Title Search Customs, Courtroom Decorum & Working Rules for Professionalism



Lycoming Law Association Title Search Customs

In order to produce continuity of practice among members of the Lycoming Law Association, the following statements are recognized as the prevailing customs in the matter of examining and certifying or insuring titles to real estate in Lycoming County and that certificates of title shall be subject to and in accordance with the following customs:

  1. To examine titles to real estate for a period of 50 years prior to the date of certification or insurance of title, providing however, that the beginning point of the search shall be a deed or other instrument purporting to convey a full fee simple title, and which contains a special or general warranty. A straw conveyance, quitclaim, or fiduciary deed shall not be considered an appropriate beginning point.
  2. To consider only mortgages recorded within 50 years of the date of the search or within such period as is required by Paragraph 1 above, whichever is longer, and to disregard others, unless the mortgage is charged in or referred to in a document in the chain of title which has been recorded or filed within 50 years, or unless the present ownership or the immediate source of title of present ownership is the party subject to such mortgage.
  3. To disregard all charges unreleased of record which are more than 31 years old, including the lien of legacies created by wills proven more than 31 years ago, unless the charge is referred to as being in force and effect in a document in a chain of title which has been dated and recorded or dated and filed within 31 years.
  4. To consider as sufficient evidence of the veracity of the facts any statement contained in a document dated and recorded or dated and filed more than 30 years preceding the search, pertaining to the following:
    1. that certain charges have been paid and released and reciting the parties to the release and the date thereof;
    2. any other document covered under the Ancient Document Rule of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  5. To consider as sufficient evidence of the veracity of the facts any statement contained in a document acknowledged and filed or recorded which recites the date of death or the fact of death of anyone appearing in the chain of title.
  6. To consider as sufficient evidence of the veracity of the facts of any statement concerning marital status of a grantor contained in a deed which has been properly acknowledged and recorded.
  7. To accept the veracity of the facts of any statements pertaining to identification of the heirs of a deceased owner made in accordance with any of the following:
    1. The statements are contained in a deed or recorded document dated and filed more then 21 years previously; or
    2. The statements are contained in an affidavit made by one who has personal knowledge of the subject matter and who has no direct pecuniary interest in the transaction to which the statements relate.
    1. To disregard cases where a male grantor makes conveyance without the joinder of his wife if said conveyance is dated and acknowledged prior to January 1, 1918.
    2. To disregard cases where a conveyance of individually owned property is made without joinder of a spouse where the conveyance was made after June 18, 1978, except as indicated herein. In certain situations where a decedent has conveyed individually owned property without the joinder of a surviving spouse, the surviving spouse must convey title to remove clouds on the title. These situations are:
      1. The decedent conveyed the property subject to a reservation of the right to use or occupy the property for life;
      2. The decedent conveyed the property subject to a reservation of the right to revoke the conveyance or invade or dispose of the property;
      3. The decedent's conveyance included himself as a grantee and the conveyance was with right of survivorship;
      4. The decedent conveyed the property for nominal consideration within one year of the date of his death. For conveyances after July 1, 1980, the joinder of a spouse is required if a search of the records of the county in which the property is located discloses a divorce action pending at the time of the conveyance or where the attorney issuing title insurance or a certificate of title has actual knowledge of the pendency of a divorce action.
  8. To consider as adequate the description of the premises or property in a mortgage or deed by a short description such as street address or number of acres in a municipality or subdivision thereof, frontage along a road in a suburban area, or lot number in a development, provided the instrument contains a statement incorporating the full description into the deed or mortgage by reference to some recorded instrument which contains the full description.
  9. To consider that no attorney's certificate of title shall, in the absence of anything stated therein to the contrary, bind the attorney to any responsibility for the following items, unless a currently completed survey of the premises has been brought to the attention of the attorney and mention made of the same in the opinion of title, namely: the location and/or correctness of the boundary lines recited in the most recent deed, the quantity of land involved, the location or existence of improvements on the land, and whether or not the improvements are located within the boundaries of the land under search and encroachments of improvements from adjoining owners on the land under search.
  10. An attorney's certificate of title, unless otherwise expressly stated therein, does not bind the attorney to any responsibility for assuring or determining whether there has been any violation of covenants, conditions or restrictions that are identified in the certificate of title, nor whether any future violation of such restrictions will cause a forfeiture or reversion of title.
  11. An attorney's certificate of title relating to land in Lycoming County, unless otherwise expressly stated therein, is based solely upon an examination of the proper records in the Lycoming County Courthouse and no attorney shall have any responsibility for any title defect which is not disclosed by an examination of said records, except for those items about which the attorney has personal knowledge.
  12. An attorney's certificate of title is furnished without an accompanying abstract of title. A copy of the abstract of title may be furnished the client upon request and upon payment of an additional fee sufficient to cover the cost of making such copy.
  13. In identification of the wards on deeds, mortgages and other instruments, it is suggested that the attorneys use the assessment wards as set forth by the county assessment bureau and not the voting wards. On deeds, it is further suggested that attorneys identify the tax parcel number of the property conveyed, using language such as the following, with the selection of the appropriate bracketed word: "For identification purposes only, being [all] [part] of tax parcel no. _______________ in the records of the Lycoming County Tax Assessment Bureau."
  14. An attorney providing title insurance or a certificate of title for a lending institution shall not have any obligation to assure compliance with state or federal regulations for lending procedures or disclosure procedures absent a written agreement with the lending institution.
  15. To accept as conclusive evidence the validity of a sheriff's sale or other judicial sale if the deed confirming the sale was recorded at least six years prior to the date of certification or insurance of title, unless the record reflects that notice was not given to a party in interest as required by the then-applicable Rules of Civil Procedure.
  16. To conclude that notice was properly given in any tax sale if the deed in connection with said tax sale was recorded at least 21 years prior to the date of certification or insurance of title.

Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas Standards for Courtroom Decorum

  1. Attorneys should stand while addressing the court or jury, except where voicing an objection or making a statement of only a few words.
  2. Attorneys should maintain a substantial distance between themselves and witnesses whom they are examining in order to maintain the voice level of both witness and attorney, to avoid intimidation of the witness and to avoid a tendency toward undue informality. It is proper to approach witnesses who are hard of hearing or when handling exhibits or when questioning concerning a map or diagram.
  3. Attorneys during trial should avoid exhibiting familiarity with witnesses, jurors, or opposing counsel. Jurors and opposing counsel should never be referred to by their first names, and only when a witness is a youngster, or with permission of court, may a witness be addressed by his first name.
  4. Attorneys should be impersonal toward the court and should address the court in the third person, as "the court will remember the testimony" and not, "You will remember". When the judge is on the bench he should be addressed as "Your Honor" and not as "You."
  5. When objection is made to a question asked by a trial attorney he should refrain from asking the witness another question until the court has had an opportunity to rule upon the objection.
  6. All objections and arguments should be made to the court rather than to opposing counsel. Bickering between counsel during the course of a trial is impermissible.
  7. After an objection has been argued and the court has announced its decision, counsel should accept the decision and should not make further comment or argument, unless upon request the court permits counsel to reopen the argument.
  8. Before beginning an opening statement or a closing argument counsel should first address the court by saying, "May it please the Court" or similar words and acknowledging his opposing colleague by saying, "Mr.______________".
  9. A male attorney appearing in court should be dressed with a coat, shirt and tie. A female attorney should use comparably conservative attire.
  10. An attorney desiring a sidebar conference should first obtain leave of court before approaching the bench.
  11. All attorneys who hold or have held titles such as judge, colonel, senator, etc. may not use such titles nor should they be referred to by these titles while in the courtroom.
  12. When a trial is in progress or about to begin, attorneys should not permit their clients or witnesses to use the judge's office waiting room; rather, a jury room or other witness room should be used in order to avoid any appearance of familiarity or acquaintanceship between the court and one party or witness.
  13. Exhibits should be numbered in advance of their use in trial. Similarly, diagrams of the scene of an accident or incident should be prepared in advance and not from the witness stand.
  14. Attorneys should anticipate the major legal issues which will arise during a trial and should present them to the court at the pre-trial conference, or in any event, at an early time in order that arguments and decision can be made without using jury time.
  15. Sidebar conferences disrupt the orderly flow of the trial and are distracting to a jury. The judge cannot ordinarily know in advance whether a requested sidebar conference is necessary, and so the burden must rest upon counsel to make very limited use of the request for sidebar conference.
  16. A trial attorney, like the English barrister, should take professional pride that his questions are rarely objectionable and his objections are seldom questionable.
  17. Counsel should not thank the court for a favorable ruling, or the jury for a favorable verdict.
  18. Police officers appearing as witnesses should not bear visible arms, and where avoidable, should not appear in uniform.

 Lycoming Law Association Working Rules for Professionalism (Adopted January 13, 1997)

The practice of law is a profession, a genuine calling inspirited with service to the system of justice, not a common business enterprise. The quality of the profession is only as worthy as the character of the people who practice it.

Self-esteem, shared respect for each other, the clients we serve, the judges and the officer with whom we work, are essential to it.

Civility is a virtue, not a shortcoming. Willingness to temper zeal with respect for society’s interest in preserving responsible judicial process will help preserve it.

Unwritten rules of professional courtesy have long sustained us. Since they are sometimes forgotten, or sometimes ignored, we should set them down again and conscientiously observe them.

  1. Treat with civility the lawyers, clients, opposing parties, the Court and all the officers with whom we work. Professional courtesy is compatible with vigorous advocacy and zealous representations.
  2. Communications are life lines. Keep the lines open. Telephone calls and correspondence are a two-way channel; respond to them promptly.
  3. Respect other lawyers’ schedules as your own. Seek agreement on meetings, depositions, hearings and trial dates. A reasonable request for a scheduling accommodation should never be unreasonable refused.
  4. Be punctual in appointments, communications and in honoring scheduled appearances. Neglect and tardiness are demeaning to others and to the judicial system.
  5. Procedural rules are necessary to judicial order and decorum. Be mindful that pleadings, discovery processes and motions costs time and money. They should not be needlessly used. If an adversy is entitled to something, provide it without unnecessary formalities.
  6. Grant extensions of time when they are reasonable and when they will not have a material, adverse effect on your client’s interest.
  7. Resolve differences through negotiation, expeditiously and without needless expense.
  8. Enjoy what you are doing and the company you keep. You and the world will be better for it.

Beyond all this, the respect of our peers and the society which we serve is the ultimate measure of responsible professional conduct.