Pennsylvania Court Records Lookup
The following is for information purposes only
Pennsylvania Court Records
What types of courts are in Pennsylvania?
The state of Pennsylvania has several different types of courts, organized into trial courts, Superior Court, and State Supreme Court. On the federal level, they have three total, all of which hear both criminal and civil cases that deal with federal law. The trial courts are courts found in all districts, with jurisdiction in hearing both civil and criminal cases.
The Supreme Court is the final limb of the law, taking on appeals, ensuring that courts are acting lawfully, and overseeing cases where attorneys and judges are being questioned. All of the courts work together to keep the state abiding by the law on both state and federal levels. While some of the judges are appointed, others are elected within the state, selected to uphold the law in the court in which they are elected for.
How are court cases in Pennsylvania managed?
All courts in Pennsylvania are managed by the State Supreme Court. All appeals from the lower courts go to the State Supreme Court, where they can decide whether the appeal is valid or not. Additionally, the State Supreme Court is the one that oversees judges and attorneys, making sure they are abiding by the law. They are there to help keep the state acting in a lawful manner and make sure that the state of Pennsylvania courts is acting lawfully. Seven judges sit on the State Supreme Court, each of which is appointed by the president of the United States.
Apart from the Supreme Court, there is also the Superior Court, which acts as the immediate appellate court. All cases that are up for appeal whether criminal or civil are all heard by the Superior Court. There are 14 total judges at the moment that sit on the court, each of them elected into position. Both state and district attorneys have to work with Superior Courts to determine wiretapping applications as well, making them a high authoritative figure in the Pennsylvania court system.
Which trial courts are in Pennsylvania?
Court of Common Pleas
The Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania holds jurisdiction in 60 districts. The cases that this court deals with are both misdemeanors and felonies, as well as minor offenses. This court also deals with Orphan's Court matters and even family law, hearing cases such as custody and divorce. The Court of Common Pleas often takes precedent over other courts, though some districts will present cases under the supervision of the Common Court of Pleas.
Magisterial Districts are considered minor courts in the state of Pennsylvania, hearing only small claims. Some examples of the cases heard in this court include disputes between landlords and tenants as well as traffic cases and very minor criminal cases.
Most of the time, Magisterial Districts only hear cases where there are less than $500 in fines and less than 30 days total jail time. All of the other cases are pushed to the municipal courts of Common Pleas courts.
The Municipal Court of Pennsylvania deals with minor charges and crimes that violate the municipal ordinances in the state. Some examples of the types of cases heard in the courts include minor offenses that do not result in more than $500 in fines. This could be violations of trespassing laws, interfering with authorities, and even possession of illegal substances.
There are two main municipal courts in the state of Pennsylvania, including the Pittsburg Municipal Court and the Philadelphia Municipal Court.
What are the federal district courts in Pennsylvania?
The state of Pennsylvania has a total of three federal district courts, which include:
- United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania – The Eastern District federal court has jurisdiction in the eastern part of the state which includes counties like Berks, Delaware, and Montgomery. They deal with civil and criminal matters on the federal level.
- United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania – The middle district federal courts deal with the central areas within Pennsylvania, including counties like Adams, Huntingdon, and Pike. Their jurisdiction lies with civil and criminal cases that fall under federal law in the area.
- United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania – The Western district federal courts have jurisdiction in the western part of the state, which includes counties like Armstrong, Beaver, and Lawrence. They can hear both criminal and civil cases that violate federal law.
All of the judges that are part of the federal court are appointed by the president of the United States and later confirmed via a vote by the United States Senate. All appeals go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, which oversees the federal court system in the state along with other states that fall into the 3rd circuit.
How to find electronic court records in Pennsylvania?
Court records in Pennsylvania are considered open to the public unless they are sealed. In that case, only those involved in the case or with special permission can request access. Most cases that involve a minor or a senior that is under supervision are not open to the public, as well as other cases that may put an individual or the state in jeopardy.
For those that are open to the public, there are a few ways that individuals can get ahold of them, including electronically via the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania Web Portal. Those interested can also visit the court in which the case was heard, visiting the clerk's office to find the record they are searching for.
In either case, those interested in obtaining court records will need to have the name of the document they are searching for along with the name of the parties involved, the name of the attorney, and, if possible, the case number.
Where to find additional information about Pennsylvania courts?
Pennsylvania Courthouses & Sheriff's Offices, & Police Departments