The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is the highest court in the Commonwealth. It is also the oldest appellate court in the nation, dating to 1684. The court makes final interpretations of state law and has administrative authority over the entire Pennsylvania court system. Seven justices make up the court. They are elected to 10-year terms.
The longest-serving member of the court presides as chief justice. The court holds sessions in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.The Supreme Court receives about 2,500 civil and criminal appeals each year. It has the discretionary power to hear and decide only those cases that it deems to have statewide importance or to require clarification on a point of law. The court must review certain types of cases such as all death penalty cases and appeals from lawsuits that originate in Commonwealth Court.
The Supreme Court also can take up any case in any court in Pennsylvania if it considers an issue of immediate public importance to be at stake. When it does this, the court exercises one of two powers known as the "King's Bench" power or the power of "extraordinary jurisdiction."