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From the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts
HARRISBURG—The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania today expanded its online case database to include information regarding landlord-tenant cases and civil cases of less than $12,000 that are filed in the state’s magisterial district courts.
Electronic docket sheets for more than 4.1 million of these cases will be available on the Unified Judicial System’s website at www.pacourts.us by clicking on the “Docket Sheets” button at the bottom of the page.
The online database also contains records for nearly 27 million traffic, non-traffic and criminal cases that have been filed in Pennsylvania’s appellate, Common Pleas (criminal) and magisterial district courts. The records can be searched by court, case category and status, docket number and type, county and participant name, date of birth (if available) and date filed. In 2012 the public accessed these case records more than 53 million times via the Internet, free of charge.
The decision to expand online access to magisterial district civil and landlord-tenant cases is consistent with the Supreme Court’s commitment to provide easy access to court records.
From the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts
HARRISBURG — Military veterans facing incarceration for minor criminal charges would have the option of supervised treatment under a pilot program of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
The Magisterial District Judge Diversion program, aimed at veteran offenders, was initiated in Centre County in November and will be piloted in Monroe and Westmoreland counties starting Jan. 1.
Believed to be the only one of its kind in the country, the diversionary program is being tested in the three diverse counties with the goal of developing blueprints for possible expansion statewide. Guidelines were developed by a committee established by the AOPC.
“This program has been under development for over three years and is another step in the work we have been doing here in the courts of Pennsylvania, in partnership with the Veterans Administration, to assist returning veterans with their struggles to readjust,” said Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery. “What we hope to do here is divert these veterans into treatment before their problems escalate to behaviors that would result in a case getting to the Court of Common Pleas.
“The earlier we intervene, the better for the veteran, the better for their family, the better for their community, and the better for the system.”
The move follows implementation of a similar statewide Veterans Court program in the Common Pleas Courts that also offers supervised treatment as an alternative to incarceration. By introducing earlier intervention at the magisterial district judge level, program planners hope to curb behavior from worsening among veterans with drug and alcohol abuse, anger management and post-traumatic stress disorder issues. In a collaborative arrangement with the state court system, the Veterans Administration provides treatment services.
A veteran charged with summary offenses — such as disorderly conduct, public drunkenness or harassment — could opt for supervised treatment, with the county district attorney’s office approval. The charges would be dismissed at the end of a successful six-month treatment period. If a defendant doesn’t comply with the terms of the program, the charges would be restored.
Pennsylvania has more than one million veterans statewide — including Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille and Justice McCaffery. Justice McCaffery is the Supreme Court’s liaison to the state’s problem-solving courts program, and has been a leading force in establishing Veterans Courts throughout the Commonwealth.
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s Judiciary is offering protection from abuse forms in multiple languages to help address domestic violence issues in families who are not proficient in English.
The new forms underscore the state court system’s long-standing commitment to promote equal access to justice regardless of racial, gender and ethnic background. Posted online to provide easy access, the forms are an important part of civil court proceedings, and failure to understand and complete them properly can delay or invalidate proceedings.
“Court proceedings can be hard to understand, even if you speak English,” said Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille. “These new forms help ensure that all citizens have full access to the court system and its resources by being able to access documents in the person’s native language.”
More than a dozen forms related to the process of obtaining protection orders — in 10 of the state’s most common non-English languages — now are posted on the Unified Judicial System’s website: www.pacourts.us. Visitors can access the forms at the bottom of the home page under the area labeled “Forms.”
The forms are available in: Arabic, Simplified Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Khmer (Cambodian), Korean, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian and Vietnamese. The documents are in a bilingual format with the left hand column in English, and the right hand side in the foreign language.
HARRISBURG—The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania is taking steps to ensure that the retention of electronic magisterial district court case records be consistent with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s Record Retention and Disposition Schedule with Guidelines, beginning April 1. The Supreme Court’s schedule standardized the retention of official court records and generally requires:
- summary case records be retained for three years after final disposition or final payment of all court assessments;
- criminal case records be retained for seven years after final disposition or after the date they were held or waived for Common Pleas court;
- civil and landlord tenant case records be retained for seven years after entry of satisfaction of judgment; final disposition, or if appealed, seven years from the result of the appeal;
- miscellaneous case records be retained three years after the case was filed in the magisterial district court.
For example, magisterial district court records concerning a conviction for a minor traffic offense will no longer be available in paper or electronic record form three years following final payment of all court assessments.
Court Office Seeks Input on Proposed Changes to Judiciary’s Policy Governing Electronic Case Records
HARRISBURG, February 6, 2011–The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) is seeking input regarding proposed amendments to the policy governing electronic records stored in the Judiciary’s case management systems and made available online at no charge.
“The proposed amendments expand the Supreme Court’s long-standing tradition of providing online access to court records while recognizing appropriate restrictions on personal data that could jeopardize an individual’s privacy and safety or subject them to identity theft,” said Court Administrator of Pennsylvania Zygmont A. Pines.
The most significant proposed change is to begin posting magisterial district court civil and landlord/tenant cases on the Judiciary’s web site with the full addresses of the litigants to help distinguish them from individuals with similar names in densely populated areas. Dates of birth and other personal identifiers are not included in these case filings.
All other cases will continue being posted online with the litigant’s partial address (city, state and zip code) because those cases have date of birth information which can help distinguish individuals with similar names.
The AOPC is also recommending that the Judiciary’s Electronic Case Record Public Access Policy exclude access to images of documents filed and stored in the state court case management systems. Another amendment will allow the AOPC to release additional case data if the request meets approved academic, government and professional standards, and the information released does not identify specific individuals or present a risk to personal security and privacy.
Beginning with a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Saturday, February 4, the AOPC is seeking comment regarding the proposed policy amendments for a 30-day period that ends March 5. The amendments can be viewed at the Pennsylvania Judiciary’s Public Access web page http://www.pacourts.us/T/AOPC/PublicAccessPolicy.htm where visitors can also email comments regarding the proposal.
“Last year the public accessed more than 39 million magisterial district, Common Pleas and appellate court case records online at no charge,” Pines said. “In addition, the AOPC provided 397 customized bulk court reports to government entities for free.”
The public can search the individual case docket sheets Judiciary’s web site at http://ujsportal.pacourts.us/ by court, case category and status, docket number and type, county and participant name and date of birth, and date filed.