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Appealing a Magisterial District Court Decision - Plaintiff
Self Help - Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas

State and Local Court Rules Must Be Followed.

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I lost my case and I am thinking about appealing the MDJ decision.

If you were the one who brought the lawsuit (the Plaintiff), you must file a Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the date the Magisterial District Judge made the decision or the Magisterial District Judge's decision will become final. You have to serve the Notice of Appeal on the parties within 10 days from filing. As the original plaintiff in the case, you will also have to file a new complaint within 20 days from the date the Notice of appeal was filed.

The appeal process may be too complicated to handle without a lawyer. If you want to obtain the services of an attorney, but do not know whom to contact, you should visit the Lehigh County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service website.

If you choose to represent yourself, there is no assistance available from the Court of Common Pleas staff. You must be prepared to follow court rules and prepare your own documents.

I am ready to file a Notice of Appeal.
What forms will I need?

Neatness counts. Print or type all documents to make sure that they can be read easily. Make sure that all copies contain the same information and that all copies can be read easily. The Clerk will assign the appeal a docket number.

  • One copy of the Original Complaint that you filed at the Magisterial District Court
  • One copy of the Magisterial District Court Judgment/Transcript
  • Cover Sheet for Common Pleas Civil Filings
  • Complete page one (1) of the Notice of Appeal form and make four (4) copies. Print two (2) copies of page two (2) and save for Proof of Service
    I Do not Understand The Notice To Appeal Form, am I the Appellant or Appellee?

    The person who appeals a decision is called the "Appellant". The other party is called the "Appellee".

How do I file the Notice of Appeal?
  • Take the following items to the Clerk of Judicial Records in room 122 of the Lehigh County Courthouse.
    • One (1) copy of the Complaint that you filed in the Magisterial District Court
    • One (1) copy of the Magisterial District Court Judgment/Transcript
    • Original completed Civil Cover sheet
    • Original Notice of Appeal and four (4) Copies
  • Cash, Money order or Credit/Debit Card to cover filling fees. No personal checks will be accepted.

    Note: When using a Credit/Debit Card a service fee will be added.

    For filing fees see the Civil Fee Schedule
  • In Forma Pauperis

    If your income is low, you can ask the court to excuse you from paying the filing fee. To do this, you must file an "In Forma Pauperis ["IFP"] Petition and Affidavit." Give the IFP Petition and Affidavit to the Clerk of Judicial Records, Civil Division at the same time as you file your appeal. You should find out in a few days whether the Court has approved your IFP Petition. If your Petition is rejected, you will have to pay the filing fee or face having your appeal dismissed.

  • Give all copies to the Clerk. The original Civil cover sheet, Notice of Appeal and the copy of the District Court Judgment/Transcript and Complaint will be kept by the Clerk, the remaining copies will be returned to you;
    • Keep one (1) for your own records
    • Immediately serve one (1) on the Appellee (the other person(s) in the appeal)
    • Immediately serve one (1) for the Magisterial District Court

NOTE: Although you may file by mail, it is advisable to submit your documents personally. It will be easier for the clerk to determine precisely what fees you must pay. If you decide to file by mail you must include a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope for return of your copies and receipt.

Serving the other party

Manner of Service: Service of the appeal on the Magisterial District Court and Appellee can be done by personal service or by certified mail, return receipt requested, restricted delivery only.

  • Address one envelope to the Appellee and one to the Magisterial District Court include one copy of the Notice of Appeal in each envelope
  • Take the envelopes addressed to the Appellee and the Magisterial District Court containing the Notice of Appeal to the Post Office
  • Take money for postage
  • Obtain Domestic Return Receipts (green post cards form 3811) from the post office
  • Complete green posts card form 3811 and mail

Time deadline of Service: The Proof of Service must be filed within 10 days of the date the appeal was filed.

Filing Proof of Service
  • A Proof of Service must be filed in the Lehigh County Clerk of Judicial Records within 10 days from the date you filed your Notice of Appeal
  • The Proof of Service form is on page two of the Notice of Appeal form
  • If service was done by certified mail, the white receipt you receive from the Post Office must be attached to the Proof of Service form
  • The Proof of Service form is required to be filled out, signed before a notary and notarized before it can be filed
I filed and served the Notice of Appeal, do I still have to file another Complaint?

Yes, you must file a separate complaint with the Court of Common Pleas. When the Plaintiff files a Notice of Appeal, the plaintiff has 20 days in which to file a Complaint with the Clerk of Judicial Records, Civil Division in the Court of Common Pleas. You must also serve the complaint on the other party.

The Complaint and other documents
What is a Complaint?

A complaint is a legal document that details the facts in your case. There are no fill in the blank forms. You must create your own complaint for the Court of Common Pleas. You may want to look at sample complaints, and the State and County Court Rules for Formatting Legal Papers before typing your complaint. Sample Complaint

Here are some of the basic rules for formatting legal papers.

    Rules for Complaint Format and Requirements for Legal Papers
  • Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure are available at http://www.pacode.com See Rule 204.1 Pleadings and Other Legal Paper. Format and Rule 205.2. Filing Legal Papers with the Prothonotary
  • Lehigh County Rules are available at http://www.lccpa.org See Rule 205.2(a) Filing of Legal Papers with the Clerk of Courts
How long do I have to file the Complaint?

When the defendant files a Notice of Appeal, you, the plaintiff, has 20 days in which to file a Complaint with the Clerk of Judicial Records, Civil Division in the Court of Common Pleas.

What other documents will I need to file?

You will need to file and serve a Notice to Defend along with the Complaint.

What Happens if I do NOT File or Serve the Complaint?

If you (the plaintiff) fail to file and serve a Complaint within 20 days, the defendant can send you (the plaintiff) a notice reminding you (the plaintiff) to file a Complaint within 10 days.

If you (the plaintiff) fail to file and serve a Complaint after receiving that notice, the defendant can then file a praecipe for Judgment of Non-Pros pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1037. If this happens, you may lose the case for failing to file a complaint.

I filed and served the Complaint, what happens next?

The defendant must file an Answer to your Complaint within 20 days.

If the defendant fails to file and serve an Answer within 20 days, You (the plaintiff) must then send a notice reminding the defendant to file an Answer within 10 days. Important Notice Defendant 237.1 (a)(2)

If the defendant fails to file an Answer after receiving the notice, you, the plaintiff can then file a praecipe for Judgment pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1037. Praecipe for Judgment

The defendant answered my Complaint, what happens next?

The case usually proceeds to an arbitration hearing before three lawyers appointed by the court to act as judge. You should receive a notice from the office of Court Administration with the time and date of your arbitration.

The arbitration panel listens to the evidence and makes a decision based on that evidence.

Since there is no transcript or record of testimony or evidence made in the Magisterial District Court, the case is heard again, as if there had never been a hearing in the Magisterial District Court.

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Disclaimer
The forms and instructions that are available from this website are not a substitute for professional legal advice. Court employees cannot give you legal advice or help you fill out /complete the forms. It is your responsibility to read and complete the forms and to take required steps to file and serve the documents. If you decide to use these forms in an actual action, be prepared to spend appropriate time gathering information, completing forms and following the Rules of Court. The Court assumes no responsibility for the use of these forms and accepts no liability for actions taken by using these documents, including reliance on the instructions and/or contents. To obtain legal advice and to insure the proper use of this material, you should contact a lawyer.

If you want to obtain the service of an attorney, but do not know whom to contact, you should visit the Lehigh Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service website.

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