What To Do When Filing a Case with the District Justice

Debt collection attorney Brian Zellner describes the process and procedures involved with filing a collection case with the District Justice. For your convenience, the transcription for the video is included below.

What to do When Filing a Case with the District Justice

“Hi, I’m Brian Zellner an attorney here at Hynum Law in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. And my practice consists mostly of collection work. In representing clients and collection matters, a lot of times they ask me about filing civil actions at a district magistrate or as some people call it, a district justice.

How to Start the Process

The amount in controversy has to be less than 12,000 dollars. You start out by filing a complaint form between 12 and 60 days the court issues a notice of hearing. During that time period, the defendant is served with the complaint.

Intent to Defend

The defendant has to enter an intent to defend. If they do not enter an intent to defend, what happens is that the notice of hearing date is actually the judgement date. So, if no intent to defend is entered, judgment is entered automatically in your favor on that date. If an intent to defend is filed, then the court normally reschedules the hearing.

When the Hearing Begins

At the hearing, the normal rules of evidence apply; you have to have your witnesses available personally to testify and your documents that you intend to present. A note to out-of-states plaintiffs, you have to appear in person. You cannot appear by phone. That may be something unique here to Pennsylvania, but at least at the district justice level they do not allow telephone testimony.

At the hearing the judge hears the case and makes a decision. Normally, a decision can be rendered at the time of the hearing, or up to five days after. And some people ask me at that point, once they receive the decision, if it’s its not favorable, is the case over? It is not over.


You do have a right to appeal. You have 30 days to file a notice of appeal to the court of common pleas. If you have any questions about civil actions or collection matters, feel free to contact me or give me a call at (717) 801-1105. Or visit our website at www.hynumlaw.com.”