Pennsylvania in the United States

Legal Materials

General Information

This section is organized by the branches of government.

  • General Information
  • Legislative Branch
  • Executive Branch
  • Judicial Branch
  • Other Useful Information

For a discussion of Pennsylvania law, see Pennsylvania Law Encyclopedia(LexisNexis), the Summary of Pennsylvania Jurisprudence (LexisNexis) and West’s Pennsylvania Practice Series (West).

Links to online Pennsylvania legal materials are posted by FindLaw and WashLaw.

Primary legal materials are also available from Lexis, Westlaw and LOIS. Google Scholar has free cases back to 1950; subscription sites Versuslaw and Fastcase also have cases back to 1950. Supreme and Commonwealth Court cases are published in West’s Atlantic Reporter.

Legislative Branch

Legislation: Pennsylvania’s statutory code is published as Purdon’s Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated (West), which contains both the official Consolidated Statutes and an unofficial-but-widely-used codification of the other Pennsylvania laws in force. West posts a free unannotated edition of Purdon’s, and the annotated edition is available on Westlaw.

The General Assembly posts the Consolidated Statutes and Bills and Amendments. The Bills and Amendments search includes the Bill Status, with links to the relevant House and Senate Journal pages.

The Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau posts session laws free from 1682 to 1809 and 1963 to 2009. Session laws are available back to 1776 in the Digital Session Laws collection on Hein Online.

Current laws and bill status reports are posted on the General Assembly’s Session Information page. Call the Pennsylvania Reference Bureau for questions about recent legislation (717-782-2342). See also the section on “Legislative History,” below.

Legislative History: The Jenkins Memorial Library compiles legislative histories for Pennsylvania bills. Pre-compiled histories are available for members on the Jenkins web site; non-members can call to order copies. You can also call Jenkins to have a new legislative history compiled at your request (215-574-7909). Alternatively, Jenkins post information on how you can compile a Pennsylvania legislative history yourself.

Jenkins legislative histories do not include Committee Reports and Committee Hearing materials. Jenkins posts information on obtaining Committee Reports here.

Also, for bills introduced starting with the 1993-1994 session, all the materials that would otherwise go into a Jenkins Legislative History (i.e., everything other than Reports and Hearing materials) are posted on the General Assembly’s “Bill Information – History” page for the bill.

Executive Branch

Agencies and Offices: The State of Pennsylvania web site posts links to the various government agencies and offices.

Regulations: Proposed and final agency regulations – as well as agency notices and the Governor’s Proclamations and Executive Orders – are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Final regulations are codified in the Pennsylvania Code. TheIndependent Regulatory Review Commission also provides regulatory history information materials: the proposed and final reg; public, legislative and IRRC comments and orders; “related” documents; the Pennsylvania Code sections affected; and the dates when the regulation was proposed, commented on, published in thePennsylvania Bulletin, etc.

Judicial Branch

Court Rules: Pennsylvania Rules of Procedure and Evidence are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin and codified in the Pennsylvania Code. The Unified Judicial System’s Rules of Court page provides access to local rules, and selected rules of civil and criminal procedure.

Judicial Opinions: Supreme and Commonwealth Court cases are published in West’sAtlantic Reporter. The Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System posts opinions from the Supreme Court (back to 11/96), Superior Court (back to 12/97) and Commonwealth Court (back to 1/97), plus links to individual Court Web sites.

Trial Court Opinions: A number of Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas now post their opinions online. Trial court opinions are available for Allegheny County (which includes Pittsburgh), Philadelphia County (which, as the name implies, includes Philadelphia), Northampton County, and Lehigh County. To find opinions for other counties, try running a Google search with the name of the county, and the terms “court of common pleas” and “opinions.” For additional courts, check the links on the Pennsylvania page of For subscribers, additional opinions may be available from Smart Litigator. Finally, some trial court opinions are published in trial court case reporters, discussed below.

About half of Pennsylvania’s counties have a reporter that publishes their Court of Common Pleas (trial court) opinions (e.g., the Bucks County Reporter), but these reporters have not be indexed by Shepard’s or digested by West since the early ’70s. The more “important” trial court decisions are selectively published in District and County Reports (including a few from counties without their own reporters), which is covered by Shepard’s and West.

Estate and trusts cases from Pennsylvania trial courts are published in the Fiduciary Reporter, and local government cases (both trial and appellate) are published inChrostwaite’s Pennsylvania Municipal Law Reporter.

Docket Sheets: Docket sheet databases for the Appellate Courts, Criminal Courts of Common Pleas, Magisterial District Courts and the Philadelphia Municipal Court are available through the Pennsylvania Judiciary’s Web Portal.

Jury Instructions: Pennsylvania jury instructions are published by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute under the titles Pennsylvania Suggested Civil Jury Instructions andPennsylvania Suggested Criminal Jury Instructions. You can get the PBI jury instructions on Lexis (PA;PACVJI civil; PA;PACRJI criminal; PA;PAJINS combined),Westlaw (PA-JICIV civil; PA-JICRIM criminal; PA-JI combined).

Records and Briefs: The Jenkins Memorial Library has records and briefs for most Pennsylvania courts. Their complete holdings are posted here. Members can access the collection online through the website. Non-members can order copies by calling the Document Delivery department at 215-574-7909.

Other Useful Information

Libraries: For questions and copies of Pennsylvania materials, call the Pennsylvania State Library (717-783-5950), the Penn State University Library or the University of Pennsylvania’s library.

For questions about and copies of legal materials, try the Jenkins Law Library in Philadelphia (215-574-7909), the State Library’s Law and Government Publications division (717-783-3273), the Dickinson School of Law library (717-240-5267) and/or another Pennsylvania law school library.

Research Guides: The Jenkins Law Library posts a guide to Pennsylvania Legal Research. You can also check out the Pennsylvania Practice Oriented Legal Researchguide from the Widener Law Library.

Note: We linked the resources to in an effort to decrease the number of broken links cited.

Primary Law

For more U.S. state primary law resources, see:

Topics Covered by the Pennsylvania Legal Encyclopedia

Note: More detailed information about this State is provided in the Pennsylvania jurisdictional legal Encyclopedia, which tie together Pennsylvania statutory and case law.

Topics include:

  • Pennsylvania Statutes
  • PA Cases & Case Law
  • Pennsylvania Legal Websites
  • PA State Government Info
  • Pennsylvania Counties
  • Pennsylvania Cities
  • Pennsylvania Legislation
  • PA Court Reporters/Depositions
  • Pennsylvania Legal Forms
  • Pennsylvania Courts
  • Pennsylvania Local Court Rules
  • PA State Bar/Legal Associations
  • Pennsylvania Law Enforcement
  • Pennsylvania Media Sources


See Also

Pennsylvania: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Pennsylvania. This part provides references, in relation to Pennsylvania, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Pennsylvania by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Pennsylvania and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Pennsylvania or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Pennsylvania and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Pennsylvania. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Pennsylvania should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Pennsylvania when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

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