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?

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