The Philadelphia Municipal Court’s civil division hears a high volume of cases involving landlord-tenant disputes, code violations, and small claims and debt collections of up to $12,000. Serving as a “people’s court,” the system is meant to be easily navigable by defendants without the need for legal representation. A clear understanding of the system, its processes, and the degree to which defendants reach fair and appropriate results without an attorney is important, because judgments can have a significant impact on the lives and finances of those involved—especially low- and middle-income Philadelphians.

Pew’s research on this topic examines critical issues surrounding Philadelphia’s civil legal system, including how it functions, the perspectives of those who navigate it, how its resources and accessibility compare with systems in other big cities, and whether promising practices in other jurisdictions could be adapted to strengthen and streamline Philadelphia’s processes.

Philadelphia
Philadelphia
Article

Where Philadelphia's Small Claims Court Defendants Live

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Article

Approximately 91,000 cases are filed annually in Philadelphia Municipal Court’s Civil Division, predominantly small claims cases seeking under $12,000 (often less than $5,000), landlord-tenant disputes, and code enforcement violations issued by the city.

Philadelphia Municipal Court
Philadelphia Municipal Court
Report

How Philadelphia Municipal Court's Civil Division Works

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Report

In Philadelphia, the Municipal Court is the lowest rung of the judicial system, with a civil division that heard roughly 91,000 cases in 2018, the latest year for which full data is available.

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