The Civil Section has jurisdiction over actions at law and equity along with appeals from Municipal Court and certain administrative agencies and boards. The Trial Division Civil Section has jurisdiction over civil claims involving amounts in excess of $10,000. The variety of civil actions that may be brought in the Trial Division Civil Section includes Negligence, Contract and Equity Action.
1880 JFK Boulevard, 5TH Floor
Telephone: (215) 686-9590
Fax: (215) 686-9594
All civil actions filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County with an amount in controversy of $50,000 or less, excluding equitable actions and claims to real estate, must first proceed to a compulsory arbitration hearing before a panel of three attorneys who have been court certified to serve as arbitrators.
The Day Forward/Major Jury Program encompasses all Major Civil Jury cases with the exception of Commerce and Mass Tort cases. Day Forward Case Management is the system that has been created to coordinate and schedule these cases for trial. To manage these cases more effectively, judges assigned to this program are divided into teams. Each team is assigned a Court Administrative officer who acts as the liaison to the Team Leader.
ROOM 691 CITY HALL
Hours of Operation: 8:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.
Fax: 215 686-3777
The Discovery Court Program operates in accordance with the Alternative Motion Procedures set forth in Philadelphia Rule of Civil Procedure *208.3. The administrative office of the Discovery Court Program is located in Room 691 City Hall, Philadelphia, PA.
ROOM 691 CITY HALL
The Dispute Resolution Center of the Court of Common Pleas provides a centralized location for mandatory settlement conferences. In so doing, it encourages uniform procedures for these conferences while offering litigants comfortable modernized facilities for the disposition of civil cases within historic City Hall. Peter J. Divon is the Manager of the Dispute Resolution Center, which is located on the Sixth Floor of City Hall, in Room 691 (215-686-7914 firstname.lastname@example.org). The Center operates Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Fax number: 215-686-7915, Nora Gallagher, Legal Clerk, 215-686-7974, Nora.Gallagher@courts.phila.gov.
MANDATORY SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE
Mandatory Settlement Conferences are conducted in every major jury case. The conferences are presided over by a Judge Pro Tempore and are scheduled in accordance with the Case Management Order that is issued in all cases approximately ninety (90) days after commencement of suit. The court provides notice to all counsel of record and unrepresented parties approximately thirty (30) days before the scheduled conference advising them of the date, time, and place of their settlement conference. This information may also be obtained from the first page of the civil docket.
Judges Pro Tempore (Judge(s) Pro Tem) are recruited from the Philadelphia Bar Association to preside over the settlement conferences. Judicial Team Leaders are frequently available to participate in the conference, if necessary and appropriate.
In preparation for the conference, the Judge Pro Tem reviews the case file in order to effectively discuss all issues with the parties. In the event a case does not settle at the conference, the Judge Pro Tem is available by telephone or for follow-up conferences and/or to assist the parties as requested. However, these follow-up conferences and calls will not delay the court's schedule for this case. At the conclusion of each settlement conference, the Judge Pro Tem must complete a settlement conference report. The report should include the range settlement value of the case and references to salient issues. This report is provided to the Judicial Team Leader along with the case file in preparation for the next scheduled event, the final Pretrial Conference.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF COUNSEL AND PARTIES
Counsel and unrepresented parties must file a settlement memorandum at least ten (10) days before the conference, appear at the settlement conference, on time and with settlement authority from their clients. The parties and claim representatives are not required to appear with counsel, but must be available by telephone during the conference. Failure of counsel to file a memorandum, appear, and/or failure of a party or claim representative to be available by telephone during the conference may result in the issuance of a Rule to Show Cause before the appropriate Judicial Team Leader. Should the case settle before or after the conference, counsel shall notify the court immediately in writing.
ROOM 296 CITY HALL
Telephone: (215) 686-7401
Fax: (215) 686-8397
The Office of Civil Administration/Civil Motions Program is primarily responsible for processing non-discovery motions and petitions filed in all civil actions within the Trial Division. The programs administered by this department include the Motion Court Argument List, Lead Court Program, Code Enforcement Injunctions, Municipal Court Appeals, the Statutory Appeals Program, Civil Tax Petitions, Tax Court Trials, Drug Forfeitures List, Preliminary Injunctions and Temporary Restraining Orders.
