Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 1874/Article 5

Article 5: The Judiciary

Section 1: The courts.

The judicial power of this Commonwealth shall be vested in a Supreme Court, in courts of common pleas, courts of oyer and terminer and general jail delivery, courts of quarter sessions of the peace, orphans' court, magistrates' court, and in such other courts as the General Assembly may from time to time establish.

Section 2: The Supreme Court. Tenure of judges. Chief Justice.

The Supreme Court shall consist of seven judges, who shall be elected by the qualified electors of the State at large. They shall hold their offices for the term of twenty-one years, if they so long behave themselves well, but shall not be again eligible. The judge whose commission shall first expire shall be chief justice, and thereafter each judge whose commission shall first expire shall in turn be chief justice.

Section 3: Jurisdiction of Supreme Court.

The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court shall extend over the State, and the judges thereof shall, by virtue of their offices, be justices of oyer and terminer and general jail delivery in the several counties; they shall have original jurisdiction in cases of injunction where a corporation is a party defendant, of habeas corpus, of mandamus to courts of inferior jurisdiction, and of quo warranto as to all officers of the Commonwealth whose jurisdiction extends over the State, but shall not exercise any other original jurisdiction; they shall have appellate jurisdiction by appeal, certiorari or writ of error in all cases, as is now or may hereafter be provided by law.

Section 4: Courts of common pleas. Districts not to contain more than four counties.

Until otherwise directed by law, courts of common pleas shall continue as at present established, except as herein changed; not more than four counties shall, at any time, be included in one judicial district organized for said courts.

Section 5: Judicial districts. Office of associate judge abolished.

Whenever a county shall contain forty thousand inhabitants it shall constitute a separate judicial district, and shall elect one judge learned in the law; and the General Assembly shall provide for additional judges, as the business of the said districts may require. Counties containing a population less than is sufficient to constitute separate districts shall be formed into convenient single districts, or, if necessary, may be attached to contiguous districts as the General Assembly may provide. The office of associate judge, not learned in the law, is abolished in counties forming separate districts; but the several associate judges in office when this Constitution shall be adopted shall serve for their unexpired terms.

Section 6: Common pleas courts in Philadelphia and Allegheny. Increase of judges in common pleas courts.

In the counties of Philadelphia and Allegheny all the jurisdiction and powers now vested in the district courts and courts of common pleas, subject to such changes as may be made by this Constitution or by law shall be in Philadelphia vested in four, and in Allegheny in two, distinct and separate courts, of equal and co-ordinate jurisdiction composed of three judges each; the said courts in Philadelphia shall be designated respectively as the courts of common pleas number one, number two, number three, and number four, and in Allegheny as the court of common pleas number one and number two, but the number of said courts may be by law increased from time to time, and shall be in like manner designated by successive numbers; the number of judges in any of said courts, or in any county where the establishment of an additional court may be authorized by law, may be increased from time to time, and whenever such increase shall amount in the whole to three, such three judges shall compose a distinct and separate court as aforesaid, which shall be numbered as aforesaid. In Philadelphia all suits shall be instituted in the said courts of common pleas without designating the number of said court, and the several courts shall distribute and apportion the business among them in such manner as shall be provided by rules of court, and each court, to which any suit shall be thus assigned, shall have exclusive jurisdiction thereof, subject to change of venue, as shall be provided by law. In Allegheny each court shall have exclusive jurisdiction of all proceedings at law and in equity, commenced therein, subject to change of venue as may be provided by law.

Amendment of November 7, 1911

Section 7: Prothonotary in Philadelphia. Separate dockets for courts; but one judgment and lien docket.

For Philadelphia, there shall be one prothonotary's office, and one prothonotary for all said courts to be appointed by the judges of said courts, and to hold office for three years, subject to removal by a majority of the said judges; the said prothonotary shall appoint such assistants as may be necessary and authorized by said courts; and he and his assistants shall receive fixed salaries to be determined by law and paid by said county; all fees collected in said office, except such as may by law due to the Commonwealth, shall be paid by the prothonotary into the county treasury. Each court shall have its separate dockets, except the judgment docket which shall contain the judgments and liens of all the said courts, as is or may be directed by law.

Section 8: Criminal courts in Philadelphia and Allegheny.

The said courts in the counties of Philadelphia and Allegheny, respectively, shall from time to time, in turn, detail one or more of their judges to hold the courts of oyer and terminer and the courts of quarter sessions of the peace of said counties, in such manner as may be directed by law.

Section 9: Jurisdiction of common pleas judges.

9. Judges of the court of common pleas learned in the law shall be judges of the courts of oyer and terminer, quarter sessions of the peace and general jail delivery, and of the orphans' court, and within their respective districts shall be justices of the peace as to criminal matters.

Section 10: May issue writs of certiorari to inferior courts.

The judges of the courts of common pleas, within their respective counties, shall have power to issue writs of certiorari justices of the peace and other inferior courts, not of record, and to cause their proceedings to be brought before them, and right and justice to be done.

Section 11: Justices of the peace and aldermen.

Except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, justices of the peace or aldermen shall be elected in the several wards, districts, boroughs and townships, at the time of the election of constables, by the qualified electors thereof, in such manner as shall be directed by law, and shall be commissioned by the Governor for a term of five years. No township, ward, district, or borough shall elect more than two justices of the peace or aldermen without the consent of a majority of the qualified electors within such township, ward, or borough; no person shall be elected to such office unless he shall have resided within the township, borough, ward or district for one year next preceding his election. In cities containing over fifty thousand inhabitants, not more than one alderman shall be elected in each ward or district.

