Magisterial District Courts - sometimes called minor courts or special courts - are the first level of Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System. They are presided over by Magisterial District Judges (MDJs), who are elected by the voters in each respective district to serve a six year term. There are 19 magisterial districts in York County.
The Jurisdiction of Magisterial District Judges (MDJs) includes civil claims seeking monetary damages up to $12,000 and includes actions for breach of contract and actions in tort. An MDJ conducts hearings and renders judgments. Their decisions may be appealed, as a matter of right, to the Court of Common Pleas. They have additional civil jurisdiction over such matters as landlord and tenant cases.
Almost all criminal cases (felonies and misdemeanors) begin in the Magisterial District Courts, which issue search warrants, arrest warrants and summonses. Magisterial District Judges also have original jurisdiction of all summary offenses - traffic and non-traffic - and adjudicate those cases.
Magisterial District Judges (MDJs) conduct arraignments and set bail, make referrals to diversionary programs, and preside over preliminary hearings. It is during preliminary hearings where MDJs decide if there is enough evidence to send a case to the York County Court of Common Pleas for trial.
MDJs for certain minor misdemeanors can accept guilty pleas and impose sentence. They also preside over the following summary charges: minor violations under the crimes code, most traffic violations, violations of city, borough and township ordinances and violations of the fish, game and dog laws. MDJs in summary cases function as both judge and jury. They hear evidence, making a ruling and impose sentence.
Rulings by MDJs are subject to appeal to the York County Court of Common Pleas.
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