The Pennsylvania trial court system consists of Courts of Common Pleas, Magisterial District Courts, Community Courts, Traffic Courts, Philadelphia Municipal Courts, Pittsburgh Municipal Court, and Pittsburgh Magistrates Courts.
Courts of Common Pleas have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, but typically only handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts. Magisterial District Courts, Community Courts, Traffic Courts, Philadelphia Municipal Courts and the Pittsburgh Municipal Court have limited jurisdiction over certain types of cases.
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Pennsylvania Courts of Common PleasCourts of Common Pleas have general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, and generally handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts.
Criminal cases typically heard by Courts of Common Pleas include felonies and lesser-included offenses.
Civil cases heard by Courts of Common Pleas include general civil claims without financial limits. Courts of Common Pleas also handle domestic relations, juvenile matters, adoptions, delayed birth certificates, appeals of some administrative agency decisions and some arbitration reviews.
Courts of Common Pleas may have specialized divisions for certain types of cases, including Orphans' Court and Family Court.
The Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas generally exercises jurisdiction over cases beyond the jurisdiction of municipal courts and traffic courts, but also shares jurisdiction over small claims cases.
Pennsylvania Magisterial District CourtsMagisterial District Courts have jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases.
Criminal cases heard by Magisterial District Courts include most summary offenses, most preliminary hearings, certain DUI cases, certain third-degree misdemeanors and some ordinance violations.
Civil cases heard by Magisterial District Courts include certain landlord/tenant cases and some general civil claims subject to financial limits. Magisterial District Courts do not have jurisdiction over civil cases brought by or against the State.
Judges in Magisterial District Courts are referred to as "District Justices" and "Magisterial District Judges," but the jurisdiction of a judge in a Magisterial District Court is the same regardless of their title.
Pennsylvania Community CourtsCommunity Courts are not courts of record and are created by voters. The jurisdiction of a Community Court may include the level of jurisdiction exercised by a magisterial district judge, a municipal court or a traffic court, depending on the jurisdiction granted by voters. If a Community Court is created, it will generally assume jurisdiction over the types of cases handled by other local courts.
Community Court are specifically prohibited from supplanting the jurisdiction of Pittsburgh Magistrates Court. The Philadelphia Municipal Courts and the Philadelphia Traffic Courts are not community courts, but may be abolished if a Community Court is created by the City of Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania Traffic CourtsTraffic Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over motor vehicle summary offenses.
Cities of a certain size may establish Traffic Courts that are not courts of record and operate as a division of a Magisterial District Court or Court of Common Pleas.
Traffic Courts share jurisdiction with Magisterial District Courts when Traffic Courts are closed.
The City and County of Philadelphia has a Traffic Court that is not a court of record. Traffic cases for the City of Pittsburgh are handled by the Pittsburgh Municipal Court and Traffic Courts.
Pennsylvania Philadelphia Municipal CourtsPhiladelphia Municipal Courts exercise limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases within the territorial boundaries of the City and County of Philadelphia.
Jurisdiction over criminal cases includes preliminary hearings, most summary offenses, offenses that are punishable by less than five years of incarceration and some motor vehicle offenses.
Philadelphia Municipal Courts do not offer jury trials for criminal cases, but a jury trial may be conducted in the Court of Common Pleas if a request for a new trial is granted on appeal.
Jurisdiction over civil cases includes certain landlord-tenant cases, breach of contract or other agreements, some general civil claims for less than $10,000, certain local tax matters involving less than $15,000 and actions to abate certain nuisances. Financial limits on civil jurisdiction are exclusive of interest and costs.
The limited jurisdiction of the Philadelphia Municipal Courts is generally shared with the Court of Common Pleas, but the Municipal Court may have exclusive jurisdiction over certain criminal offenses. The Philadelphia Traffic Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all motor vehicle summary offenses.
Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Municipal CourtThe Pittsburgh Municipal Court handles certain types of criminal, housing and traffic cases.
Criminal cases handled by the Pittsburgh Municipal Court include summary offenses, traffic offenses, violations of most city ordinances and all preliminary hearings for all types of criminal cases that occur in Pittsburgh, including private criminal complaints.
The Pittsburgh Municipal Court may also handle cases for Emergency Protection in its Arraignment Court division.
Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Magistrates CourtsMagistrate Courts in Pittsburgh have similar jurisdiction to Magisterial District Justice Courts, but also handle traffic cases and housing cases for the city. These Pittsburgh courts may also be referred to as "Police Magistrate Courts." The territorial jurisdiction of these courts are limited to the city of Pittsburgh, and are considered to be the only city courts in Pennsylvania.
Cases typically handled by Pittsburgh Magistrate Courts include, but are not limited to summary offenses, traffic offenses, preliminary criminal hearings, certain DUI and third degree misdemeanors, landlord/tenant cases, violations of health or housing ordinances, and some civil claims within financial jurisdictional limits.
Criminal cases typically handled by a Pittsburgh Magistrate Court include, but are not limited to: drunkenness, disorderly conduct, unlawful liquor sales, lewd or indecent behavior, public disturbances, vagrancy, prostitution, theft, domestic abuse, and violations of city laws or ordinances.
A Pittsburgh Magistrates Court has jurisdiction over traffic cases when it sits as a Traffic Court of Pittsburgh.
Pennsylvania Court NotesAll appellate courts exercise some original jurisdiction over certain types of trial court cases.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over habeas corpus, mandamus, quo warranto, some administrative agency decisions and any matter of public importance that may be pending in any court.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court has original jurisdiction over habeas corpus, mandamus and applications for wiretapping and electronic surveillance.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has original jurisdiction over cases that include habeas corpus, mandamus, some civil actions against state government and state officers, some civil actions by state government, certain insurance cases, and certain statewide election matters.
Pennsylvania has a Court of Judicial Discipline that is a court of record for cases related to the conduct of Pennsylvania judges.
Where to find court cases in PennsylvaniaThe chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of court in Pennsylvania.
Note: Some courts in Pennsylvania are not included in the chart above. Please use the following links for descriptions and types of cases heard:
Philadelphia Municipal Courts Pittsburgh Municipal Court Pittsburgh Magistrates Courts