Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Election (Partisan)
7 Justices
10 year terms
State High Court Judicial Selection Process Legal Authority

  • In a partisan primary election, the candidate who receives the highest number of votes is placed on the ballot for the general election.
  • The candidate who receives the highest number of votes in the general election is appointed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
  • If there is a tie, the winner is chosen by lot.
  • At the end of the Justice’s term, a statewide retention election is held, a simple majority of the vote is required for retention.

Interim Vacancies

  • A vacancy in the office of justice, judge or justice of the peace shall be filled by appointment by the Governor. The appointment shall be with the advice and consent of two-thirds of the members elected to the Senate, except in the case of justices of the peace which shall be by a majority.

    Docket Watch

  • Pennsylvania High Court Hears Challenge to Voter ID Law

    Voter ID laws, defined as laws requiring photo evidence of identification at the polls, are a growing trend across the country. The first states to adopt such laws were Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, and Tennessee. Proponents claim that the impetus behind these laws is to minimize voter fraud by ensuring that those voting are, in fact, the person they claim to be. Opponents view them as an effort to disenfranchise the poor, the infirmed, and the elderly, analogizing the law to the unconstitutional poll taxes historically used to prevent black Americans from voting.

  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court Excludes Any Exposure Theory in Asbestos and Toxic-Tort Litigation

    On May 23, 2012, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision holding that the trial court had properly excluded the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses from espousing the opinion that every occupational exposure to asbestos contributes substantially to mesothelioma.1 This is the any exposure theory that has served as the foundation for a significant expansion of asbestos litigation in recent years by incorporating even the smallest amount of occupational exposure as a “substantial factor” in causing disease. This article provides background information on the any exposure theory and explains the significance of this ruling and why this and other courts are regularly rejecting it. The Pennsylvania opinion is only the latest in a series of similar opinions excluding the any exposure theory as unscientific and unsuitable to support causation in toxic tort litigation.

  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court Vacates Trial Court’s Denial of a Minor’s Application to Obtain an Abortion

    On December 22, 2011, in a case of first impression, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated a trial court’s denial of a minor’s judicial bypass application—an application to obtain an abortion without parental consent. In so doing, the court decided two issues of significance to both sides of the abortion debate: the standard of review on appeal and the relevance of a minor’s failure to seek parental consent in determining whether to grant a judicial bypass. First, the court held that appellate courts must deferentially review—under an abuse of discretion standard—a trial court’s denial of a minor’s petition for judicial bypass. Second, the court held that a trial court may not rely on a minor’s failure to seek her parents’ consent when determining whether she has the requisite maturity and capacity to consent to an abortion.

  • Better Alive Than Dead

    When David Hockenberry, a man with profound mental retardation, came down with pneumonia in 2007, he began having difficulty breathing. His doctors insisted that he be placed on a temporary ventilator to survive. His guardians, however, citing Mr. Hockenberry’s “best interests,” sought to refuse the treatment. In doing so, they launched a legal battle that reached all the way to Pennsylvania’s highest court.

  • Judicial Election

    Judges are elected by popular vote.
  • Democratic Appointment

    Judges are appointed directly by a democratic body, or appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of some democratic body.