The Pennsylvania Supreme Court calls itself the nation’s oldest appellate court, a claim of which I was dubious until I did the research. It appears the Court is being modest. It began as the Provincial Court in 1684, a full eight years before the Massachusetts Bay Colony created its high court. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania appears to be the oldest court of any kind in the Western Hemisphere that is still in operation. The Highest Court in Penn’s Woods also has the unique distinction of having obtained independence from royal control upon its reorganization in 1722, which independence was negotiated in order to protect the democratically-elected assembly’s power. By contrast, many state courts still had judges appointed by the King even after the revolution.
At a time when America was a wild frontier, and its law was viewed as primitive, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania became the first American court whose decisions were reported in bound books. The Court’s chambers were in Independence Hall after the revolution, so the Court charged with protecting our constitutional rights sat, for many years, in the room where these rights were first debated. Indeed, the bill of rights that subsequently arose and was passed, though bearing unmistakable revisions by James Madison, was largely taken from Article I of our Commonwealth’s Constitution. Suffice to say, Pennsylvania’s impact upon the Constitution is much more than a matter of location.
Yet despite all this auspicious history, the Commonwealth’s Supreme Court and legal system has received scant coverage, and at present, it seems the Court only makes the news when a major scandal breaks. The Court that has the greatest impact on the law of Pennsylvania does not even register on the Richter scale of our daily news.
The goal of this site is to provide an outlet for coverage and discussion of our Supreme Court. In addition to providing an entertaining overview of the cases decided by and news surrounding the Court, we welcome vigorous discussion and debate, and hope to make it possible for the practicing attorney to keep up with major cases being decided in his or her area of law. For any non-attorneys who have stumbled upon this site, we welcome you to stick around. The articles and media will be geared toward those trained in the law, but we welcome your questions and curiosity.
The typical disclaimers apply: this site is in no way official, and no one associated with this site has authority to speak for the Court or its esteemed justices. Nothing on this site is legal advice, and you should obviously read the cases themselves rather than relying on my summaries if you plan to cite one in court. With all this in mind, welcome to SCOPA Review. We’re excited for you to be a part of our community.