The assignment of motions and petitions is governed by our Civil Motion Assignment Matrix. The Motion Assignment Matrix provides for the assignment of motions and petitions to the Team Leaders and Coordinating Judges of the respective programs. Motions and petitions filed in the Compulsory Arbitration, Arbitration Appeal, and the Non Jury Program are assigned to the two presiding Motions Judges. The Motions Judges also review and dispose of motions and petitions which are filed in a variety of other miscellaneous actions. Presently, the Honorable Leon W. Tucker presides over the Civil Motions Program.
Hours of Operation
The Office of Civil Administration (including the Civil Motions Filing Clerk) hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. In addition, motion and petitions can be filed electronically twenty four (24) hours a day, seven (7) days a week.
The filing fee for all motions is $52.68 and can be paid by credit card when electronically filing, a $5.00 processing fee will be added to the transaction for a total cost of $57.68 or paid in person to the Prothonotary in Room 282, City Hall. The Prothonotary accepts as payment, business checks (no personal checks), money orders, and credit cards. Please note that if you select pay at the court house when electronically filing, the motion will not be considered filed until payment has been made. Please note: If you elect to not electronically file a one ($1.00) dollar per page surcharge will be added in addition to any filing fees required.
There is no fee with the Civil Motions Program for the following:
Answers/Responses to Motions and/or Petitions; Supplemental Briefs/Pleadings; Post Trial Motions;
Petitions/Motions in Newly Filed Petition Actions; Affidavits of Compliance with Minor's Compromise/Wrongful Death Orders; Motions to Proceed In Forma Pauperis.
GENERAL INFORMATION AND CONSIDERATIONS - MOTIONS PRACTICE
Format of Motion Package - Due to the high volume of matters processed by the Civil Motions Program, and in order to ensure the timely processing of motions, the motion package should be clear and concise. The filing party should include a copy of the complaint and any answer(s)/pleadings so that the assigned judge can learn something about the nature of the case. The proposed order should be the first document, followed by the verified motion, the memorandum of law or the vital exhibit referred to by counsel as the cornerstone of his/her argument; certificate of service and any exhibits.
Upon filing, motions are held by Civil Administration for 20 days from the date of filing to allow for the filing of a response. Motions for Summary Judgment allow for a 30 day response and Motions for Extraordinary Relief and Motions to Proceed In Forma Pauperis have a ten (10) day response. Motions and any responses filed thereto are assigned within two business days of the response date to a judge. Once a motion is decided the Order is returned to Civil Administration, Room 296, City Hall, for docketing and service of the order. The Motions Judges do not keep any of the pleadings or copies of the orders.
In the event you have not received a decision on your motion and more than 40 days has elapsed since the initial filing, please contact Civil Administration at 215-686-7401 to request a search of the status of the matter. Do not contact the assigned judge.
When contacting Civil Administration for any reason, please be prepared with the Court Term and Number and the Control Number of the matter in question.
Counsel and unrepresented parties are strongly discouraged from calling the judge's chambers and attempting to argue the merits of a case or alleged errors of the judge's rulings. This conduct is considered an ex parte communication with the Court. Judicial staff is instructed not to convey these communications to the judge.
Civil Administration staff is not law trained and, therefore, is not authorized to provide legal advice. Requests for relief or revision of an order, and clarification of an order, must be presented in the form of a motion or petition.
Motion Court Argument List
All Motion Court Argument List matters must be accompanied by a proposed rule to show cause. Upon filing, the Office of Civil Administration shall assign a date, time and place for the return of the rule. The moving party is responsible for immediately serving the rule on each attorney of record and unrepresented parties (including, in the case of a petition to withdraw appearance, the party affected by the withdrawal). A certificate of service evidencing such service shall be presented to court by the moving party at the time of argument.
