Office of Elder Justice in the Courts
This office is dedicated to assisting the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in implementing recommendations contained in the Elder Law Task Force’s Report and Recommendations, supporting the work of the Advisory Council on Elder Justice in the Courts, and fostering collaboration with elder justice entities.
Through education, training programs and presentations, the office promotes best practices in the areas of guardianship, elder abuse and neglect, and access to justice for the Commonwealth’s courts. The office also calls attention to the prevention of elder abuse — whether physical, financial, psychological or from neglect.
The office, which is within the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, was created by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 2015 based on a recommendation from the Elder Law Task Force. At the same time, the Supreme Court established an Advisory Council on Elder Justice in the Courts to work with the office to advance the Task Force’s 130 recommendations. The Advisory Council is chaired by Superior Court Judge Paula Francisco Ott, and former Court Administrator of Pennsylvania Zygmont A. Pines, Esq. serves as vice-chair. Justice Debra Todd is the Supreme Court liaison.
The 38-member, multi-disciplinary Elder Law Task Force was comprised of experts within and outside of the court system, and was chaired by Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd. The Task Force was charged with reviewing current practices and problems in the areas of guardianship, elder abuse and neglect, and access to justice; examining promising practices in other states; and delivering a blueprint of recommendations to address the needs and challenges of the Commonwealth’s aging population. Its work focused on how courts can address the particular concerns regarding elders and also be proactive about addressing the growing population of elders in the Commonwealth’s court system. The Task Force’s Report and Recommendations was published in November 2014.
Pennsylvania has approximately 2.9 million persons (22.65%) age 60 and over out of a population of 12.8 million, and by 2020, this population is projected to increase by 25%.* The Commonwealth is the nation’s fourth oldest state in the percentage of the population age 65 and over.**
* Pennsylvania Department of Aging, State Plan on Aging (2016-20), p. 5 http://www.aging.pa.gov/publications/state-plan-on-aging/Pages/default.aspx#.V2gF0vkrJaR
** United States Census Bureau, 2010 Census, Population for States by Age Group: (April 1, 2010).