Tag Archive | court

District Justice vs. Court of Common Pleas

I get asked quite often about the difference between the District Justice and the Court of Common Pleas.  The differences are many.  The most important difference is that the District Justice is an elected official.  Anyone can be a District Justice, that is, anyone who can win the election.  In most instances, District Justices ARE NOT attorneys.  There are a few who are attorneys, but I would estimate that less than 10% are attorneys.  The District Justice claim is capped at $12,000.  If your claim is over $12,000 then you must proceed to the Court of Common Pleas.  Claims at $12,000 or below may be filed in either court.  The proceedings in front of a magistrate are usually very informal.  Rules of evidence are followed, but to a lesser degree in many instances.

The Court of Common Pleas is divided into two divisions —  Arbitration and regular court.  Arbitration is mandatory for all claims that are $$25,000 or less (this number varies from County to County, but $25,000 is the norm).  At arbitration, your case is heard by three attorneys picked at random from the community who act as judge and jury.  In regular court, a Common Pleas Judge will be assigned to your case.

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