The Motion Court Argument List consists of the following matters:
Motions to withdraw appearance of counsel in cases assigned to the Arbitration Program; Petitions for redemption of foreclosed property; Petitions for writ of seizure; Petitions to transfer title to vehicle; Other matters ordered on the Argument List by the Court. The Motion Court Argument List is titled as such because it is for argument only; do not expect the Court to take testimony except in cases specially listed for that purpose on emergency requests for relief.
Requests for continuance of a motion hearing must be made in writing via fax at 215-686-8397 and addressed to Sean MacGregor, Legal Clerk, Room 296, City Hall, Philadelphia, PA, 19107. Additionally, please inform this office immediately in writing when a matter settles or is withdrawn prior to the scheduled hearing.
In order to avoid, or minimize the need for oral argument, counsel and unrepresented parties should utilize affidavits, relevant deposition testimony, responses to Requests for Admission, and any stipulations reached in the case to develop the factual predicate. In the rare instance where oral argument is necessary, the filing party should include a Rule in their motion package. Counsel and/or unrepresented parties should be aware that, unlike regular motions, these motions are usually only seen by the judge for the first time on the bench at the time of the hearing. Therefore, in matters where the judge should in fairness consider any but the most basic points of law or consider facts of any complexity or volume, it is far better to avoid the oral argument procedure.
Post Trial Motions Procedures
Post Trial Motions must be filed within ten (10) days after (1) verdict, discharge of the jury because of inability to agree, or nonsuit in the case of a jury trial; or (2) notice of nonsuit or the filing of the decision in the case of a trial without jury. (See Pa.R.C.P. 227.1(c)).
Motions for post-trial relief can be electronically filed or filed with the Office of Civil Administration, Civil Motions Clerk, Room 296 City Hall. No fee is required if electronically filed. If not electronically filed a one ($1.00) dollar per page sur charge is required to be paid to the Prothonotary prior to filing with the Civil Motions Clerk. All motions for post-trial relief must be accompanied by the following: Proposed order; Motion signed by moving party; Notice to the Post Trial Motions Clerk regarding Notes of Testimony - must state what portions are to be transcribed; Certificate of service setting forth the name of the Trial Judge and the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all counsel and unrepresented parties, and the court reporter. A Control Number will be issued at the time of filing.
Answers/responses to post-trial motions will be processed and electronically forwarded immediately to the Trial Judge.
Briefs in support of or in opposition to post-trial motions are to be filed directly with the Trial Judge. Motions Court does not accept briefs for post-trial motions.
Discovery Motions accepted by Motions Court in the following programs include: Mass Tort - except Nursing Home and Firefighters litigation; Statutory Appeals; Non Commerce Class Actions; City Tax Complaints; Expedited Non-Jury (equity matters); Municipal Court Appeals.
The following are discovery motions that are accepted where appropriate in all civil programs: Pre complaint; Post verdict/judgment in aid of execution; Quash trial depositions and trial subpoenas.
Motions Initially Considered Without Written Response or Briefs
Pursuant to Philadelphia Civil Rule *208.3(a), the following motions will be initially considered without written response or briefs. These motions will be assigned immediately upon filing to the appropriate judge for review:
Emergency Motions - Upon filing, the Motions Clerk shall assign the Emergency Motion to the appropriate judge of the assigned trial program who, upon review of the motion, will issue an order providing any applicable relief, and shall further set forth how the motion will be answered, heard, and disposed.
Motions for Alternative Service.
Motions for Reconsideration - Upon filing, the Motions Clerk shall assign to the appropriate judge immediately upon filing, in appropriate cases; the assigned judge may enter a preliminary order vacating the order in question pending receipt of the response to the motion. These motions should only be filed if there has been a change in the law or facts that would warrant revisiting the original issues. Note: if reconsideration is being sought on a final order of the court, in order to preserve the appeal process, the motion must be filed, and ruled upon within thirty (30) days from the date of docketing of the final order where reconsideration is being sought. Please keep in mind that it is very important that you attach as exhibits any information that may be necessary in order for the judge to render a decision, in particular, the motion should include, a signed copy of the order in question, along with copies of the motion and responses thereto.
