How Judges Are Elected

Before justices and judges can be appointed or elected to their positions, they must meet certain basic requirements, including citizenship and residency.

All but magisterial district judges must be members of the Bar of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Judges are also subject to strict standards of conduct.

When Elections Occur

Judicial elections occur in odd-numbered years. Justices and judges may serve an unlimited number of terms until they reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 and are retained or re-elected by the voters. Vacancies that exist before an election may be filed by gubernatorial appointment until an election is held. These selections are subject to Senate confirmation.

10 Year Term

Appellate court jurists
Courts of Common Pleas judges

6 Year Term

Magisterial district judges
Philadelphia Municipal Courts judges

Running for Retention and Re-election

The merit retention provision of Pennsylvania's constitution allows all but magisterial district judges to be retained with a simple "yes" or "no" vote without ballot reference to political affiliation. This provision was designed to remove judges from the pressures of the political arena once they begin their first term of office. Magisterial district judges run in competitive elections. Mandatory retirement age for judges is 70 years, but retired judges may, if approved by the Supreme Court, continue to serve the Commonwealth as senior judges.

Judicial Discipline

Judges may be removed from office, suspended or disciplined for misconduct in office. These standards are specified in the Pennsylvania Constitution, the Code of Judicial Conduct in the Pennsylvania Rules of Court, the "Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges," and other court rules and orders set by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court.