Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court

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Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court
Court information
Judges:   9
Founded:   1968
Judicial selection
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   10 years

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court is one of Pennsylvania's two intermediate appellate courts, the other being the Superior Court. The Commonwealth Court was established in 1968 in Article V, section 4 of the 1968 Pennsylvania Constitution.

The court is made up of nine judges who serve 10-year terms (beginning the January after their election and ending on the first Monday of the January ten years later - only on even-numbered years).[1][2] The president judge is chosen by his or her colleagues for a five-year term. The court generally decides cases in three-judge panels and sits in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.


Cases heard by the Commonwealth Court are generally determined by what the case is about, and the identity of the parties to the lawsuit. This is a different way of determining the type of case heard by an appellate court than in other states, where the distinction is usually between civil matters and criminal matters.

The Commonwealth Court usually takes cases:

  • When the case involves state and local government and regulatory agencies, such as when a lawsuit is filed against one of those governmental agencies.
  • When the subject involves:
  • Banking
  • Insurance
  • Utility regulation
  • Taxation (the court hears all state tax appeals from the Board of Finance and Revenue)
  • Land use (such as eminent domain)
  • Elections
  • Labor practices
  • Workers compensation.
  • Department of Transportation decisions
  • Liquor Control Board rulings about liquor licenses.[3]

Most appellate courts do not have original jurisdiction over cases, but the Commonwealth Court does, including election cases and cases where someone has filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


Senior judges

Judicial pay

Justices of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court are paid $175,923 annually, with the chief justice earning somewhat more.[4]


Year Appeals from Common Pleas Agency appeals Discretionary appeals Original discretion Board of Finance/Review Original & appellate combined Miscellaneous Total filed
2007 876 1,494 24 587 896 7 38 3,922
2006 954 1,472 29 618 751 7 65 3,896
2005 955 1,628 36 599 786 4 48 4,056

This data is from a 2007 statistical overview prepared by the court.[5]


See also: Judicial selection in Pennsylvania

Judges of the Commonwealth Court are chosen in partisan elections to ten-year terms. After serving an initial ten-year term, judges are then subject to a retention election. If an interim vacancy occurs on the court, it was filled via gubernatorial appointment and 2/3rds of the Pennsylvania Senate must agree with that appointment. Judges of the court who are appointed in this interim fashion are required to run for a full ten-year term at the next municipal election that is scheduled at least ten months after the vacancy occurred, or the original term of the judge who left the court expires. However, it is a tradition in Pennsylvania that judges who are appointed as interim judges to the Commonwealth Court do not go on to run for permanent seats; in other words, the governor appoints judges where it is the expectation of both the governor and the judge that the judge will only fill the interim vacancy, not a permanent seat.[6]

Mediation program

Since 2000, the Commonwealth Court offers a mediation program to settle some cases through negotiation instead of litigation. Cases in these areas are covered:

  • Workers' Compensation
  • Zoning disputes
  • Tax assessment challenges[7]

Since the beginning of the program, about 1,600 cases have been assigned to it, and about half of those cases have been resolved through its mediation services.

External links



See also: Pennsylvania judicial elections, 2015

Candidates competing for one open seat

Primary election, 2015
    Democratic Todd Eagen
    Democratic Michael Wojcik
    Republican Paul Lalley



The following is a list of candidates for the Commonwealth Court 2011 election:
CandidateIncumbencyDistrictPrimary VoteElection Vote
CoveyAnne Covey   ApprovedANo70.2%52.3%   ApprovedA
PanepintoPaul P. Panepinto   ApprovedAYesRetention election29.8% 
Kathryn Boockvar       
Cohn JubelirerRenee Cohn Jubelirer   ApprovedAYesRetention election   ApprovedA
ErnsbergerBarbara Ernsberger    No49.8% 
SimpsonRobert Simpson   ApprovedAYes   ApprovedA
LeavittMary Hannah Leavitt   ApprovedAYesRetention election   ApprovedA

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