Emergency petitions and motions for preliminary relief will be processed in accordance with Administrative Docket 04 of 2005. It is suggested that the following points be considered before dedicating a substantial amount of valuable time seeking emergency relief. Requests for emergency relief are disfavored and will be entered only under the most compelling of circumstances. There are very few instances in which irreparable harm, which cannot be remedied by damages, is so imminent that the court will even agree to hear a matter as an emergency. When requesting emergency relief, be prepared to adequately explain the failure to act sooner and how truly irreparable harm will occur within the next few hours. A complaint in equity must be commenced with, or prior to, the emergency motion. If electronically filed the motions clerk will contact the filing party to obtain additional information regarding notification to all parties and time of presentation. If filing at the courthouse the following is required: Commence the action with the Prothonotary then file the motion with Motions Court. All parties must be served and present in Room 296 before the emergency judge will be contacted. The filing party must be prepared to represent to the Court, specifically, what efforts were made to reach an agreement or at least a temporary solution with opposing party. The filing party should be prepared with the necessary bonding in the event that relief is granted.
All Preliminary Objections are filed with the Prothonotary, as provided in Pa.R.C.P. 1028, and Phila.Civ.R. *1028.1 & *1028(c). Upon filing the Preliminary Objection will receive a control number and response date and are then processed through Motions Court. Answers to Preliminary Objections are filed with Motions Court.
Motions for Extraordinary Relief
A party seeking an extension of a deadline issued on a case management order or scheduling order in all programs must file a Motion for Extraordinary Relief. These motions will only be accepted for filing on the approved Motion for Extraordinary Relief Form pursuant to General Court Regulation 95-01. Answers to motions for extraordinary relief must be filed on the approved Answer Form in accordance with the same court regulation. A ten (10) day hold will be placed on the motion unless it is filed jointly or unopposed. The motion must include a new proposed order and a copy of the current case management or scheduling order. Motions for Extraordinary Relief are fact and case track sensitive. The agreement of counsel and unrepresented parties to extend the deadlines of a case management or scheduling order is not a recognized basis for an extension.
Motions to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
Whenever an action is instituted wherein the Plaintiff, in lieu of tendering the required fee is required to file a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. The following procedures have been adopted: When a complaint or other original pleading is commenced electronically it is issued a court term and number upon acceptance and the petition is issued a motion court control number. If filed at the courthouse the original Motion shall be returned to the filing party who will be directed to Motions Court, Room 296 City Hall, to complete the filing. At the time of filing the party is provided a copy of a notice advising them that if the petition is denied, the filing fees must be paid within ten (10) days. If the Petition is denied, the petitioner is reminded that the filing fee must be paid within thirty (30) days or the action or appeal will be dismissed. Once accepted for filing the motion is held for ten (10) days to allow any opposing party to submit a response before assignment.
City of Philadelphia Equity Cases
Lead Court Program
The Lead Court Program was specially designed to manage the influx of lead contamination cases commenced by the City of Philadelphia pursuant to the Philadelphia Code of Ordinances: Health Code Title 6. These matters are commenced as Complaints in Civil Actions in Equity. The Lead Court Program is managed by the Office of Civil Administration and presided over by a Common Pleas Court Judge. A Rule for Injunction hearing is scheduled within forty-five (45) days from commencement, and these matters are generally disposed of within twelve (12) months.
Code Enforcement Cases
The Code Enforcement cases are commenced by the City of Philadelphia as Complaints in Civil Actions in Equity pursuant to the Philadelphia Code of Ordinances. These cases involve all code violations other than lead contamination. The Code Enforcement Cases are managed by the Office of Civil Administration and presided over by a Common Pleas Court Judge. A Rule for Injunction hearing is scheduled within forty-five (45) days from commencement. These matters are closely monitored by the City and the presiding judge until final resolution of all violations.
