All employees and visitors entering a First Judicial District facility will no longer be required to wear a mask. All unvaccinated Exempt employees and members of the public must continue to double mask. All jury trial participants will still be required to wear a mask. Click here for full notice.
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.
Judges are assigned to specific civil programs and maintain judicial control and direction over the civil operations pertaining to their assignments. The judges are busy and should not be burdened by clerical and administrative problems that are the responsibility of the Office of Civil Administration or the Civil Office of Judicial Records. Questions pertaining to such problems should be addressed by the court administrative officers, manager, and clerks within the appropriate office.
The Case Records Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of PA has been amended effective January 1, 2022. The Policy can be found here.
Questions concerning the Policy and how documents must be filed via the Electronic Filing System should be directed to the Office of Judicial Records. Phone:(215)686-6652 Email:OJRCivil@courts.phila.gov
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, are assigned to Compulsory Arbitration. Upon filing of the complaint in an arbitration case, the complaint is stamped with the date and time of hearing. On the prescribed date and time, the parties report to the Arbitration Center and the case is promptly assiged to an arbitration panel for a hearing. All arbitration hearings are held in the Arbitration Center before a panel of three attorneys who have been court certified to serve as arbitrators.
This unit is responsible for the processing of all pre-trial and post-trial motions and petitions. Motions and petitions are assigned to various judges and programs in accordance with Civil Motions Assignment Matrix. Motions and petitions filed in the following programs are assigned to two presiding Motions Judges: Compulsory Arbitration, Arbitration Appeals and Non-Jury. The Motions Judges may also review and dispose of motions and petitions filed in a variety of other miscellaneous actions.
Additionally, the Civil Motions Program is responsible for generating and mailing notices to appear for specific court events in all programs to all counsel and unrepresented parties.
Electronic Review Office is responsible for the review and acceptance of all civil e-filings, including commencement, subsequent filings, appeals and motions. The Electronic Filing Review Office should field questions concerning status of submitted e-filings as well as information regarding most filing procedures.
Due to the nature of the discovery hearing process, the review, acceptance and scheduling of almost all discovery motions will be done by the Discovery Court Program.
This office is responsible for over-the-counter filings and other requests submitted in person at the courthouse. Electronic filing is mandatory in the Court of Common Pleas - Civil. However, support can be provided in the courthouse in the Civil Filing Center. Computer terminals are available in this office to assist anyone who needs help with establishing an electronic filing system account and filing. This office is also responsible for providing certified and/or exemplified copies of court documents such as divorce decrees. Questions concerning filing in the courthouse over-the-counter should be directed to the Civil Filing Center.
The Philadelphia Commerce Court Case Management Program ("Commerce Court") is a specialized civil program of the Trial Division of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Commercial and business-to-business disputes filed after January 2000, that are not subject to the court's Compulsory Arbitration Program, are assigned to the Commerce Court. All Class Actions and motions regarding Confessed Judgments are also assigned to the Commerce Court. Real Estate Tax and Water/Sewer Lien Sequestration Petitions are assigned to the Supervising Judge of the Commerce Court.
The trial judges assigned to the Commerce Court are all experienced jurists. They routinely hear complex disputes involving, but not limited to: corporate shareholders, company members and partners; sales, mergers and dissolutions of businesses; commercial real estate transactions; construction and other business contracts; commercial insurance policies; legal, accounting and other professional (non-medical) malpractice; unfair competition, corporate fraud and theft of trade secrets; and negotiable instruments.
Cases assigned to the Commerce Court are governed by the same state and local rules of procedure that apply to all other civil cases. Each case in the Commerce Court is assigned to a single judge who is then responsible for handling all aspects of the case, including discovery disputes, preliminary objections, summary judgment and other motions, and trial. At present, there are three judges assigned to the Commerce Court: Judge Nina Wright Padilla who serves as Supervising Judge of the Commerce Court; Judge Ramy I. Djerassi; and Judge Leon W. Tucker.
