a copy for the defendant's attorney. You will be charged filing costs and service costs when the complaint is filed at the magisterial district court. No changes may be made to this form either in content or format.