What is the role of the judiciary branch of government in Pennsylvania?
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What is the role of the judiciary branch of government in Pennsylvania?

December 18, 2019


The judiciary, or the courts, interpret laws, apply those laws, settle legal disputes and decide whether laws follow the state’s Constitution. There are five levels of courts in Pennsylvania with two additional courts in the state’s largest cities: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Magisterial district courts are in all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties except Philadelphia. Magisterial judges, or what used to be called district justices, decide cases involving small civil claims, landlord-tenant disputes, preliminary hearings where they decide whether there is enough evidence for a criminal case to go trial and city, borough or township laws. The Courts of Common Pleas are broken down by county, although 7 Common Pleas courts cover two counties. The Courts of Common Pleas hear the most serious criminal cases and civil cases if the amount of money involved in a dispute is above seven thousand dollars. If one of the parties disagrees with a decision made by the Courts of Common Pleas, the case can be appealed to one of Pennsylvania’s two appellate courts: The Pennsylvania Superior Court or Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. Commonwealth Court hears only cases that involve state agencies or government regulations. If appealed further, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has the final say on how cases are decided, laws upheld or whether the state’s Constitution has been followed. There are seven justices on the state Supreme Court. All judges are elected in Pennsylvania.

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