A dedicated team of five Court Administrative Officers and law clerks assists the Judges and their chambers staff in the management and resolution of cases assigned to the Commerce Court. In addition, more than 120 qualified members of the commercial bar serve as court appointed settlement judges pro tempore, receivers, and discovery masters in Commerce Court cases.
A Commerce Court case is commenced in the same manner as any other civil case by the electronic filing of a Summons and/or Complaint. In order to have a case assigned to the Commerce Court, the filing party should choose "Commerce" as the Program type on the Court's electronic filing system and fill out the electronic form entitled "Commerce Court Program Addendum," which sets forth the types of cases eligible for assignment to the Commerce Court. Not all cases involving businesses are entitled to be filed in the Commerce Court.
If the plaintiff's initial filing does not indicate that the case should be assigned to the Commerce Court, any party who believes the case should be so assigned may file a "Notice of Management Program Dispute" requesting that the case be transferred to the Commerce Court. This Notice should be filed as soon as possible. The Supervising Judge of the Commerce Court will then decide if the case should be transferred to the Commerce Court. This Notice should also be used if a party thinks a case was mistakenly assigned to the Commerce Court.
A motion for preliminary or special injunction may be filed electronically along with the Complaint or after a Complaint has been filed. If the motion involves an emergency, the filer should so indicate when asked by the electronic system. Once the motion has been accepted for filing, court personnel will assign the motion to a Commerce Court judge, who may issue an order regarding service, responses, and a hearing. In addition, Commerce Court staff may contact the filer to see if service has been made or to schedule a hearing. With respect to emergency motions, there is no need for counsel to appear at the courthouse until requested to do so by the court. However, counsel may contact Commerce Court staff to alert them to the filing of the emergency motion.
Approximately three months after a Commerce Court case is commenced, the case will be scheduled for a Case Management Conference. At that Conference, counsel will meet with a Commerce Court Administrative Officer ("CAO") to discuss assignment and scheduling of the case. If the CAO determines that the case was improperly filed in Commerce, the case may be transferred to the appropriate court program. If it is a proper Commerce case, then the case will be assigned to an appropriate Case Management Track after consultation with counsel.
Counsel should complete beforehand, and bring to the conference, a Commerce Court Case Management Memorandum. In response to Question 8 of that Form, counsel should list five or more Commerce Judges Pro Tempore ("JPTs") for the mandatory settlement conference, which will usually be held after discovery is completed and before the pre-trial conference.
All pleadings, discovery motions, preliminary objections, summary judgment and other motions, and all responses to motions should be filed electronically in Commerce Court cases the same way they are filed in other civil trial programs. Court personnel will assign all Commerce motions to the Commerce judge assigned to the case.
Once discovery is complete and dispositive motions are decided, each Commerce Court case will be listed for a settlement conference with one of the Commerce JPTs. If both parties want a settlement conference scheduled earlier, they may send a joint letter to the assigned Commerce judge requesting an earlier settlement conference.
Each party should prepare a Settlement Conference Memorandum, which should be served on all counsel and the JPT at least ten days before the Settlement Conference. The JPT may also request that the parties provide additional information to the JPT only. The parties are expected to appear for the Settlement Conference, unless they are excused by the JPT.
The assigned JPT will provide up to three hours of his/her services to the parties for free. If the parties wish to continue to engage in settlement discussions or to mediate their differences with the JPT's assistance, they shall pay the JPT at least $300, or such greater fee as they all agree, per hour for each additional hour.
The Commerce Court judges often issue opinions in connection with their rulings on motions, at trial, and on appeal. Those opinions are available below and on commercial legal databases, such as Westlaw and LEXIS.
Additional information regarding Commerce Court practices and procedures may be found in the Commerce Court Case Management Program section of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Civil Practice Manual.
