Pennsylvania Case Law
The Pennsylvania state court system is divided into three levels. The highest court in Pennsylvania is the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which consists of seven judges. The Supreme Court reviews appeals of decisions by the Pennsylvania Superior Court and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. It also reviews appeals of decisions by trial courts in limited situations. Decisions by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court are final unless the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to review an appeal of a decision.
The middle level of the Pennsylvania state court system consists of the Pennsylvania Superior Court and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. The Superior Court contains 15 judges, who review most appeals of decisions by trial courts in civil and criminal cases. The Commonwealth Court contains nine judges, who review appeals in certain distinctive areas. These include lawsuits against state and local government agencies, tax appeals, land use disputes, banking and insurance litigation, labor and workers' compensation disputes, and election issues, among others.
The lowest level of the Pennsylvania state court system consists primarily of the Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas and the Pennsylvania Magisterial District Courts. The Courts of Common Pleas are trial courts with general jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. These courts also review appeals of decisions by Magisterial District Courts. The jurisdiction of the Magisterial District Courts is limited to certain types of cases. These include minor crimes, traffic violations, landlord-tenant disputes, and small claims cases.
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh also have independent Municipal Courts that review municipal matters. Decisions by these courts may be appealed to the Courts of Common Pleas.
The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline reviews cases involving complaints of misconduct by Pennsylvania judges. Meanwhile, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reviews matters that affect the reputation of the courts and the integrity of the legal profession.