Four of York County's 19 magisterial district judge positions are up for election this year, with three of the seats vacant because of redistricting and retirements.
Judges serving in the six-year offices have jurisdiction in criminal matters, hearing initial complaints to determine whether enough evidence exists to send the case to York County Court of Common Pleas.
The judges can also hear and rule on summary convictions under the criminal code, violations of municipal ordinances, and violations of the fish, game and dog laws.
They also have jurisdiction over civil suits of up to $12,000, as well as matters such as landlord and tenant disputes.
Vacant are the Manchester Township seat of retired District Judge Alan Naylor, District 19-2-04, the York City seat of retired District Judge Barbara Nixon, District 19-1-05, and District 19-3-11.
The latter is a newly formed district created in January 2012 by the redistricting that closed the Brogue office of District Judge Nancy Edie.
District 19-1-04, held by District Judge Ronald Haskell Jr., is up for election, according to an unofficial list of eligible seats at the York County Department of Elections and Voter Registration.
Court Administrator Tom Roberts said senior county judges have been assigned on a monthly basis to serve 30 days at a time in each of the open districts until the seats are filled.
But candidates must live in the district in which they intend to run.
The new district is based in an office in Manchester but includes East Manchester and Hellam townships, Hallam, Manchester, Mount Wolf and Wrightsville.
Feb. 19 is the first day to circulate and file nomination petitions for the May 21 primary, which the candidate must win to appear on the ballot in November's general election. Winners take office on Jan. 1, 2014.
Ron Ruman, press secretary for the Department of State, said candidates must either be members of the bar or they need to - before they take office - take a course and pass a test related to the duties they would perform as a judge.
Candidates must collect 100 petition signatures from registered voters to appear on the ballot and must be residents of their districts for at least a year prior to the November election, he said.
The seats can be highly sought-after, depending on the area and the election year, he said.
"Some draw a good number of candidates, others don't," Ruman said.
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