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Court Docket Ledger for Magistrate's Court Chester County, Pennsylvania, 1818-1824

folio ledger, 169 manuscript pages, entries dated 1818-1824, bound in half-leather, marbled paper backed boards, spine lacking, corners worn through, boards and edges very worn, otherwise good, written in ink, in a legible hand, comprising summaries of 725 cases. A printed carrier's address the  "News Boy's Address, To the Patrons of The American Republican. January 1, 1820, - Almanac included [Downingtown: Printed by Charles Mowry, 1819], not in American Imprints, McDonald, Checklist of American newspaper carrier's addresses, 934. " is pasted on front pastedown, it includes 5 stanzas of printed verse (68 lines total) on the left hand side, and a printed calendar for the year on the right hand side. Rear pastedown has a printed circular pasted in entitled:  "Magistrate's Fee Bill," which lists the various charges of the magistrate.

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This volume is a docket book for a Magistrate's District Court in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The names in the ledger match those found in Chester County and with West Chester being the county seat; it is undoubtedly for the Magisterial District Court based in West Chester.

The summaries of the cases are generally 4 to 5 cases per page, with three columns to the page. The first column is the plaintiffs and defendants' names with some notes such as costs for justices, constables, or witnesses' names. The second column is the arresting or issuing constable with some notes, usually dates when appearance was requested, etc. The third column is a summary of the case, which might include outcome, costs, follow ups, etc.

All of the cases appear to be financial in nature, dealing with debts, monetary claims, etc., with the amount not exceeding $100.00. The constables for the large majority of the cases are Griffith Griffith, John King, Joseph Aikins, Andrew Kirkpatrick, John Wynn, Balthzer Essick, William Guest. There was a Griffith Griffith at this time who was a resident of East Nantmeal Township, in Chester County.

A typical case might look as follows:

"924. S. & W. Kirk               John Wynn                                Summons - debt not exceed-

vs. Isaac Barnard                 issued Feb'y 8 to ap                   ing $100 - served says con-

Costs: Justices $0.35          pear the 15 instant                     stable. Feb 15, 1823 demand

Constables $0.40                 at 3 o'clock WM.                        book acc of $   defendant

                                                                                          made default in appearance

                                                                                          therefore judgment for plffs.

                                                                                          For  $ Costs"

Today the commonwealth of Pennsylvania consists of 67 counties. In every county except for Philadelphia County, there are Magisterial District Courts. These courts are inferior courts of limited jurisdiction. They handle landlord-tenant matters, small civil claims, summary offenses, violations of municipal ordinances, and preliminary hearings and arraignments in greater misdemeanor and felony offenses pursuant to Pennsylvania's Rules of Criminal Procedure which go on to be tried in the Court of Common Pleas. In some counties, such as Chester County, Magisterial District Courts may issue emergency protection from abuse orders when the Domestic Relations or Court of Common Pleas is closed. For the time period of this ledger (1818-1824), the rules for this court were likely similar to today, except today the small claims are cases under $12,000.00, whereas in the early 19th Century, it appears to be cases under $100.00.