The Complex Litigation Center was the first courthouse in the United States designed exclusively for complex, multi-filed Mass Tort cases when it opened in 1992. Since February, 2002 it has been located in Room 622 City Hall. The Honorable Lisette Shirdan-Harris is the Team Leader Judge of the Center. He is assisted by Stanley Thompson, Esquire, Director.
Complex Litigation Center Room 622 City Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19107 Telephone:(215) 686-5100 Fax: (215) 686-5137
Practice and Procedures
A Mass Tort action is commenced in the same manner as other civil actions. When filing an action, the Mass Tort program case type, i.e., Asbestos, Trasylol, etc., must be selected from the Electronic Filing System (EFS) drop-down box to ensure proper program assignment.
In every Mass Tort program, there are regular monthly or bi-monthly meetings of counsel, the Team Leader Judge, and the Director. These meetings are mandatory and are designed to encourage participation by the Bar in creating case management procedures tailored to each program. Meeting agendas must be submitted to the Team Leader Judge at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.
Liaison Counsel are selected by the Bar and approved by the Team Leader Judge for each program. The Team Leader Judge may also appoint a program Discovery Master, if necessary. Please see the Master Docket and Liaison Counsel List (Link Below), which includes any appointed program Discovery Masters.
Case Management Orders are entered in every Mass Tort Program. These Orders are created cooperatively by the Team Leader Judge and counsel. Case Management Orders establish when and how actions may be filed, motion and discovery procedures and deadlines, and trial schedules. Copies of program Case Management Orders may be obtained from Liaison Counsel. Any questions should be directed to the Director of the Complex Litigation Center, Stanley Thompson, Esquire.
Standardized procedures have been created for all Mass Tort programs as a result of Bench/Bar collaboration and cooperation with respect to pleadings, discovery, motions, depositions and document depositories. Questions regarding standardized procedures may be directed to liaison counsel in each program and/or Stanley Thompson, Esquire, Director, 215-686-5100.
All Mass Tort motions, except case-specific Motions In Limine, are assigned to the Team Leader Judge for disposition. Case-specific Motions In Limine are assigned to the trial judge for disposition. The Team Leader Judge may designate any motion a "global motion" to be applied to all cases in a particular Mass Tort program. Global Orders are placed on the master docket for the affected program.
Pro Hac Vice Motions must be filed for each attorney seeking Pro Hac Vice admission in Pennsylvania. These motions must be filed in each case in which that attorney seeks special admission. Pennsylvania Bar Admission Rule 301 governs Pro Hac Vice admissions.
* Important Notice Regarding Business License and Business Privilege Taxes
Counsel seeking Pro Hac Vice admission may be required to obtain a business privilege license and may also be subject to applicable local business privilege taxes based on both gross receipts and net income. Failure to comply with any requisite licensing or failure to fulfill any tax return filing/tax payment obligation may result in the denial of Pro Hac Vice admission.
See the link to the Department of Revenue below, and consult your tax professional.
The Discovery Court Program operates in accordance with the Alternative Motion Procedures set forth in Philadelphia Rule of Civil Procedure *208.3. Depending on the particular civil program, discovery motions are scheduled for a hearing before a Judicial Team Leader, Coordinating Judge, or Commerce Judge. A day and time has been reserved for the resolution of discovery motions in each program.
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 email@example.com). 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 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.
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.
The Judgments and Liens Index Office is responsible for performing searches for outstanding liens and/or judgments and certifying the results thereof and providing computers for public use to obtain judgment, lien and case information.
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.
A federal court has preliminarily approved a class settlement related to civil forfeiture in Philadelphia.
See Sourovelis v. City of Philadelphia, et al. - Civil Action No. 14-04687-ER (E.D. Pa.)
Property owners sued the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia District Attorneyâ€™s Office over seizures of cash, cars, properties. The First Judicial District of Pennsylvania was also named as a Defendant. A settlement has been reached in the lawsuit concerning the constitutionality of specific policies and practices in prosecuting civil forfeiture cases, such as the policy and practice of retaining forfeited property and its proceeds for funding.