Pennsylvania’s judicial system is organized into different levels of courts, from the Magisterial District Courts all the way up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In Pennsylvania, all judges are elected, unless an appointment is required to fill an uncompleted term of a sitting judge who can no longer serve. District Court judges have a 6-year term and then must run for re-election. All other judges in Pennsylvania serve a 10-year term and then face a “yes” or “no” retention vote. Mandatory retirement age for judges is 70, but retired judges can be chosen to serve as senior judges.

Magisterial District Courts

In every county in Pennsylvania (except Philadelphia, which has Traffic Court and Municipal Court for minor controversies), there are Magisterial District Courts. Also known as District Justice Courts or DJ Courts, Magisterial District Courts handle a wide variety of matters including landlord/tenant disputes, small civil claims up to $12,000, traffic violations, minor criminal summary offenses, violations of ordinances and arraignments and preliminary hearings in misdemeanor and felony criminal cases. Magisterial District judges do not have to be lawyers, but our judge in Kennett, Daniel Maisano, is a practicing attorney.

Court of Common Pleas

The Common Pleas Courts are trial courts of general jurisdiction. Most counties have their own Court of Common Pleas, although a few sparsely populated counties share one with a neighbor. The Courts of Common Pleas hear trials of civil matters; Family Court cases (adoption, divorce, child custody, child support, abuse and neglect); Orphans’ Court matters including trusts and estates; criminal matters; appeals from government agencies (like zoning and other municipal appeals); and appeals from District Justice cases. Locally, the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County sits in West Chester and has 15 judges, as well as two newly elected judges joining the bench in January, Patrick Carmody and Jeffrey Sommer.

The Superior Court and Commonwealth Court

Pennsylvania has two intermediate appellate courts that hear all appeals from the Court of Common Pleas: the Superior Court, which handles general appeals, and the Commonwealth Court, which hears appeals of designated cases involving state agencies or other government issues.The Commonwealth Court also has limited jurisdiction to try certain matters.

There are 15 Superior Court judges and 9 Commonwealth Court judges. In their role as appellate courts, both the Superior Court and Commonwealth Court usually sit in three-judge panels to decide whether the trial court made any errors which impacted the outcome of a trial which require a reversal of the trial court decision or a new trial.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the highest appellate court in Pennsylvania and hears certain appeals from the Superior and Commonwealth Courts. The Supreme Court is a court of limited jurisdiction, meaning that it is not required to hear every appeal but, instead, chooses the cases to hear based upon the importance of the issues presented. The chances of having an appeal heard by the Supreme Court are remote.Less than 1 in 10 cases are granted the opportunity to be considered. There are 7 Supreme Court justices. The Supreme Court is based in Harrisburg, but also hears cases in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the oldest court in the United States and has been hearing cases since 1722, 67 years before the United States Supreme Court was established.

  1. June 21, 2019

    I’m trying to file an appeal. My 10 and 11 year old were taken due to cps lying to the judge. I can prove that also there ere 2 court hearings held without being notified. I don’t know where to go to file and what I file

  2. October 2, 2019

    I need to file an appeal with the Superior Court against a ruling and Order against my favor in a marital property settlement agreement. The Order was entered September 17, 2019. I am a former paralegal who, while having an effective PFA, was brutally attacked by mt then husband leaving me physically and mentally disabled. Because of the disability my funds were depketed quite rapidly while waiting for disability. I have been forced to represent myself. I contacted several attorneys in Lehigh County, PA and none of them will even sit down to look at all of my legal documents and transcript. Im being ordered to sell my home to pay an amount that was never even discussed or agreed to in the transcript nor mentioned during several calls from the Master of Divorce to me. Several Rules of Civil Procedures were violated by both the Master of divorce and the Judge which I stated during the contempt legal proceedings in front of the Judge. The Judge would not enter any of of my legal documents into evidence. I know nothing about the Superior Court appeals process. I do not have the monies for legal representation until this matter is heard by the Superior Court and i can sell my residence on normal terms. I know what the law states and what procedures needed to be taken and followed. They weren’t. My husband pleaded guilty to the assault which was a direct result of my filing for divorce. I need help.

  3. April 25, 2020

    I need to file an appeal to court of common pleas in pa for Orr open record for cop car video. I need to know what form need to to filed in now can you help me?

