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Pennsylvania Magisterial District Courts

The Magisterial District Courts in Pennsylvania are the lowest courts in the state and limited jurisdiction courts. The types of cases that are heard in Magisterial District Courts are small claims cases of up to $12,000, preliminary hearings for felonies, petty misdemeanors, and traffic or other local ordinance violations.

The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania's website has a section that lists each of the Magisterial District Court judges and a search function. The list includes a details button for each judge showing a map of his or her courthouse location along with contact phone numbers. Judges in District Courts are elected into position and serve six-year terms. They may run for re-election for an unlimited number of terms, but they must retire at age 75. Vacancies are filled by the Governor appointing a judge to sit in until a new election. Judges are subject to strict rules of conduct as stated on the website: "Judges may be removed from office, suspended or disciplined for misconduct in office. These standards are specified in the Pennsylvania Constitution, the Code of Judicial Conduct in the Pennsylvania Rules of Court, the "Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges," and other court rules and orders set by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court." Judges in these courts do not have to be lawyers.

The judicial branch website has resources for self-represented litigants that include downloadable forms for filing, a payment portal to pay traffic tickets and other fines, an e-filing option and a learning center.

For the last year tallied, Magisterial District Courts saw a total of 215,976 new criminal filings. Twenty-five percent of them were for drug-related offenses, 22.8% were for property damage and related claims, and 20.1% were for motor vehicle violations. For that same year. Magisterial District Courts recorded 48,601 new civil filings.

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