History, Composition and Jurisdiction

Courts of Common Pleas are Pennsylvania’s courts of general trial jurisdiction. They have existed in Pennsylvania at least since the Constitution of 1776, under which they were given constitutional status.

Prior to the Commonwealth’s Constitution of 1968 there existed in addition to Courts of Common Pleas -Courts of Oyer and Tenniner and General Jail Delivery, Quarter Sessions of the Peace and Orphans’ Courts. The new constitution abolished these latter separate courts and incorporated them into existing Common Pleas Courts.

The Lackawanna County Courthouse occupies a 4.7-acre lot bounded by Washington Avenue, Linden Street, Adams Avenue, and Spruce Street in downtown Scranton. The Courthouse is a three-and-one-half-story, rectangular plan, masonry building measuring approximately 100 by 140 feet with a raised basement, hipped roof, and a five-story clock tower. The foundation and walls are finished with rough-cut, coursed, local stone and the roof is sheathed with tile shingles while the water table, stringcourses, window sills, lintels, and buttress caps are trimmed with Onondago limestone. The courthouse was originally built in 1884 in the Romanesque Revival style and enlarged in 1896 with the addition of a third story and the reconstruction of the roof. In 2008, The County Board of Commissioners completed a thorough redesign and construction renovations to all floors of the Courthouse. Vastly improved security, improved lighting, and significant, high tech infrastructure modifications were made to keep the State/County justice system at the cutting edge. Entrance to the Courthouse is now via the street level ground floor and is wheelchair accessible.

It is the mission of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas to be as effective and efficient as possible in:

  • Providing equal access to justice for all
  • Building and retaining public trust and confidence
  • Developing the accountability of Court employees

Composition

The Common Pleas Courts are organized into 60 judicial districts which generally follow the geographic boundaries of the Commonwealth’s counties; however, seven of the districts are comprised of two counties. Each district has from one to 95 judges. Judges are elected to ten-year terms.

Jurisdiction

Common Pleas Courts have original jurisdiction over all cases not exclusively assigned to another court and appellate jurisdiction over judgments from the special courts (also referred to as minor courts, presided over by magisterial district judges). They also hear appeals from certain state and most local government agencies.

The Courts of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, a county of the 3rd class, is the 45th Judicial District of Pennsylvania. First established in 1878, it hears all Criminal, Civil, Family, and Orphan’s (Probate) matters. The Court consists of nine judges, one of whom serves as the President Judge or the Chief Executive Officer of the courts. The courthouse is located at 200 North Washington Avenue, Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania 18503. The courts supervise all Adult Probation, Juvenile Probation, and Domestic Relations services, the Law Library, the jury system, and the office of Court Administration. In addition, the courts share responsibility for the operation of the Department of Children and Youth Services. The President Judge and the District Court Administrator provide supervision and administrative services for a ten court system of limited jurisdiction courts (magisterial district courts).

In addition to providing general supervisory authority over the Court and its employees, the President Judge and the District Court Administrator are responsible for the following:

  • Implementation of policies and procedures as established by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
  • Preparation, negotiation and management of the Court’s budget
  • Research, plan and develop methods to improve Court operations
  • Jury management
  • Personnel Administration
  • Information systems management
  • Space and facilities management
  • Procurement of necessary services and supplies; financial management
  • Dissemination of information regarding Court activities

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