Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System is one of North America’s oldest, growing from a collection of part-time, local courts prior to 1700 to today’s statewide, automated court system.
The judiciary’s entry-level courts are located in more than 500 magisterial districts and in municipal courts in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The next level, the state’s trial courts or Courts of Common Pleas, are in judicial districts which mostly follow county boundaries. The statewide intermediate appellate courts — Superior and Commonwealth — hear criminal and civil appeals from the trial courts and some original cases brought against the state and its agencies.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is the highest arbiter of cases in the judicial system, and has administrative authority over the entire court system. The Pennsylvania court system is structured like a pyramid with the Supreme Court at the top.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has an extensive disciplinary system — endorsed by its citizens through Constitutional amendment — to address improper conduct by lawyers and judges both in and outside the courtroom. And the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, in its role as overseer of the practice of law in the state, has adopted added standards and rules governing conduct.