Bucks County Herald

Sellersville calls for Perkasie District Court to stay open

CHRIS RUVO

Sellersville has taken a formal stand against the proposed closure of the magisterial district court in Perkasie.

On Tuesday, borough council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that opposes Bucks County President Judge Jeffrey L. Finley’s petition calling on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to shutter Bucks County Magisterial District Court 07-2-03 on West Market Street in neighboring Perkasie.

The resolution does not present a legal impediment to the court being closed, but does let state and county authorities know that Sellersville deems a closure bad business – something that could, borough officials hope, factor into the Pa. Supreme Court’s final decision about whether to shut down the Perkasie court.

The Sellersville resolution states that closing the district court in Perkasie would negatively impact the local community.

For one thing, Perkasie Police, who also patrol Sellersville, would have to travel longer to another district court – possibly New Britain – to file paperwork, attend hearings, obtain arrest warrants and more.

The additional travel time, plus the potential for an already busy district court to backlog as cases that would have been handled in Perkasie district court flood in, will keep officers away longer from their primary duties of patrolling the streets, Sellersville officials said. It could also lead to higher costs for transportation and overtime.

“The closing of the Perkasie District Court would cause an increased cost and hardship for the local police department,” the resolution states.

Sellersville notes in the resolution that major development projects are in the works in the borough, Perkasie and East Rockhill, which is also served by the court along with West Rockhill and the Bucks County portion of Telford. These development projects could contribute to increased cases and filings, making the closure of Perkasie district court a short-sighted, ill-timed move, officials said.

Additionally, the Sellersville resolution notes that candidates are running in the May primary to replace Perkasie District Judge Charles W. Baum, who is retiring. It would be unfair to the candidates and the democratic process to announce a court closure just before the primary, advocates of keeping the court open say.

County officials have said that the Supreme Court’s decision on the proposed court closure could come before the May 16 primary.

“Rejecting the proposed closure … would allow the primaries to carry on,” the Sellersville resolution states.

Finley recently submitted a request to the state Supreme Court asking that the district courts in Perkasie and Lower Southampton be closed.

A countywide 12 percent drop in caseloads in the last five years and the expectation that 2020 census information will lead the state to reduce the number of magisterial courts in Bucks were among the reasons leading Finley to make the request. The county could also save money by closing the courts.

The county pays district court staffers, but the state pays the district judges.

Currently, there are 20 magisterial district courts throughout Bucks County. The courts adjudicate all traffic and non-traffic citations, process criminal and private complaints including arraignments and preliminary hearings, handle civil and landlord tenant complaints up to a jurisdictional limit of $12,000, and deal with parking violations.

Annually, the courts handle 130,000 cases, receive approximately $16 million and process 10,000 criminal cases, according to the county.

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