The Courts of Common Pleas are Pennsylvania's courts of general trial jurisdiction. They have existed since the colonial charter of Pennsylvania, and are incorporated in the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776. The Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County presently consists of ninety (90) judges who are currently assigned as follows: Trial Division, 67; Family Division, 20; and Orphans' Court Division (Estates Law, etc.), 3.
The Court of Common Pleas is supervised by a President Judge who is elected for a five year term by the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas.
Honorable Sheila Woods-Skipper is the President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia.
The President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas sits on the First Judicial District's Administrative Governing Board, which functions much like a Board of Directors for the District. The Board includes the two president judges, three administrative judges, and the State Court Administrator.
On January 27, 2016 President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper was appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to serve as Chair of the Administrative Governing Board of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania.
The President Judge has varied authority and responsibilities.
The President Judge:
- initially assigns all newly appointed or elected Judges to one of the divisions of the court, and may request from the Supreme Court the assignment of Senior Judges to help dispose of Philadelphia County's case-inventory, and the appointment of out-of-county Judges to assist the Court in conflict cases
- Directs space allocation within the Court of Common Pleas and assigns judicial chambers
- Is responsible for the implementation of local rules as adopted by the Board of Judges, and for the initiation of administrative orders, directives, or general court regulations as may be mandated or authorized by various court rules and directives, as well as legislative enactments
- Is responsible for preparing an Emergency Judge Schedule assigning a Court of Common Pleas Judge to act during off-Court hours on emergency matters, as well as ensuring that Election Court, with numerous satellite locations, is judicially staffed during the primary and general elections in order to enable all citizens to exercise their right to vote
- Supervises the library of the Court (all locations), and the Court Messenger Service
- Supervises the Mental Health Review Officer(s) who act on behalf of the Court in hearings pursuant to the Mental Health Procedures Act of 1976, as amended
- Entertains all petitions which seeks to modify monetary judgments issued against defendants accused of criminal offences, and their sureties, when defendants violate the terms of their bail and fail to appear for court hearings
- Maintains a Disbarment Docket of local attorneys who are suspended or disbarred by the Supreme Court
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