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            Montgomery County Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas is at the forefront in utilization of volunteer attorneys at Masters. The Court since the late 1990’s has used Masters for its state of the art Discovery Master Program, Civil Case Master Program and as mediators for tax assessment appeals.  Now the Court has appointed three masters who will to preside over the Court’s Mortgage Foreclosure Conciliation Program.

There is a wealth of talent among the Montgomery County Attorneys and the Court continues to utilize that talent as Masters.  It’s a win win. First, there is no cost to the Courts. Second, it enables the Judges to work on other matters.  Last, but not least it allows attorneys to give back.

 

Thumbnail image for iStock_000016826286XSmall[1].jpgI recently blogged that the PA Senate and PA House voted to defer the Judicial retirement ballot question from the May primary to the November general election. Thereafter, it was widely reported in multiple news outlets that it was a done deal. Well maybe not.  Three Democratic Senators, Jay Costa, Daylin Leach and Christine Tartaglione filed a lawsuit to obtain an injunction to keep the question on the May primary ballot.  There reasoning in part being that multiple people have already voted by absentee ballot on the ballot question.

Today the Commonwealth Court is hold a hearing on the request for Preliminary Injunction. As soon as a decision is issued I will report on it.  So right now we do not know if the ballot question will be voted on in the May or November elections.

Thumbnail image for iStock_000016826286XSmall[1].jpg I previously blogged that there was a likelihood that the ballot question in Pennsylvania, on extending the mandatory judicial retirement age, would be deferred to the November election. It’s official! Yesterday both the PA Senate and PA House signed the joint resolution directing the Department of State to defer the ballot question to November.  The deferral makes sense. First, it allows the question to be revised and simplified. Second, more people will have an opportunity to vote on the question.  While non-partisan or independent voters could have voted on the question in the primary, most people would not have been aware of that fact.

Currently the following ballot question is on the ballot for the April 26th primary:

        Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges, and justices of the peace (known as magisterial district judges) be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years, instead of the current requirement that they be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 70?

The Pennsylvania House and Senate are concerned about the proposed wording of the amendment. They have proposed the following revised wording:

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges, and magisterial district judges be retired on the last day of
the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years?

However, there is not enough time to publish the revised wording for the revised ballot question to appear on the primary ballot on April 26th. Thus, by joint resolution the House and Senate are proposing that the question be removed from the April primary, and that the revised question appear on the ballot for the general election on November 8th.  The reasoning is as follows:

  • The question as written is confusing;
  • There are over 1 million voters who have not registered with a party;
  • The 1 million voters might not realize that they can vote on the ballot question since they normally cannot vote in a primary;
  • If the question is moved to the general election then all registered voters will be encouraged to vote on the question.The joint resolution is moving through the process and will likely be voted on shortly in order for the ballot question to be changed and for it to be removed from the primary ballot to the general election ballot.

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In December 2013, I first published an e-book on Practice and Procedure in Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. I have recently blogged about the monumental changes in the practice and procedure in Montgomery County. I pleased to issue a Revised E-Book on Montgomery County PA Court Practice and Procedure which incorporates all the changes as of March 31, 2016.

Please use the E-Book as a guide regarding the practice and procedure in Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. If you have additional questions you can contact me at 610-397-6510 or email me at wrothstein@foxrothschild.com. Alternatively, please reference the Montgomery County Local Rules of Civil Procedure which can be found on the County’s website.

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Today the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order amending Pa Rule of Civil Procedure 1042.3 on Certificates of Merit. As background information, Rule 1042.3 requires the filing of Certificates of Merit in any lawsuit alleging that a licensed professional deviated from acceptable professional standards.

The amended rule does not modify the language of the rule. Rather supplemental language is added in the comment to clarify the rule. Specifically, it clarifies that when there is a claim of vicarious liability against a Defendant that it must be supported by a certificate of merit.

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On March 1st the Philadelphia Bar Association held a forum for the candidates currently running for Pa Attorney General. The candidates that participated in the forum were: John Morganelli, Joe Peters, John Rafferty, Josh Shapiro and Stephen Zappala. The Forum was moderated by Lauren McKenna, a partner at Fox Rothschild and the Chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association Board of Governors.

Before a sold out standing room only crowd the candidates presented their views on numerous topics such as: the current Attorney General; the death penalty; public trust in the AG’s Office; Consumer Protection; Public Protection; defending unconstitutional statutes; and the recent Judicial email scandal.

The Primary Election in Pennsylvania is April 26, 2016 and voters can only vote in the Democratic primary if registered Democrat and in the Republican primary if registered Republican.  Independents and Nonpartisans cannot vote in the primary. The Democratic candidates are: John Morganelli, Josh Shapiro and Stephen Zappala. The Republican candidates are: Joe Peters and John Rafferty.  It is an important race, so read up on the candidates and vote!!

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Recently, I blogged about changes in the Civil Division in Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. Previously, I blogged on other significant changes.

Now in order for cases to be handled more efficiently, there have been additional changes. Previously I blogged regarding Montgomery County’s Judicial assignments for Civil cases. Throughout the years, in addition to Judges in the Civil Division being assigned to handle pre-trial matters, it has rotated between judges in the Family, Criminal, Orphans Court and Juvenile division. That has now changed.

Effective immediately only Judges in the Civil Division will be pre-trial judges for Civil cases. If you had a case that had a Family, Orphans or Juvenile Court Judge assigned then that case has already been reassigned to one of the five Civil Judges.  Check the dockets for your new assigned Judge. This is a great change and will provide needed continuity.

 

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I have previously blogged about the outstanding and one of a kind Discovery Master Program that exists in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. I also previously blogged that three of the Discovery Masters, myself, Michael Trachtman and Robert Morris were being transferred from Discovery Masters to Civil Case Managers.

As a result of the transfers that left 3 vacancies with our Discovery Masters. I am pleased to report that those vacancies have been filled. The Court has now appointed Bruce Pancio Esquire, Jacqueline Reynolds, Esquire and James Manion Esquire. It is anticipated that they will commence hearing arguments in April.

It is with mixed emotions that I report that last Friday I sat for the last time as a Discover Master.  I have served since September 2011 and probably presided over 200 discovery management conferences and over 1,000 oral arguments. I will miss some aspects and others I will not. However, I look forward to my new position and my new role in assisting the Court. Whether it is the 9 Discovery Masters or the 7 Civil Case Managers, the masters serve a valuation role in our system in Montgomery County.

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Previously, I blogged about changes in the Civil Division of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. The changes are continuing in order to move cases forward. There were two changes announced yesterday at the Montgomery Bar Association Trial Lawyers luncheon.

First, all Preliminary Objections will now be decided by one of the seven senior Judges.  If argument is requested then it will be assigned to a senior Judge who will hear argument and issue a decision. If argument has not been requested then the senior judgment will decide the Preliminary Objections on the papers only. Currently the senior Judges are: Judges Nicholas, Corso, Drayer, Tilson, Smyth, Moore and Ott.

Second, all Motions for Sanctions will not be heard by the Judge sitting in equity and not by the assigned Judge.

The aforementioned changes are intended to move cases along and to avoid a significant backlog when cases are placed in the mandatory trial or arbitration pool per new local rule 200. Stay tuned, it’s my understanding that additional changes will be announced soon.