  4. February 27, 2021

    Id make a lawyer rich, she’d be paying me for sure. Got a divorce 2016, judge didn’t except my continuance and she got alimony, child support, did my taxes for me 2019, made herself comfy with it. She had many affairs behind my back. some family members. came to Pa 2016, left 2018.came back to Pa summer 2019, ran off with kids again 2020. Now still have time to acquire. ill be coming out with a book soon. yall better get for real. some crazy true,hurt, mad, just plain stupid of me. lol. bettter get it. be out mid march. Story Of Life, Shattered Soul Of Steve Palmer, written by Antonio Slater

  5. March 24, 2021

    I have a question? If I file for divorce and once she has been served the 90 day waiting period starts. What if we both signed the affidavit of consent prior to the 90 day waiting period be finished? What, if anything, could arise from this action?

  6. June 17, 2021

    Over a year ago my niece and her dog were staying with us. My husband was outside and my 2 year old grandson let my niece’s dog out. The neighbor was out near my husband and the dog went up to the neighbor and acted like she was going to bite him. My husband grabbed the dog and brought her inside. A day later the police came to our door and served my husband with papers. Over a year passed and he gets a court date.. He forgot to go and he spent 4 days in jail..
    The questions are:
    1) Why is my husband being charged for the insodent?
    2) Its been over a year since the insodent, aren’t the courts supposed to have it settled within a year?
    3) The neighbor that reported the insodent moved away, shouldn’t it been closed?
    4) If the courts reason for making my husband liable is because we own the house, shouldn’t they be making me liable since I’m the actual owner and my husband is the co-owner?

  7. October 23, 2021

    I just don’t know what to do. Due to a misunderstanding, someone called an ambulance for my son, who was in distress. He’s autistic, and he has moments where he sits and hits himself. He was slightly awkward socially, but never violent, and he was relatively high functioning.

    Well, the misunderstanding is that the police showed up and they tazed him repeatedly until he dropped on the cement and not only had a seizure, he had a massive concussion. He had to go to the hospital, and was there for two weeks.

    The police just completely refused to take responsibility or apologize. Even after the EMTs yelled at them and told them to leave, they were still hitting him and calling him names.

    They ganged up on him and pressed multiple charges, just to make sure they wouldn’t have to deal with anything they did.

    I understand that some people don’t understand autism. That’s ok. But it’s not ok that they put my son in the hospital, and even worse that they blamed it all on him. No one but my son had injuries of any kind. He never fought back. Even in school, he had very few issues and was known for being pleasant and friendly.

    A judge in West Chester PA ruled over the case. Without seeing my boy in person EVER, He made the decision that my son doesn’t get a trial because his medical record stated he was autistic, which automatically makes him incompetent.

    So he was sent away to a mental facility indefinitely. No one called the police to begin with, they just showed up and took their own opportunity to beat him up.

    My son was very high functioning. He had a respectable job as a part time manager at the local grocery store and he also had a boyfriend. He lived on his own. He had an average IQ and was well loved.

    Judge Carmody acquitted all the police officers who ganged up on my son — even one who punched him and sat on his back. He couldn’t breath. Just like George Floyd.

    On only judge Carmody’s word, no trial, no jury, no appeal, no hearing, no statement, no evidence of wrongdoing on my son’s part, he was condemned for life.

    He died in prison curled up in a ball with a plastic bag over his head. He used to call me crying everyday asking why they did this to him. I used to sit with him for hours on that jail phone, every call ending at 15 minutes. I would try to comfort him, and one day he just told he me everything would be ok. That was the last time we ever spoke.

    Judge Carmody spent nine and a half minutes making that decision. He never even met my son. My son wasn’t even in the room.

    That judge has sent people to my house to intimidate and threaten me to be silent. He says he won’t have his reputation on the line.

    I can’t afford a ten million dollar lawyer to fight a judge who is immune anyway. The lawyers, judges and police all justify eachother legally so no matter what they’re doing, it’s all airtight and behind closed doors.

    They spend their entire day coming up with ways to hurt people and retaliate against whistleblowers or people who have a grievance.

    I can’t stand up to him. I can’t ever get my beautiful boy back. I can’t get closure. Every day I just cry. Then I get angry. Then I just cry again. Some days are better than others.

    I’m sorry for sharing this. I just feel so empty. I don’t even think I want “revenge” or justice or any of that. The concept of accepting money from them just seems sick.

    I just want the laws changed, or just thrown out altogether. If the police are vindicating themselves and committing crimes, then there might as well be no police. They never help if you call, they won’t tell the truth, and the people they help the most is themselves.

    I’m sorry if this letter has upset you. It helped me to write it though. I feel a little better.

    I don’t want money or revenge or whatever perverse sense of “justice” that all these legal people are supposed to exist for. I just want people to stop being so awful to eachother.

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