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The state's Court System is one of the oldest in the country and consists of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, two courts of appeal with the Superior Court and the Commonwealth Court, then the Court of Common Pleas, Municipal Courts, and the Magisterial District Courts. The state also uses Orphan's Court for probate cases.
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the state and the court of last resort. It is also the oldest appellate court in the nation. This court also has one Chief Justice and six Associate Justices that sit to review cases. The Supreme Court offers the public ADA accommodations and a portal for e-filing.
The Keystone State has two appellate courts, the Superior Court that was established in 1895 and handles criminal and civil appeals from lower courts. Then the state has the Commonwealth Court, which was established in 1968 to alleviate the caseload and handle appeals for both civil and criminal matters coming from the lower courts.
Beyond that this state has the Courts of Common Pleas which are the general jurisdiction courts and then the District and Municipal Courts which are limited jurisdiction trial courts for the state. Most people who come in contact with the legal system will do so in those two lowest courts. The judicial system of Pennsylvania uses a unified judicial system.
The state allows pretty liberal public access to PA records regarding appellate cases, criminal cases from the Courts of Common Pleas, District Court cases involving civil actions, criminal issues, traffic and non-traffic violations, and landlord/tenant issues. They offer records online, but in some cases, the courthouse will need to supply them or a specific police department. Additionally, the federal government also has laws prohibiting court information from containing personal identifying information like tax IDs, social security numbers, home addresses, phone numbers, contact information, p.o. box numbers, bank account numbers, children’s names and other items like trade secrets and security information. Patrons can contact the clerk of courts to ask about available information.
The state's Unified Justice System website (pa.gov) has a link right at the top with forms for filing. They have it broken down into categories such as forms for the public, self-represented litigants, forms for the judiciary, forms for law enforcement, public records, forms for orphans, juvenile delinquency, dependency, family cases and then some for multilingual patrons of the court. PA also offers users of the court an e-filing option called PACFile. This service is available with most court types and cases. They also offer an online payment option to pay filing fees, fines, and other amounts through their PAePay system.
Want to quickly and easily search for PA public records? Use the Infotracer tool to access hundreds of court cases throughout the state, including Philadelphia County, Allegheny County, Harrisburg, Montgomery County, and Bucks County. Per the PA Sunshine Act, 65 Pa.C.S. §§ 701-716, the public is granted access to most criminal records, civil cases, dockets, docket sheets, a court calendar, traffic cases, real estate records, president judges information, FAQs, local rules, civil court cases, family and probate matters, bankruptcies and more!
A records search may be performed privately without providing any information. When searching you don’t even need a reason to search except in cases where the record is court-ordered private or confidential by law, such as juvenile records.
It’s easy to get instant free access to PA court records from all over the state. Simply perform a PA state records search by name using Infotracer to look up cases online from PA superior courts, commonwealth courts, court of common pleas, municipal courts, and the magisterial district judge courts in all 60 judicial districts.
In 2012, the Pennsylvania courts received 3,499,237 filings. In 2016, the number of filings decreased by 0.1% and counted 3,494,094 filings and had 2,309,655 outgoing cases
Domestic relations caseload of Pennsylvania at year end of 2016 has decreased by 14.2% compared to the last 5 years.
|Domestic Relations Caseload
|Total Statewide Caseload
The number of criminal cases in Pennsylvania courts counts to 425,746, with 136,326 felony cases and 289,420 misdemeanors accordingly.
PA Courts of Common Pleas are the general jurisdiction courts for the state. They are split into 60 judicial districts all over the state. Courts of Common Pleas hears most of the civil and criminal cases in the state. These courts do hold jury trials, and the types of cases they resolve are tort cases, real property, contract disputes, domestic relations, felonies, misdemeanors, and exclusive juvenile cases. Judges in the Courts of Common Pleas serve 10-year terms, and they are elected into office. They can serve an unlimited number of terms, but they must retire at age 75. These are most like county courts in other states.
Only the two cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburg have Municipal Courts. They have multiple locations, and they have 24 judges in Philadelphia and 12 in Pittsburg. These courts hear cases regarding real property, up to $15,000, landlord/tenant disputes, small claims up to $12,000, civil actions, preliminary hearings for felonies, local ordinance violations, traffic issues, and parking ticket cases. These courts also set bail at preliminary hearings for serious crimes. Judges serve a six-year term and are elected into office. They must retire at age 75.
Magisterial District Courts are limited jurisdiction courts for the state. They handle only minor local ordinance violations like parking tickets, traffic violations, petty misdemeanors, felony preliminary hearings, other city violations and small claims matters of up to $12,000. All judges except Magisterial District Court judges have to be licensed attorneys. All judges are subject to a strict ethical and legal code of conduct set by the Supreme Court and the judicial branch of the government. Judges must retire at age 75.