Minor courts, also called
special courts or courts of limited jurisdiction, constitute
the grass roots level of Pennsylvania’s court system. The
minor courts include the magisterial district judge courts,
Philadelphia Municipal Court and Philadelphia Traffic Court.
Magisterial district judges preside over magisterial
district judge courts in all counties but Philadelphia.
Municipal Court has a criminal division, a traffic division
and a non-traffic division. Its judges preside over
preliminary hearings on all homicide cases in Allegheny
County. The judges also preside over matters within the City
of Pittsburgh, including non-traffic summary offenses;
traffic offenses, exclusive of parking citations issued by
the Pittsburgh Parking Authority; all violations of City of
Pittsburgh ordinances and preliminary hearings on all
misdemeanor and felony criminal cases.
Common Pleas courts are
Pennsylvania’s courts of general trial jurisdiction. They
have original jurisdiction over all cases not exclusively
assigned to another court and appellate jurisdiction over
judgments from the minor courts. They also hear appeals from
certain state and most local government agencies.
courts form a two-tiered appeals system. The first, or
intermediate, level has two courts: the Superior Court,
which has 15 judges, and the Commonwealth Court, which has
nine. At the second level is the seven-justice Supreme
Court, the highest court in Pennsylvania.