Magisterial Districts - Q & A
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What if I want my hearing before a different Magisterial District Judge?
The moving party must request that the Magisterial District Judge recuse (excuse) himself/herself, and that this case be sent to another Magisterial District Judge. If the Magisterial District Judge agrees to recuse, then (1) the Magisterial District Judge can send the case to a Magisterial District Judge as designated by Court Order at Number 92-3; or (2) the Magisterial District Judge calls the Court Administrator's Office stating that there has been a recusal and that the Court should choose a Magisterial District Judge outside of the Order at Number 92-3 to hear the case.
If the Magisterial District Judge refuses to recuse, then the moving party must prepare a Motion (a written outline stating the reason for the change of venue) and Order (see attached sample) to be presented to President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca at her Motions Court. Motions are heard every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 9:15 a.m. The moving party must give the opposing party three days' notice and a copy of the Motion and Order before appearing at Motions Court.
If the judge grants the change of venue, then the original signed Motion and Order should be filed in the Prothonotary's Office (for civil cases) or the Clerk of Court's Office (for criminal cases) with enough copies to be distributed to: the opposing party, the original Magisterial District Judge's office, the Magisterial District Judge the case was transferred to, the court administrator's office, and the moving party. If the judge denies the change of venue, your case will then be returned to the original Magisterial District Judge's office for disposition.
What do I do if I have a complaint about a Magisterial District Judge?
The Court Administrator's Office receives complaints against Magisterial District Judges in written form. Please include your name, address, and telephone number in the letter and forward same to:
Christine L. Weller, Court Administrator
1 South Main Street
Washington, PA 15301
Please note that the Court Administrator cannot change the decision of the Magisterial District Judge and that a letter of complaint to the Court Administrator does not stop the appeal process of your case.
I have legal questions regarding my case and appeal process, and no one in the Magisterial District Judge's office will help me - what do I do?
The employees in the Magisterial District Judge's office are not attorneys and therefore cannot give legal advice. Legal questions should be directed to your attorney. The following is a list of resources available:
- Washington County Public Defender's Office (criminal cases only): 724-228/6818
- Lawyer Referral Service: 724-225/6710
- Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Aid: 724-225/6170
How do I file a private criminal complaint?
The Private Criminal Complaint form can be obtained at the Magisterial District Judge's office or at the Administrative Ofice of Pennsylvania Courts website (www.courts.state.pa.us) in the area where the alleged crime was committed. The complaint, unless the crime is a summary offense, after filing in the Magisterial District Judge's Office will be forwarded to the District Attorney's Office for approval. When the District Attorney returns the approved complaint, a hearing will be scheduled.
If the District Attorney disapproves the Complaint, you can petition the Court of Common Pleas for a review of the decision. (Pa. Rules of Criminal Procedure 506(2)).
How do I find a Constable?
Constables are enlisted by the Magisterial District Judge to serve process in their office - they are not employees of the Magisterial District Judge, nor are they employees of the Court. Constables are elected officials, and their deputies are employed by them.
Constables are certified by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (www.pccd.state.pa.us), and a listing of them can be found at this stie. A listing of Constables can also be found in the Clerk of Courts Office in the Washington County Courthouse.