Requests for continuance of a hearing in these matters are to be made to the Office of Civil Administration, attention Marcia Garfield, Legal Clerk, Room 296, City Hall, Philadelphia PA 19107. You can fax a copy of the continuance request to 215-686-8397.
Motions filed in Municipal Court Appeal Matters
Denial to Open Default Judgment: Petition to Open Default Judgment is filed in Motions Court and will be assigned at the expiration of any response period issued.
Landlord/Tenant: Discovery and Non-Discovery Motions are filed in Motions Court and will be assigned at the expiration of any response period issued.
Money Judgment: Non-Discovery Motions are filed in Motions Court and will be assigned at the expiration of any response period issued.
Please note that Discovery Motions in Money Judgment actions are filed with Discovery Court.
Code Enforcement: Discovery and Non-Discovery Motions are filed in Motion Court and will be assigned at the expiration of any response period issued.
Municipal Court Appeal Process and Procedure: In All Cases
In residential landlord-tenant cases, either party has ten (10) days to appeal the decision of the Municipal Court, and in nonresidential landlord-tenant cases and small claims cases, either party has thirty (30) days to appeal the decision of the Municipal Court to the Court of Common Pleas by filing a Notice of Appeal with the Prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas. A copy of the Notice of Appeal must be served within twenty (20) days on all parties and their counsel, and a copy must be served on the Deputy Court Administrator of the Municipal Court, at once, or the appeal is not perfected.
If you were the Plaintiff in the Municipal Court and are served with a Notice of Appeal, you must file with the Prothonotary a copy of the Municipal Court Landlord-Tenant Complaint, or a new Complaint in conformity with the Rules of Civil Procedure of the Court of Common Pleas, endorsed with a Notice to Plead, within twenty (20) days and serve a copy on all parties and counsel. If the plaintiff in the Municipal Court is the appealing party, these documents should be filed with the Prothonotary at the time the appeal is taken or within twenty (20) days thereafter and a copy served as indicated.
If you were the Defendant in the Municipal Court and are served with a Notice of Appeal and a Complaint endorsed with a Notice to Plead, you MUST file an Answer or other responsive pleading in conformity with the Rules of Civil Procedure of the Court of Common Pleas with the Prothonotary within twenty (20) days and serve a copy on all parties and counsel. See Phila. Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules 310-312.
At the time of filing of an Appeal from a Money Judgment the matter will be scheduled for an Arbitration Hearing.
In Landlord-Tenant Cases
If you are a tenant and you take an appeal, you must comply with this Court's escrow requirements in order to maintain the supersedeas (i.e., the right to remain in possession of the property until the appeal is decided). At the time you file the Notice of Appeal, you must pay an amount of money equal to three (3) months' rent or the amount of rent awarded to the landlord in the Municipal Court, whichever is less. This money must be placed in escrow with the Prothonotary, Room 282 City Hall, and thereafter, you must pay the rent for each successive month until the date of trial. You are required to serve copy of your appeal upon the Municipal Court Administrator in order to preserve the supersedeas. Failure to comply with these rules may result in your eviction from the premises before your appeal is heard by the Court. See Phila. Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules 310-312. Upon completion of the commencement process a case management order is issued outlining filing deadlines and scheduling the matter for pre-trial conference and trial.
Statutory Appeals Program
The Statutory Appeals Program of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas includes all appeals from adjudications of state and local administrative agencies filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and all business tax collection cases brought by the City of Philadelphia. Upon the filing of an appeal from an administrative agency adjudication, the Prothonotary automatically issues a Standing Case Management Order. The Case Management Order sets forth the date, time, and place of the status conference, as well as other relevant information, including requirements for service of the appeal. Within sixty (60) days the court issues a Scheduling Order and sets dates for the agency to produce a transcript of its hearing and to file its record of the proceeding with the court, for appellant(s) to file a brief in support of the appeal, for the appellee(s) and intervenor(s) to file a brief opposing the appeal and a date on which legal argument shall take place. If a full record has not been made of the proceedings below, and a de novo trial of the relevant issues is required the court enters a scheduling order within sixty (60) days from commencement of the appeal setting forth discovery deadlines and a date for trial.
