The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania is the highest court in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is also the oldest appellate court in the United States. The court holds sessions in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The Supreme Court has discretionary power to hear and decide only those cases that it deems to have statewide importance or requires clarification on a point of law. The court reviews 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 feels that an issue of immediate public importance is at stake.
The Pennsylvania Supreme court consists of seven Justices. They are elected to serve for a term of ten year. The Justice with the longest continuous service on the Supreme Court becomes the Chief Justice. Justices of the Supreme Court shall be citizens of the Commonwealth. They shall have resided within the state for a period of one year preceding their election or appointment, and should reside within the state during their continuance in office.
Justices retire from Supreme Court service upon attaining the age of 70. However, 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, which is the age of mandatory retirement. After the ten year term expires, a statewide retention vote 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. Similarly, when a vacancy arises in the office of Justice, it 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.
The compensation of Justices shall not be diminished during their terms of office. Justices do not hold office in a political party or political organization, or hold an office or position of profit in the government of the United States, the Commonwealth or any municipal corporation or political subdivision thereof, except in the armed service of the United States or the Commonwealth. A Justice shall be subject to disciplinary action for conviction of a felony; misconduct in office; neglect or failure to perform the duties; or conduct in violation of the rules prescribed by the Supreme Court.