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If You Must Go To Court: Sound Advice from a Local Judge

February 23, 2018 2:50 pm0 commentsViews: 425
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Judge's-Gavel-wDistrict Courts are surprisingly busy. The local District Court handles traffic tickets and non-traffic tickets (which are for minor offenses like disorderly conduct and public drunkenness); civil cases (a homeowner is unhappy with his carpenter or plumber, a tenant sues for his security deposit, etc.); and landlord and tenant cases, up to a certain money amount. All criminal cases begin in the District Court, with the District Judge holding a hearing on the evidence.

District Judges are also empowered to perform weddings, sign search and arrest warrants, set bail and send people to prison. They can also evict people from their homes and suspend driver’s licenses.



You would be amazed at how people dress and act in the courtroom. Justice is blind, but for heaven’s sake! If you must appear in District Court, here are some things to consider:


  • Be on time. I try to stick to my schedule out of courtesy for everyone. If you aren’t there when we are ready to begin, I can have the hearing without you. Once the police officer leaves the court, it is over —and you must file an appeal to my decision in Doylestown.


  • Dress appropriately. I have seen halter-tops, flip-flops and bathing suits. I have seen teens in designer sneakers with cell phones in their pockets telling me they have no money for fines. Men aren’t taught to remove their hats in buildings anymore, and they even take the stand with baseball caps on.

When someone is inappropriately dressed, I must make a choice. Some District Judges actually send the person home to change. I agree with the thought, but that costs everyone time and money. Police get overtime, lawyers spend more time waiting at the court, witnesses are inconvenienced, and it throws off the court schedule. I proceed with the hearing and usually say something to the person as they are leaving.

We are not the Supreme Court, and I’m not saying you should rent a tux! If you are coming from work, that’s okay. Lots of guys come in work boots and jeans. I have no problem with that. It is when you look like you just left your pool that I have a problem.


  • Turn off cell phones. One County judge will confiscate a cell phone when he hears it ringing and won’t return it until the next day. The person has to drive all the way back to Doylestown just to get their phone back. Bravo, Judge!


  • Lose the gum. Believe it or not, I’ve had brides (and grooms) chewing gum during the wedding ceremony! If they want that in their wedding videos, that is their business —but I will make someone get rid of gum when they are testifying from the witness box.


  • Organize your notes. If you wish to present your own case, that’s okay. The District Court is designed for someone to tell the judge his or her side. Just be sure you are telling your side in some kind of order.

It is amazing that people in a civil case, with thousands of dollars at stake, can come to court with no notes, no documents, and tell the story in no particular order.

Rule of thumb: put everything in chronological order. If you explain things in the order in which they happened, it makes it easier for the judge to follow the chain of events. Whether it is a civil case or a criminal case, it usually makes more sense.


Finally, if you get a ticket please don’t ignore it. It won’t go away, and neither will we. ■


—by Jan Vislosky, Magisterial District Judge

Bucks County District Court