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Pennsylvania Supreme Court

City: Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh

State: Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the highest judicial tribunal in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court sits atop the state judiciary, one of the three branches of the state government. The court traces its origins to William Penn’s tenure as proprietor of Pennsylvania. In 1684, Penn proposed the creation of a Provincial Court to head the colony’s judicial structure. The Provincial Court remained the leading court in the colony until 1722, when the Provincial Assembly established the Supreme Court. This court remained atop the judicial system through the remainder of the colonial period. Under provisions of the original state constitution of 1776, justices served a fixed term of seven years, and could not hold concurrent civil or military offices. The constitution of 1790 further codified the role and responsibilities of the court, expanding its jurisdiction and allowing the justices to hold their offices with good behavior. Under provisions of the constitution of 1838, the court included members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Pennsylvania Senate for terms of fifteen years, as long as they maintained good behavior.

Penn. Const. of 1776, §. 23, 24; Penn. Const. of 1790, art. V, § 1, 2; Penn. Const. of 1838, art. V, § 1, 2, 4; G. S. Rowe, Embattled Bench: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Forging of a Democratic Society, 1684-1809 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994), 27-28, 29, 65; Philip S. Klein and Ari Hoogenboom, A History of Pennsylvania, second and enlarged edition (State College: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1980), 250.