Amendment of November 2, 1909

Section 12: Magistrates in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia there shall be established, for each thirty thousand inhabitants, one court not of record, of police and civil causes, with jurisdiction not exceeding one hundred dollars; such courts shall be held by magistrates on whose term of office shall be five years, and they shall be elected on general ticket by the qualified voters at large, and in election of the said magistrates, no voter shall vote for more than two-thirds of the number of persons to be elected when more than one are to be chosen; they shall be compensated only by fixed salaries, to be paid by said county; and shall exercise such jurisdiction, civil and criminal, except as herein provided, as is now exercised by aldermen, subject to such changes, not involving an increase of civil jurisdiction or conferring political duties, as may be made by law. In Philadelphia the office of alderman is abolished.

Amendment of November 2, 1909

Section 13

All fees, fines, and penalties in said courts shall be paid into the county treasury.

Section 14: Appeals from summary conviction.

In all cases of summary conviction in this Commonwealth, or of judgment in suit for a penalty, before a magistrate or court not of record, either party may appeal to such court of record as may be prescribed by law, upon allowance of the appellate court or judge thereof upon cause shown.

Section 15: Election and term of judges. Removal.

All judges required to be learned in the law, except the judges of the Supreme Court, shall be elected by qualified electors of the respective districts over which they are to preside, and shall hold their office for the period of twenty one years, if they shall so long behave themselves well; but for any reasonable cause, which shall not be sufficient ground for impeachment, the Governor may remove any of them on the address of two-thirds of each house of the General Assembly.

Section 16: Election of judges of Supreme Court by limited vote.

Whenever two judges of the Supreme Court are to be chosen for the same term of service each voter shall vote for one only, and when they are to be chosen he shall vote for no more than two; candidates highest in vote shall be declared elected.

Section 17: Priority of commissions of judges.

Should any two or more judges of the Supreme Court, or any two or more judges of the court of common pleas for the same district, be elected at the same time, they shall as soon after the election as convenient, cast lots for priority of commission and certify the result to the Governor, who shall issue their commissions in accordance therewith.

Section 18: Compensation of judges. Disqualification.

The judges of the supreme court and of the several courts of common pleas, and all other judges required to be learned in the law, shall at stated times receive for their services an adequate compensation which shall be fixed by law, and paid by the state. They shall receive no other compensation, fees, or perquisites of office, for their services from any source, nor hold any other office of profit under the United States, this state, or any other state.

Section 19: Residence of judges.

The judges of the Supreme Court during their continuance in office, shall reside within the districts for which they shall be, respectively, elected.

Section 20: Chancery powers of courts of common pleas.

The several courts of common pleas, besides the powers herein conferred, shall have and exercise within their respective districts, subject to such changes as may be made by law, such chancery powers as are now vested by law in the several courts of common pleas of this commonwealth, or as may hereafter be conferred upon them by law.

Section 21: No extra judicial duties for judges.

No duties shall be imposed by law upon the Supreme Court or any of the judges thereof, except such as are judicial; nor shall any of the judges exercise any power of appointment except as herein provided. The court of nisi prius is hereby abolished, and no court of original jurisdiction, to be presided over by any one or more of the judges of the supreme court shall be established.

Section 22: Separate orphans' courts. Register of wills to be clerk thereof. Accounts therein to be audited by courts.

In every county wherein the population shall exceed one hundred and fifty thousand the General Assembly shall, and in any other county may, establish a separate orphans' court to consist of one or more judges, who shall be learned in the law, which court shall exercise all the jurisdiction and powers now vested in, or which may hereafter by conferred upon, the orphans' courts, and thereupon the jurisdiction of the judges of the court of common pleas within such county in orphans' court proceedings shall cease and determine. In any county in which a separate orphans' court shall be established, the register of wills shall be clerk of such court, and subject to its directions in all matters pertaining to his office; he may appoint assistant clerks, but only with consent and approval of said court. All accounts filed with him as register or as clerk of the said separate orphans' court shall be audited by the court without expense to parties, except where all parties in interest in a pending proceeding shall nominate an auditor, whom the court may in its discretion appoint. In every county orphans' courts shall possess all the powers and jurisdiction of a registers' court, and separate registers' courts are hereby abolished.

Section 23: Style of process and indictment.

The style of all process shall be, "The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." All prosecutions shall be carried on in the name and by the authority of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and conclude, "against the peace and dignity of the same."

Section 24: Review in Supreme Court in criminal cases.

In all cases of felonious homicide, and in such other criminal cases as may be provided by law, the accused, after conviction and sentence, may remove the indictment, record, and all proceedings to the Supreme Court for review.

Section 25: Vacancies in courts; how filled.

Any vacancy happening by death, resignation, or otherwise, in any court of record, shall be filled by appointment by the Governor, to continue till the first Monday of January next succeeding the first general election, which shall occur three or more months after the happening of such a vacancy.

Section 26: Uniform laws for the courts, &c. Special courts prohibited.

All laws relating to courts shall be general and of uniform operation, and the organization, jurisdiction, and powers of all courts of the same class or grade, so far as regulated by law, and the force and effect of the process and judgments of such courts shall be uniform; and the General Assembly is hereby prohibited from creating other courts to exercise the powers vested by this constitution in the judges of the courts of common pleas and orphans' courts.

Section 27: Parties may submit issues of fact to the court. Appeals.

The parties by agreement filed may, in any civil case, dispense with trial by jury, and submit the decision of such case to the court having jurisdiction thereof, and such court shall hear and determine the same; and the judgment thereon shall be subject to a writ of error, as in other cases.