A court case can often go south very quickly at the Magistrate. The opposing party may lie, bring or display false evidence or you may feel that the Magistrate did not rule according to prcedent or law. Whatever the reason, a loss can happen quickly and often leaves people wondering how to file an appeal from the Magistrate. Filing an appeal, however, is not a quick or easy task. There are multiple steps that are critical and often come with time requirements. To summarize before going into detail, there are five major steps to filing an appeal from the Magistrate.
- Obtain a copy of the judgment from the Magistrate and note the date of disposition.
- Retrieve and fill out the Notice of Appeal and Civil Cover sheet. Attach a copy of the Magistrate judgment and ensure the judgment has the party list with it.
- File the appeal paperwork at the Court of Common Pleas for your county. This can be accomplished online(depending on county), in person or through the mail. If in person or through the mail, ensure you send at least 3 copies so you will receive back enough time-stamped copies for the next steps.
- Serve a time-stamped copy of the Notice of Appeal on Plaintiff(you can serve through their attorney) and the Magistrate. You can mail this via certified mail to each party. Be sure to get a Sender's Receipt from the post office. Request tha the post office stamp the receipt to show delivery of the certified items into the mail stream. You will also need these for the next step.
- Once mailed, you must now file a Proof of Service of Notice of Appeal with the Court of Common Pleas within 10 days of filing the appeal paperwork. You will need to have this notarized as you are swearing that you have served the Notice of Appeal. Good practice would also be to attach the sender's receipts.
Obtaining a Copy of the Judgment
The judgment from the Magistrate is typically mailed to you. If you do not want to wait for it to be mailed, you can typically stop by the Magistrate and have them print you out a copy. This may, depending on the Magistrate, come at a cost. When a charge is applied, it is usually only a few dollars at most. The important thing, regardless of how you get the judgment, is to ensure that the party list is attached to it. If it does not have one, request the Magistrate send it to you. This is a required item and your appeal could be stricken or the filing could be rejected.
Additionally, make note of the date of disposition found on the judgment. You have only 30 days from this date to file your appeal. This rule is strictly followed so do not count on leeway from the court if you try to file late. They will reject it.
Fill Out All Necessary Paperwork
Filling out the paperwork is probably the easiest part of an appeal. This requires only two things, both of which can be found on most websites for the Court of Common Pleas for your county. You will need to download and fill out a Civil Cover sheet and a Notice of Appeal. Fill these out in triplicate and attach a copy of the judgment(and party list) to each one. Be sure to sign where needed and do not skip any section. Lastly, make sure each copy is exactly the same.
File The Appeal
Your next step is to file the appeal itself. This can be done 1 of 3 ways. 1) the first, and preferred method when available, is to file your appeal online. Many Court of Common Pleas accept online filings. If you live in a county that does not have an e-filing system available to you, you will need to utilize one of the other two options. 2) The second option is to mail your appeal to the court. We do not recommend this option for someone who is inexperienced in the process. Mailing adds numerous days to the process as you must wait for it to be mailed to the court and for the court to mail it back to you. If you filled out the forms incorrectly, you won't find out up to 10 days later. Given that you only have 30 days for the process, this could jeopardize your ability to file an appeal at all. If you choose this option, it should be noted that the court will expect for you to have a self-addressed, postage-paid return envelope accompanying your appeal paperwork. They will not mail you back time-stamped copies without one 3) The third and final option involves simply going to the filing clerk in person and handing them the paperwork. They can review and file your appeal right there and hand you back the time-stamped copies immediately. This is the option we would recommend(if e file is not available) to anyone who is inexperienced in the process.
If you are filing in-person or by mail, ensure that you read the rules for the county you are filing in. Every county charges a fee to file an appeal that ranges upwards of $300. Additionally, each county has different requirements for the form of payment utilized to pay the filing fee. Some will accept personal checks but most will require a money order or cashiers check. If you are mailing it, you will need to mail your payment with it.
Lastly, although not required, it is good form to accompany your appeal with a separate cover letter addressed to the filing clerk indicating the contents of the mailing, your requested action(to file and have copies sent back) and your contact information. If something is amiss with your paperwork or the clerk has questions, that might be able to remedy the problem through a phone call instead of having to reject your appeal outright.
Serve The Notice of Appeal
The next step is extremely important. You must now serve the appeal on all parties including the Magistrate. This is commonly accomplished by sending a certified mailing to each party and the Magistrate with a time-stamped copy of the Civil Cover sheet and Notice of Appeal. If you opt for sending it certified(recommended), best practice would be to have the post office stamp the sender's receipt indicating that they have accepted the certified letter and placed it in the mail stream.
File the Proof of Service of Notice of Appeal
This is where most non-attorneys make a mistake. It is a common error to thing the job is done once all parties have been notified that an appeal has been filed and they are required to respond. This mistake, however, can and will be fatal to your appeal. If you do not file this necessary filing, the opposing party can simply strike your appeal. After the appeal is stricken, you will more than likely be outside of your time window and you will have lost before you even started.
The Proof of Service of Notice of Appeal can be filed by having a notary witness your signature on the page indicating that you have sworn you have served the Notice of Appeal. This page accompanies the Notice of Appeal itself. The process for this isn't too terribly invovled or complex but it does have an extremely short window of time you must complete it in.
You have only 10 days to file this document. Not 10 days to get it signed or filled out or to have the appeal served, 10 days to file this specific document with the court. It doesn't matter if you served the appeal on the same day you filed it and immediately had it notarized indicating the same. If you file this document on the 11th day, it won't matter. Your appeal can and will be stricken by a motion from the opposing party. As previously mentioned, this will probably prove absolutely fatal to your case.
Hiring an Attorney Might Be the Best Option
We at Starks Law have filed numerous appeals in numerous counties. We know the process well and have streamlined workflows in place to accomplish each step with ease. When you are trying to accomplish an appeal on your own, you increase the risk of error. An error in the appeal process could ensure that you lose your court case before you even get your voice heard in court.
If you want to know more about how we can help you through this process, give us a call. Consultations at Starks Law are free for anyone facing the appeals process. Alternatively, you can fill out our contact form to have an experienced attorney give you a call-back.