What's the Difference Between State and Federal Courts?
Pennsylvania state courts decide cases involving child custody matters, divorce, most criminal cases, real estate issues, juvenile issues, contract disputes, traffic violations, personal injury issues, and inheritance matters, to name a few. These courts can also hear cases that are appeals from state or local agencies. For example, an appeal from a local zoning decision would normally go to the local Common Pleas Court.
But, there are certain categories of legal disputes that are resolved in federal courts. Federal courts may hear cases that involve the U.S. Constitution, federal law, the United States government, or controversies between states or between the U.S. government and foreign governments. In addition, they may hear “diversity of citizenship” cases – cases between citizens of different states (for example, between a citizen of Pennsylvania and a citizen of New York), or between a citizen of a state and a non-U.S. citizen. Note that diversity of citizenship cases must involve claims that exceed $75,000.
The federal courts also hear appeals from federal agencies. For example, an appeal from a denial of social security benefits by the Social Security Administration, would go to the federal courts, once all administrative appeals are finished.
Federal district courts in Pennsylvania are: the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania State Reports (Supreme Court)
Pennsylvania Superior Court Reports
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Reports
Pennsylvania District & County Reports
Cases from Pennsylvania State appellate courts are found in
the Atlantic Reporter (U.S. section of the library):
Atlantic Reporter, 3d (2010-date)
Atlantic Reporter, 2d (1939-2010)
Atlantic Reporter (1895-1938)
Laws of PA
KFP30 1975 .A25
PA Supreme Court Brief Collection 1997 to present
Widener Harrisburg has a selected collection of briefs from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. These briefs have been indexed to make them easier for you to find and locate the item(s) you need. Widener retains what the court has sent us. There could be briefs for certain cases that Widener never received from the court.
Other briefs can be found through Jenkins Law Library
Currently, Google Scholar allows you to search and read published opinions of US state appellate and supreme court cases since 1950, US federal district, appellate, tax and bankruptcy courts since 1923 and US Supreme Court cases since 1791. In addition, it includes citations for cases cited by indexed opinions or journal articles which allows you to find influential cases (usually older or international) which are not yet online or publicly available.
The Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (Pa.C.S.) is the official subject codification of the Pennsylvania laws. It was created by the statutory consolidation project and has never been completed by the PA Legislature. The Laws of Pennsylvania contain laws enacted as amendments to the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, the official statutory codification established by the General Assembly under the act of November 25, 1970 (P.L.707, No.230). These laws have been incorporated into a separate official publication since 1975.
The Pennsylvania Unconsolidated Statutes The Laws of Pennsylvania, also referred to as the Pamphlet Laws, have been recognized as official law since December 1, 1801. Acts are numbered by the Department of State and published by the Legislative Reference Bureau as separate official documents known as slip laws before publication in bound editions as the Laws of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated (Pa.C.S.A.) is an annotated edition of the official codification, published by West.
Purdon’s Pennsylvania Statutes (P.S.) is the unofficial codification of the Pennsylvania laws published by West. It covers the titles which have not yet been consolidated by the Legislature.
You can access Pennsylvania’s statues via the website of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. You can also browse by title. This site gives you the option of viewing statutes in PDF, Word, or html formats.
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The federal case coverage includes the judicial opinions of:
The state case law covers all fifty states, with nearly half of the states dating back to the 1800s. Coverage for the remaining states dates back to approximately 1950.
Collection has select Nominative and Side Reports opinions dating from the 1800's to the early 2000's.
The Loislaw Pennsylvania law library contains Pennsylvania primary law in the following databases. The databases are duplications of the law received from the Pennsylvania Courts, Legislature, Office of Administrative Law or other sources.