Relief from the deadlines imposed in statutory appeal matters can only be obtained by the filing of a Motion for Extraordinary Relief.
City Business Tax Cases
The Civil Motions Judges preside over civil suits instituted for the collection of outstanding business, wage or other taxes that are due and owing to the City of Philadelphia. While cases that involve less than $50,000 are automatically diverted to arbitration, matters asserting greater tax indebtedness are listed directly before the judges. Within sixty (60) days of commencement of a City Business Tax case the court issues a Pre-trial Order governing setting forth discovery deadlines and listing the matter for trial.
Forfeiture and Return of Property Program
Forfeiture proceedings are civil in form; the proceedings are quasi-criminal in character. Forfeiture defendants are entitled to exercise one of the rights of a criminal defendant. Pennsylvania courts have protected the rights of forfeiture defendants to a hearing on the forfeiture petition. And Pennsylvania courts have held that incarcerated forfeiture defendants must be informed of their rights to be transported to a scheduled forfeiture hearing.
The Honorable Frank Palumbo presides over the forfeiture hearing/trial in courtroom 504 The Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice. Property owners which are subject to forfeiture may have forfeiture decided by a jury trial under Article 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. A claimant does not have a right to court appointed counsel in the forfeiture case. If a Motion for Return of Property is filed under the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure (Rule 588), the claimant bears the burden of production and must proceed first. If both a Motion for Return of Property and a Petition for Forfeiture have been filed the parties may agree to consolidate the matters and proceed under the Controlled Substances Forfeiture Acts. However, it is not required.
Forfeiture of Real Property
Under 42 Pa. C.S.A. section 6801, et.seq. The Commonwealth in certain circumstances has the legal right to seek the forfeiture of real property. It is the Commonwealth burden to produce evidence that the property in question was unlawfully used, possessed or otherwise subject to forfeiture. Then the burden shifts to a defendant/claimant to provide proof that she is the owner of the property or the holder of a chattel mortgage or contract of conditional sale thereon, that the claimant lawfully acquired this property and that is was not unlawfully used or possessed by her. In the event that the Commonwealth presented testimony that the property was unlawfully used or possessed by a person other than the claimant, then the claimant shall show that the unlawful use or possession was without his knowledge or consent.
Forfeiture of Money
In forfeiture proceedings where money has been seized, the Commonwealth bears the initial burden of proving either that the money was furnished or intended to be furnished in exchange for a controlled substance or represents the proceeds traceable to such an exchange or that the money was used or intended to be used to facilitate any violation of the Pennsylvania Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act.
Return of Property Petition
Generally, a Return of Property petition is filed after the underlying criminal case has been resolved. The defendant/claimant has a better chance to retrieve property, if the underlying case is resolved in the defendant/claimants favor. An attorney is optional at the defendant/claimant discretion. However, the court will not provide counsel.
Return of Property Procedures
1. The defendant/claimant must file a separate petition for each property receipt. The Petition must be notarized and pay a filling fee of $12.50 on the Second floor, Room 206 of the The Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice.
2. The Motions court clerk will list the petitions for a conference at 9:00a.m., on the Fourth floor, Courtroom 478 City Hall within 30 to 60 days of the initial filing. This will allow the District Attorney's Office time to investigate the case.
3. If the defendant/claimant fails to appear the case will be dismissed and the property will be forfeited to the Commonwealth.
4. If, after a hearing, the Return of Property petition is granted by the judge, the defendant/claimant will receive a certified copy of the Order and Petition from the court clerk.
5. The defendant/claimant must submit the certified copy Order and Petition to the Police Evidence Unit in Room 715 City Hall.
If the property is a vehicle, storage fees stop at the time of filing a Return of Property petition.
Statues associated with the Forfeiture Act:
Controlled Substances Forfeiture Act - 42 Pa. C.S. §6801 - § 6802; Prohibited Offensive Weapon - 18 Pa. C.S. A. § 908 (c); 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6501; 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 4119(a)
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