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Appealing a Magisterial District Court decision - Defendant
Self Help - Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas

State and Local Court Rules Must Be Followed.

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I am thinking about appealing the MDJ decision.

If you have lost a case in Magisterial District Court, you have the right to file an appeal to the local Court of Common Pleas.

Appeals should only be filed if there is a legitimate, reasonable disagreement with the Magisterial District Judge's decision. If a party files an appeal without a good reason, that party could be forced to pay the fees for the other side's lawyer. Also, the decision of the Court of Common Pleas could be the same as than the one made by the Magisterial District Judge, or the judgement amount could be even higher. If you are unsure if you should file an appeal, please speak to an attorney.

How long do I have to file the Appeal?

You must file your appeal within 30 days of the date the Magisterial District Judge made the decision, which is also called a "judgment". The Magisterial District Judge usually makes the decision on the same day as the hearing, but is allowed to wait up to five days after the hearing. If you do not get a written notice of the decision at the hearing or within five days after the hearing, you should contact the Magisterial District Court to make sure the notice has not been sent to the wrong address.

The 30-day appeal period starts from the date of the decision, not the date it was mailed to you or the date you received it. If the 30th day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday, you have until the next day that the Court of Common Pleas is open to file your appeal.

YOU MUST FILE YOUR APPEAL WITHIN THE 30-DAY PERIOD, OR THE MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT JUDGE'S DECISION WILL BECOME FINAL AND YOUR APPEAL MAY NOT BE ALLOWED.

I missed the 30 day Appeal Time Limit; Can I still file an Appeal?

The Clerk of Judicial Records cannot accept an appeal after the 30 day period.

Can I Appeal without getting an Attorney?

The appeal process may be too complicated to handle without an attorney. If you choose to represent yourself, there is no assistance available from the Court of Common Pleas staff. You must follow court rules and prepare your own documents. If you want to obtain the services of an attorney, but do not know whom to contact, you may visit the Lehigh County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service website.

I decided to 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 was filed by the plaintiff at the Magisterial District Court and served upon you
  • 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 was filed by the plaintiff in the Magisterial District Court
    • One (1) copy of the Magisterial District Justice 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 post cards 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, What happens now?

When you (originally the defendant) file a Notice of Appeal, then the other party (originally the plaintiff) has 20 days from the date of service in which to file a Complaint with the Clerk of Judicial Records. The Complaint is a legal paper that tells the Court the details of the plaintiff's claim against you. The Plaintiff must also serve the complaint on you, the defendant.

If you do not receive a complaint within 20 days from the date you gave or mailed the plaintiff the Notice of Appeal, you must follow court rules to remind the plaintiff to file the complaint.

What happens if I do not receive a Complaint from the Plaintiff in 20 days?

If the plaintiff fails to file and serve a Complaint within 20 days, the defendant must then send the plaintiff a notice reminding the plaintiff to file a Complaint within 10 days. This notice does not need to be filed with the Clerk of Judicial Records at this time. Make and keep at least two copies of the completed form for filing if the plaintiff fails to file and serve a complaint after this notice. Important Notice Plaintiff 237.1(a)(2)

What happens if I do not receive a Complaint from the Plaintiff after the additional 10 days?

If the plaintiff fails to file and serve a Complaint after receiving the notice, the defendant can then file a Praecipe for Judgment of Non-Pros pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1037.

When you file the Praecipe for Judgment of Non Pros at the Clerk of Judicial Records, Civil Division you must also attach a copy of the Important Notice which you sent to the plaintiff as a reminder to file the complaint.

You may need to include a stamped envelope, addressed to the plaintiff. There is a filing fee to file this Praecipe.

I got a Judgment of Non Pros, is this End of the Case?

If the other side does not file a Complaint and you get a Judgment of Non Pros, then the case is over.
However, the other side may still have the right to start a new case against you. The other side may also ask the Court of Common Pleas to “open” the judgment of Non Pros, if the other side can show a good reason for not filing the complaint on time.

I Received the Complaint from the Plaintiff, do I need to do anything?

Yes, you must file an Answer.

How long do I have to file an Answer?

You have 20 days from receiving the complaint to file and serve your answer. Although a lawyer is not required, it may be advisable to have a lawyer represent you.

If you fail to file and serve an Answer within 20 days, the plaintiff must then send a notice reminding you to file an Answer within 10 days.

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

How do I format the Answer?
What happens if never file an Answer?

If the other side files a Complaint and you don't file an Answer, the other side can get a “default judgment” against you without presenting any evidence.

Can I add other subjects to the Answer?

There may be other facts that you haven’t stated in your Answer that explain why you do not owe the money claimed. For instance, you may have withheld payment for a product you bought because the product didn't work properly. Or you may believe that the other side in an accident case was at least partly at fault for the injuries claimed.

Facts such as these are called “New Matter.” You should write them out in paragraph form after you finish responding to all of the paragraphs of the Complaint. Keep numbering the paragraphs.

What happens if the Complaint and Answer are properly filed?

If the other side (the Plaintiff) files a Complaint and you file an Answer, the case is automatically scheduled by the Court Administration office for an arbitration hearing.

The hearing is like a trial, except that three lawyers act as the judge. The attorneys, who have no connection with the case, are appointed by the court. They listen to the evidence and decide which argument prevails. Since there is no record of testimony or evidence made in the Magisterial District Court, the case will be heard all over again, as if there had never been a hearing in Magisterial District Court.

You will be notified of the date and time of the hearing. At the hearing, you should make sure that you have:

  • All the papers that have anything to do with the case. It is helpful to have four extra copies of all the papers, so that each of the three arbitrators and the other side can have a copy.
  • All the witnesses who know anything about the case that you want to prove. If a witness won't agree to come to the hearing, you can get a subpoena from the Clerk of Judicial Records, Civil Division. You should fill out the subpoena, make two copies of it, and hand the original to the witness. Fill out the back of one copy of the subpoena to show where, when and how you served it, and file this copy with the Clerk of Judicial Records, Civil Division. The last copy is for your own records. You must pay the person you subpoena the witness fee of $5.00 per day and travel expenses of 7 cents per mile round trip.

 

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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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