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Common Pleas Court, Prothonotary of

[Record group 20]
Agency Function
The Common Pleas Court, the Court of general trial jurisdiction in Philadelphia, shares a limited portion of its jurisdiction with the Municipal Court. In administering justice, both the Common Pleas and Municipal Courts use the assistance of other offices and agencies in Philadelphia. These include, notably, the Clerk of Quarter Sessions, District Attorney, Jury Selection Commission, Prothonotary, Register of Wills, Sheriff, and the Youth Study Center.

Judges of the Common Pleas Court serve 10 year terms. Voters of the City elect the judges at large for their initial term. For every subsequent term, judges campaign for re-election on a "Retention Ballot."

Administrative Subunits
Trial Division
Responsible for the bulk of traditional civil and criminal cases.
Family Court Division
Responsible for domestic relations matters (divorce, custody and support) and juvenile cases (delinquency, dependency and adoptions).
Orphans' Court Division
Mainly responsible for cases involving estates (including estates of deceased persons and the mentally disabled) and wills and trusts of minors.

Agency History
The Common Pleas Court was established by an ordinance of Governor Evans of 22 February 1707 (N.S.) And given country civil and equity jurisdictions exercised until that time by the Court of Quarter Sessions. While the office of Prothonotary was also established at that time, no method of his appointment was fixed and his functions were, for a long time, performed by the Clerk of the Court of Quarter Sessions who was as often known as the Prothonotary or the Clerk. By the mid-eighteenth century, the functions of the Orphans Court were transferred from the Court of Quarter Sessions to the Court of Common Pleas, but the Deputy Register-General in Philadelphia (who in 1776 became the Register of Wills) served as that court's clerk. In 1790 the Prothonotary was made an appointee of the Governor; in 1838 the office was made popularly elective for a term of three years. Under the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1874 (Article V, Section 7), the Prothonotary was made an appointee of the judges of the Common Pleas Court for a term of three years. This term was extended to four years in 1909. An Act of 1791 designated that all county court judges were to be appointed as justices of Common Pleas with jurisdiction as justices of Quarter Sessions and Oyer and Terminer also, but the Clerk of Quarter Sessions and Oyer and Terminer acted as their clerk in those jurisdictions. With the establishment of the District Court in 1811 the county's civil and equity jurisdictions were shared between that Court and Common Pleas until the former's abolishment in 1875 when they were given wholly to an expanded Court of Common Pleas. At the same time a separate panel of Orphans Court judges was established and the functions of the court confined entirely to them. With the establishment of Municipal (County) Court in 1913 the Prothonotary was made that Court's clerk in regard to its civil and equity jurisdictions.

Archival Records
20.1 Annual Reports (1958-1961, 1965)

20.2 Appearance Docket (1757-1913)

20.3 Judgement Docket (1810-1811, 1819-1874; missing: June 1811-December 1818.)

20.4 Execution Docket (1769-1874; missing: March 1796-December 1799)

20.5 Equity Docket (1836-1874)

20.6 Divorce Docket (1851-1875)

20.7 Lunacy Docket (September 1781-December 1824 and December 1836-December 1874 )

20.7a Lunacy Inquisitions (December 1889-March 1913)

20.8 Tax Lien Docket (1858-1874)

20.9 City Claim Docket (1854-1874)

20.10 Mechanics (and City to Use) Lien Docket (1836-1874)

20.11 Report of Tax Collectors of Real Estate to be Sold for Non-Payment of Taxes (1803-1818)

20.12 Miscellaneous Docket (1856-1867)

20.13 Docket and Papers, