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Municipal Court - Civil Division

The Municipal Court Civil Division is the jurisdiction for civil cases where the amount in controversy is $12,000 or less for Small Claims; unlimited dollar amount for Landlord and Tenant Cases and $15,000 in real estate and school tax cases.

Supervising Judge
Honorable Bradley K. Moss
1319 The Stout Center for Criminal Justice
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: (215) 683-7253

Deputy Court Administrator, Municipal Court - Civil Division
John J. Joyce
1339 Chestnut Street, Room 1020
Telephone: (215) 686-2910

The First Filing Unit is the initial contact for the litigants filing a civil case in the Philadelphia Municipal Court. The Municipal Court prides itself on being extremely accessible for every individual, whether represented by counsel or not, and this ideal remains constant within this unit.

The unit will pre-interview the non-represented clientele, provide an interview to officially interview the client and complete the proper paperwork for the complaint. This service is unique to courts nation wide and places responsibility upon the unit to ensure that the information completed is correct per the court rules and applicable laws.

The unit also handles all attorney filings (including bulk filing) which includes the responsibility to ensure that the filings are completed correctly. Other filings handled by this unit include all mail-in filings and all requests for assistance under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

All filing costs are accepted through the cashiers who are under the direction of the First filing Unit supervisor. The cashier system has recently changed with the court cashiers coming on line with the stystem utilitzed in City Hall.

Other functions that the office handles are the Petitions for Informa Pauperis and volunteering on a consistent basis to mediate disputes from Smail Claims and Housing Courtrooms since numerous employees in the unit have been trained in Dispute Resolution skills.

The Municipal Court has a jurisdictional limit for civil filings of $12,000.00 and an unlimited jurisdiction amount for rent only in Landlord and Tenant cases.

Stephen Elliott - Director
1339 Chestnut Street, Room 1000
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: (215) 686-2900

The Second Filing Unit of Municipal Court is responsible for the scheduling of all cases heard in Civil Courtrooms of Municipal Court.

This unit prepares the schedules for filings by agencies such as License and Inspections, Water Revenue Bureau, Philadelphia Gas Works, Bureau of Administrative Adjudication, Public Health, and the City of Philadelphia Law Department. Also, schedules are made for the filing of the Philadelphia Housing Authority and State cases. These cases are handled directly by this unit and therefore the Second Filing Unit acts as the intake unit for these agencies filing in the Civil Division of the Court.

Each day this unit will supply to the First Filing intake unit a specific number of slots available for each courtroom so as to control the courtroom activity. It is their responsibility to ensure that each courtroom has a list of cases each day that is manageable for the presiding Judge.

It is essential that this office coordinate the scheduling of the cases with each and every courtroom so as to control the number of continued cases. Our system prides itself on the lack of any court backlog and this office is an integral part of that continuing with their management of the court caseload.

The Second Filing Unit must also process all correspondences received prior to the court date, assist litigants in the process of filing affidavits of breach of agreement for non-represented litigants, relisting their cases, assist attorneys in the bulk filing of cases, notify all parties of approved continuances and communicate with all of the Civil Units and Courtrooms to insure the proper management of case scheduling is followed by every employee.

This unit is currently responsible for the scheduling of over 120,000 cases per year while maintaining their goal of no court backlog.

Erin Ferry - Director
1339 Chestnut Street, Room 1001
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: (215) 686-7980

The Dispute Resolution Program has two (2) divisions. The program mediates Housing, Small Claims and Private Criminal Complaints. The program also Arbitrates Private Criminal Complaints. The program is currently handling over 3,000 cases a year.

The mediations are conducted by volunteers, law students and staff members while Arbitrations are conducted by attorneys appointed by the court. The voluntary agreements reached in mediation, and the orders entered in Arbitration, are non-appealable and binding. The agreement rate is approximately seventy-five (75) percent for Small Claims cases, eighty (80) percent for Housing cases and Sixty (60) percent for criminal mediations.

The Dispute Resolution Program currently provides extensive Dispute Resolution Skills and Procedural training for third year law student from Temple University, Widener University and various organizations. Also, free training is provided for interested volunteers who give their time to the litigants in the court in an attempt to reach binding, voluntary agreements.

The program also conducts mediations for Private Criminal Complaints which are scheduled prior to the scheduling of trial. The parties are given the opportunity to rectify the problem at mediation and if they are not successful they will be referred to court. Until now the parties were only offered Arbitration (Where parties submit to be bound by the Arbitrator's decision) by the Trial Commissioner at the first listing. The confidence of the court continues to rise regarding the program's ability to handle difficult cases.

Joseph McDermott - Director
1339 Chestnut Street, Room 600
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: (215) 686-2971

The Data Processing Department serves as an across the board "Liaison" to the Municipal Court Civil Division and a faction of the Municipal Court Criminal sector.

The unit is made up of Legal Clerks, who input pertinent information into an on-line computer system. The work received from the First Filing Unit is the first function that sets the system in motion. As a result of what is entered On-line other units are provided with various computer generated services. The Second Filing Unit and the Private Criminal Complaint Unit are provided with the Trial Sheets that allow the units to get the work ready for court. The First Filing Unit receives a monthly breakdown of interviewer and attorney filed statistics.

After the initial court hearing it is the Legal Clerks job to decipher what the judge has written, analyze the judicial notes and interpret the decisions and record them accurately onto the computer system. The employees of this unit must have a thorough knowledge and training the Municipal Court Laws and Rules of Civil Procedure. The clerks are in communication with the Judges, Law Clerks, Attorneys, other officers of the court and various city agencies, as well as the different units within Municipal Court to ensure that all proceedings are properly recorded.

As a result of what is entered into the system title companies & credit agencies are able to retrieve information. The Prothonotary uses our files to check for liens, monetary judgments, appeals, satisfactions, writs of revival, vacates, petitions, updating of addresses, remits, striking of judgments and bail orders ordered sued out. The general public also has access to our information.

The Municipal Court Civil computer file is consistently updated by the Data Processing Unit. It is a Management Information System (History file) of what has taken place with a case from its inception to the final event. Quality Control and communication are key factors in making this unit run efficiently. The unit also has added changing attorney's addresses to their list of duties.

Upon completion of the initial court hearing, computer generated services are provided to various units in Municipal Court as well as various city and state agencies. Civil Listings receives their continuance notices eliminating the need to type them , while the Judgment and Petition Unit receive the Default Judgment letters. Statistical information is obtained daily on continuance counts, weekly on Room Control Reports, monthly on cases entered and disposed, petitions entered, petitions disposed, relistments, subpoenas, breakdown of dispositions, types of cases filed and various other reports that are needed.

On of the goals of this Unit is to keep abreast of current technology and new systems that meet the ever-changing demands of our organization.

Theresa Cannon - Director
1339 Chestnut Street, Room 1004
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: (215) 686-2915

Present in the Civil Division Courtroom of the Municipal Court are Court Recorders who are responsible for monitoring the tape recording equipment and log all transactions before a Municipal Court Judge. The recording of any particular case can be made available to any party involved in that case. The testimony can then be transcribed for a per page fee. The fee is based on the actual number of pages transcribed.

The fee schedule for transcriptions is as follows:
1-2 weeks $3.00 per page
2-4 weeks $2.25 per page
4-6 weeks $1.50 per page

Shipping and handling charges including a $33.00 Federal Express expedited delivery charge (if so desired) are not included in the per page rate and will be added to the total cost.

The Court Recorders are present in each courtroom that is utilized by a Municipal Court Judge and the testimony that is recorded is kept by the office for a period of three (3) years from the date of the hearing.

This office utilizes a system that categorizes the tapes in a way that makes listening to them very easy and accessible. The tapes are available to court personnel to hear specific testimony that will help with clarification of any issue in question.

Theresa Cannon - Director
1339 Chesnut Street, Room 1004
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: (215) 686-2815

The Philadelphia Municipal Court is constantly revising their system of handling civil filings to better serve the public and more efficiently utilize the time of the judicial staff. With this in mind the creation of the Civil Trial Commissioner was initiated.

The Civil Trial Commissioners have the authority to sit on the bench to handle all default judgments, settlements, agreements, withdrawals and agreed upon continuance requests.

The Trial Commissioners are not judges but they do have the authority to handle all requests that do not require and judicial determination. The court prides itself on the lack of any court backlog and the functions of the Trial Commissioners help ensure that this will continue.

A Trial Commissioner will help the parties in addressing any questions that they have regarding the process that is to take place, as long as those questions do not require a legal determination since this is beyond their accepted scope of responsibilities.

The Trial Commissioners must be in command of the Civil Rules of Procedure since their actions can have a serious detrimental effect upon the litigants if their duties are not conducted correctly. The commissioners complete the disposition form on the cases that they can dispose of and those notations are relied upon by other offices when the information is entered into the computer system.

In summary, the commissioner enables a Municipal Court Judge to concentrate on all contested matters and enable the litigants to utilize the court without unnecessary and time-consuming delays.

Colleen McGrath, Esquire Trial Commissioner
1339 Chestnut Street, Room, 1020
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: 215 686-2914

Dorian Nelson, Esquire Trial Commissioner
1339 Chestnut Street, Room, 1020
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: 215 686-2970

Aaron Palmer, Trial Commissioner
1339 Chestnut Street, Room 1020
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: (215) 686-7579

Kenneth H. Snyder, Trial Commissioner
1339 Chestnut Street, Room 1020
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: (215) 686-2970

The Judgment and Petition Unit is a very integral part of Municipal Court. The function of this unit is to assist the public, law firms, title companies and other city or private agencies to exercise their right to ask the court for relief, due process and any other requests necessary to resolve a post trial action. The employees of this Unit must have a thorough knowledge of the Rules of Civil Procedure.

Individuals are not required to have an attorney and therefore may lack the knowledge regarding their legal rights. It is not the responsibility of the court to provide legal advice, however, it is our responsibility to provide assistance with facts, information and solutions so the public will feel the Court system works for them. As representatives of the court, the employees of this Unit must be professional and courteous and possess good communication skills in order to enlighten the public of the policies and procedures of the Court System.

The employees of this Unit must also be knowledgeable in understanding not only the functions of other units within the Court System but also other private and city agencies.

The Judgment and Petitions Unit currently handles all post-trial and Prothonotary motions filed in the Civil division of the Court. This Unit must assist all represented and non-represented litigants through the filing of all post-trial petitions and motions. These filings involve the enforcement of money judgments and judgments for possession in housing matters.

This Unit has evolved into an office that handles a vast amount of diversified petitions and motions. With the Court priding itself on easy access for all litigants. it is essential that this Unit continue to make the process manageable and understandable for all concerned.

The action taken by this unit has enormous impact upon the parties involved in the civil complaints. It is imperative that the unit interpret the transcripts correctly to allow enforcement according to the applicable rules and laws. For example, all filings of the Writ of Possession and Alias Writ of Possession are done through this Unit and these filings allow for forcible eviction to be carried out against a tenant. It is the responsibility of the staff to ensure that at no time is a tenant removed from a dwelling unless all procedures have been followed fully and correctly. In conjunction with this function and the enforcement of all money judgments, this unit now handles all Post-trial prothonotary functions. Again, the unit reviews documents to establish that a judgment is valid and rules and laws are followed to ensure that a party's belongings or bank accounts are not attached illegally.

Attorneys filing petitions are handled in this unit with new variations being adopted at all times to suit the needs of the parties. The substantial amount of petitions remain Petitions to Open. These are petitions filed by represented parties who have a judgment entered against them by default as a result of failing to appear at a hearing after being properly served with a complaint. With the Court change in monetary jurisdiction and filings the unit must adapt their usual procedures to ensure that all post-trial motions can be filed and properly heard.

Maggie Meehan, Director
1339 Chestnut Street, Room 1003
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: 215 686-7573

The Philadelphia Municipal Court has begun a program, in conjunction with the Big Sister Program of Philadelphia, which allows for disabled High School students to work within the court during the summer months. The program is funded through the Private Industry Council with a sub-contract with the Philadelphia Urban Coalition.

The court has had up to eighteen (18) students working in the court system each summer. The students are given the opportunity to gain invaluable work experience while enabling the court personnel to learn about the needs and skills of the disabled. The court has learned that these students should not be described as students with disabilities, but instead as students with skills. The experience has been a positive influence on the court and the court hopes to continue the program for many years.

Joseph McDermott- Facilitator
1339 Chestnut Street, Room 600
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Telephone: (215) 686-2971

For general Court information, contact (215) 686-7000.

Contact

Business Hours

  • Monday-Friday: 9am to 5pm