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The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is the court of last resort for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvaniamarker. It meets in Philadelphiamarker, Pittsburghmarker, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvaniamarker.


The original Pennsylvania constitutions, drafted by William Penn, established a Provincial Court under the control of his British governors. The General Assembly, however, espoused the principle of separation of powers and formally called for a third branch of government starting with the 1701 Judiciary Bill. In 1722, the appointed British governor needed the House to raise revenues. House leaders agreed to raise taxes in return for an independent Supreme Court.

Predating the United States Supreme Courtmarker by 67 years, Pennsylvania's highest court was established by the General Assembly on May 22, 1722. Interpreting the Pennsylvania Constitution, it was the first independent Supreme Court in the United States with the power to declare laws made by an elected legislative body unconstitutional.

Composition and rules

The domed roof of the Court
It meets in Philadelphiamarker, Pittsburghmarker, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvaniamarker.

The Pennsylvania Supreme court consists of seven justices each elected to ten year terms. Supreme court judicial candidates may run on party tickets. The justice with the longest continuous service on the supreme court automatically becomes Chief Justice. Justices must step down from the Supreme Court when they reach the age of 70, although they may continue to serve part-time as "senior justices" on panels of the Commonwealth's lower appellate courts until they reach the age of 78, the age of mandatory retirement.[76026].

Prior to 2002, judicial candidates in Pennsylvania were prohibited from expressing their views on disputed legal or political issues. But after a similar law in Minnesota was struck down as unconstitutional (Republican Party of Minnesota v. White), the Pennsylvania rules were amended and judicial candidates may now express political viewpoints as long as they do not “commit or appear to commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court.” (PA Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 7 (B)(1)(c))

After the ten year term expires, a statewide YES/NO vote for retention is conducted. If the judge is retained, he/she serves another ten year term. If the judge is not retained, the governor, subject to the approval of the State Senate, appoints a temporary replacement until a special election can be held. As of 2005, only one judge has failed to win retention. Justice Russell M. Nigro received a majority of "NO" votes in the election of 2005 and was replaced by Justice Cynthia Baldwin, who was appointed by Governor Rendell in 2005.

Only one Supreme Court Justice, Rolf Larsen, has been removed from office by impeachment. In 1994, the State House of Representatives handed down articles of impeachment consisting of seven counts of misconduct. A majority of the State Senate voted against Larsen in five of the seven counts but only one charge garnered the two-thirds majority needed to convict.

Under the 1874 Constitution until the Pennsylvania state constitution of 1968, Supreme Court justices were elected to 21 year terms. At the time, it was the longest term of any elected office in the United States.

Supreme Court Justices

Includes justices of the Provincial Court.

Chief Justices

Other justices

Current members

Name Born Elected Year of Next Retention Election Reaches Age 70 Prior Positions and Education
Ronald D. Castille(Chief Justicemarker) in Miami, Floridamarker 1993 (retained in 2003) 2013 March 16, 2014 Private Practice (1991–1993); District Attorney, Philadelphia Countymarker (1986–1991); Deputy District Attorney, Philadelphia Countymarker (1971–1985); J.D., University of Virginia School of Lawmarker (1971); B.S., Auburn Universitymarker (1966).
Thomas G. Saylor in Somerset County, Pennsylvaniamarker 1997 (retained in 2007) None - final term December 12, 2016 Judge, Superior Court of Pennsylvania (1993–1997); Private Practice (1987–1993); First Deputy Attorney General, Commonwealth of Pennsylvaniamarker (1983–1987); Director, Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection (1982–1983); First Assistant District Attorney, Somerset Countymarker (1973–1976); Private Practice (1972–1982); J.D., Columbia Law School (1972); B.A., University of Virginiamarker (1969).
J. Michael Eakin in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvaniamarker 2001 2011 November 18, 2018 Judge, Superior Court of Pennsylvania (1995–2001); District Attorney, Cumberland Countymarker (1984–1995); Private Practice (1980–1989); Assistant District Attorney, Cumberland Countymarker (1975–1983); J.D., Dickinson School of Law (1975); B.A., Franklin & Marshall Collegemarker (1970).
Max Baer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker 2003 2013 December 24, 2017 Judge, Allegheny Countymarker Court of Common Pleas (1989–2003); Private Practice (1980–1989); Deputy Attorney General, Commonwealth of Pennsylvaniamarker (1975–1979); J.D., Duquesne University School of Law (1975); B.A., University of Pittsburghmarker (1971).
Debra Todd in Ellwood City, Pennsylvaniamarker 2007 2017 October 15, 2027 Judge, Superior Court of Pennsylvania (2000–2007); Private Practice (1982–1999); J.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Lawmarker (1982); B.A., Chatham Collegemarker (1979).
Seamus P. McCaffery in Belfastmarker, Northern Irelandmarker 2007 2017 June 3, 2020 Judge, Superior Court of Pennsylvania (2003–2008); Judge, Philadelphia Municipal Court (1993–2003); J.D., Temple University School of Lawmarker (1989); B.A., La Salle Universitymarker (1977); Police Officer, Philadelphia Police Department (1970–1989).
Joan Orie Melvin (interim justice) in Pittsburghmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker 2009 2019 April 6, 2026 Judge, Superior Court of Pennsylvania (1998–2009); Judge, Allegheny Countymarker Court of Common Pleas (1990–1998); Magistrate and Chief Magistrate, Pittsburghmarker Municipal Courts (1985–1990); Private Practice (1981–1985); J.D., Duquesne University School of Law (1981); B.A., Notre Dame Universitymarker (1978).


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