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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 08-1923




[246 PA. CODE CH. 200]

Amendment of Rule 202 and New Rule 215 of the Rules of Conduct, Office Standards and Civil Procedure for Magisterial District Judges; No. 252 Magisterial Rules; Doc. No. 1

[38 Pa.B. 5843]
[Saturday, October 25, 2008]


Per Curiam:

   And Now, this 8th day of October, 2008, upon the recommendation of the Minor Court Rules Committee, the proposal having been published before adoption at Volume 38, Pennsylvania Bulletin, page 1817 (April 19, 2008), and a Final Report to be published with this Order:

   It Is Ordered pursuant to Article V, Section 10 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania that Pa.R.C.P.M.D.J. No. 202 be, and hereby is, amended in the attached form, and new Pa.R.C.P.M.D.J. No. 215 be, and hereby is, adopted, in the attached form.

   This Order shall be processed in accordance with Pa.R.J.A. No. 103(b), and shall be effective November 1, 2008.

Annex A




Rule 202.  Definitions.

   As used in these rules, the following words and phrases shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly indicates otherwise or the particular word or phrase is expressly defined in the chapter in which the particular rule is included:

   ''adult'' means an individual eighteen years of age or older;

   ''advanced communication technology'' is any communication equipment that is used as a link between parties in physically separate locations.

*      *      *      *      *

   Adopted Oct. 15, 1969, effective Jan. 1, 1970. Amended April 25, 1979, effective in 30 days, June 30, 1982, effective 30 days after July 17, 1982; Dec. 1, 1983, imd. effective; July 16, 2001, effective Aug. 1, 2001; Sept. 3, 2003, effective Jan. 1, 2004; Jan. 6, 2005; effective Jan. 29, 2005; June 1, 2006, effective Oct. 1, 2006; Oct. 8, 2008, effective Nov. 1, 2008.

Rule 215.  Advanced Communication Technology (NEW).

   Magisterial district judges may authorize the use of advanced communication technology during any civil proceeding or action governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure for Magisterial District Judges.

   Official Note:  This rule was adopted in 2008 to specify that magisterial district judges may use advanced communication technology in their courtrooms during adversarial proceedings. In an ex parte proceeding, such as an action pursuant to the Protection From Abuse Act, 23 Pa.C.S. §  6101 et seq., magisterial district judges also may permit the use of advanced communication technology. Limited technology available in some magisterial district courts may preclude the use of certain advanced communication technology options. Compare Pa.R.Crim.P. 119.

Adopted Oct. 8, 2008, effective Nov. 1, 2008.


Amendment to Rule 202 and New Rule 215 of the Rules of Conduct, Office Standards and Civil Procedure for Magisterial District Judges


   On October 8, 2008, effective November 1, 2008, upon recommendation of the Minor Court Rules Committee,1 the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania approved an amendment to Rule 202, as well as adopted an entirely new Rule 215 of the Rules of Conduct, Office Standards and Civil Procedure for Magisterial District Judges.2

I.  Background

   In 2007, the Minor Court Rules Committee (''Committee'') became aware of several counties enacting local rules that allowed for use of advanced communication technology (''ACT'') in proceedings for emergency relief pursuant to the Protection From Abuse Act, 23 Pa.C.S. § 6101 et seq. Some counties apparently had taken this action, or were considering this action, in an attempt to fill a perceived gap in the Rules of Conduct, Office Standards and Civil Procedure for Magisterial District Judges. While there is a rule addressing the use of ACT in criminal proceedings (Pa.R.Crim.P. 119), there is no rule either prohibiting or permitting the practice on the civil side.

   In order to foster a uniform, statewide practice, the Committee recommended a new rule authorizing the use of ACT in civil actions.

II.  Discussion

   The Committee reviewed several counties' local rules authorizing the use of ACT in civil actions and/or emergency protection from abuse actions. In addition, the Committee reviewed Pa.R.Crim.P. 103 (''Definitions'') and 119 (''Use of Two-Way Simultaneous Audio-Visual Communication in Criminal Proceedings''). Although the Committee recognized that two definitions pertaining to ACT are contained within the criminal definitions3 , the Committee decided to include only one of those definitions--''advanced communication technology.'' By choosing to exclude ''advanced communication technology site,'' the Committee believed that more individuals will be able to access the magisterial district courts, especially in times of crisis, such as when seeking emergency protection from abuse orders.

   The Committee also weighed the benefits of the proposed Rule 215 in accommodating individuals with special circumstances. Some of the hypotheticals mentioned included the new rule's ability to assist individuals with disabilities; allow telephonic use for interpreters (such as ''Language Line''); or permit remote testimony of a non-critical witness for whom travel would present extreme difficulty.

   The Committee chose not to enumerate specific mandatory conditions in Rule 215, believing that each individual magisterial district judge should have the discretion to decide when, and if, ACT was appropriate for his or her courtroom. In addition, the Committee chose not to include any language about a party's objection to the use of ACT. The Committee believes that, as with any decision rendered by a magisterial district judge that a party considers unfavorable, the proper course of action would be an appeal or praecipe for writ of certiorari.

III.  Approved Rule Changes

   To address the issues discussed above, the Committee proposed the following rule changes.

   A.  Rule 202

   The Committee proposed the inclusion of a new definition in Rule 202--''advanced communication technology.'' The definition is derived from Pa.R.Crim.P. 103 (''Definitions''). However, the Committee decided against an exact replication of Pa.R.Crim.P. 103, recognizing the rapid pace of technological change. The Committee did not want to specify certain types of technology that very well could become obsolete in a short period of time. Instead, the Committee chose to allow each magisterial district judge to permit the use of technology that links parties in two physically separate locations.

   B.  New Rule 215

   The Committee proposed an entirely new Rule 215 (Advanced Communication Technology) to provide a procedure for parties to participate in civil hearings using any manner of technological devices. As provided by the companion amendment to Rule 202, ''advanced communication technology'' is not strictly limited; instead, it allows the judge to decide when, and if, a method is most appropriate for the courtroom and/or hearing. The note to the rule will direct parties to the criminal rules for comparison. In addition, it will clarify that ACT is available in both adversarial and ex parte proceedings. Finally, it will caution parties that not all magisterial district courts possess the ability to use all types of ACT.

[Pa.B. Doc. No. 08-1923. Filed for public inspection October 24, 2008, 9:00 a.m.]


1 Minor Court Rules Committee Recommendation 9-2008.

2 Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Order No. 252, Magisterial Docket No. 1 (October 8, 2008).

3 The criminal rules define both ''advanced communication technology'' and ''advanced communication technology site.''

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