All of Pennsylvania’s courts are part of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania. There are three basic levels to the Pennsylvania Court System: minor courts,Courts of Common Pleas, and statewide intermediate appellate courts, which are called the Commonwealth Court and the Superior Court. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania exercises authority over all other courts. The Unified Judicial System’s home page presents a simple diagram of the PA Court System, which can be found here. More information on each level of the court system, including courts' locations and jurisdictions, can be accessed below. Supreme Court The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is the ultimate authority on matters brought before lower courts. The Court hears direct appeals from lower courts' decisions and answers requests for interventions in lower courts' proceedings.
Courts of Common Pleas Courts of Common Pleas are trial courts which hear appeals in cases from the minor courts. Some cases before Courts of Common Pleas are heard by juries, some are heard by judges.
The jury system must be preserved if our American justice system is to thrive. The whole notion of a jury -- a group of randomly selected citizen decision-makers -- is a reflection of our communal trust in democracy. It embodies our historic reluctance to centralize power in any one source. The jury is a symbol of America.
Without dedicated jurors, our justice system would grind to a halt. Jurors are as important to the workings of justice as lawyers and judges . As such, we have an obligation to serve when summoned. Yet the courts and all involved in the litigation process have a corresponding obligation to make it as easy as possible for citizens to serve.
How the Jury System Works
The Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania guarantee citizens the right of trial by jury. Citizens are randomly selected for jury duty from a statewide jury list that includes names of residents who vote, pay taxes, drive a car, or receive welfare benefits. This statewide list was created in 2010 to bring more potential jurors into the jury pool. Each year, thousands of Pennsylvanians are called for jury service. For more information on specific jury procedures for each county, contact your district court administrator.
Serving on a jury is both an obligation and a privilege of citizenship. PMC supports endeavors to increase the number of citizens participating in jury service and to improve the quality of the jury service experience. Learn more.
Navigating the Court System
Click here for for an in-depth FAQ document on navigating Pennsylvania's courts, including process questions for litigants, witnesses, and how to file complaints against an attorney, judge, or court employee. Self-represented litigants are also welcome to use this resource guide for many frequently asked questions.
Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to ensuring that all Pennsylvanians can come to our courts with confidence that they will be heard by qualified, fair, and impartial judges