This guide is intended to acquaint you with Pennsylvania's judicial system. It provides an overview of how our courts are organized and the kinds of work they do. We hope you find it informative and helpful.
There are several different levels in which cases are heard in our judicial system. Along with different levels there are different courts which hear different issues.
The first step in our judicial system is Special Courts:
- These courts hear less serious, non-jury criminal, civil and all traffic cases.
- Matters pertaining to bail.
- Whether serious criminal cases, such as murder, should go to the Court of Common Pleas.
The middle level of the judicial system is the Court of Common Pleas:
- These courts hear All major criminal and civil cases.
- Appeals from the Special Courts in civil, criminal, and traffic matters.
- Most matters involving children and families.
The next level includes two appellate courts, Superior Court and Commonwealth Court:
- Superior Court hears:
- Criminal and certain civil appeals from the Courts of Common Pleas.
- Appeals from Courts of common Pleas on matters involving children and families.
- Commonwealth Court hears:
- Original civil cases brought by and against the Commonwealth.
- Appeals from the decisions by state agencies and from Courts of Common Pleas involving the commonwealth and local agencies.
The Highest judicial authority in the State is the Supreme Court. This seven member court:
- Hears discretionary appeals from the Superior and Commonwealth Court by allowance.
- Hears direct appeals from the Courts of Common Pleas in cases specified by statute, including all death-penalty cases and direct appeals from Commonwealth Court in it's original jurisdiction.
- May hear a case from any level in certain circumstances.
- Is the administrative leader of all courts in the state.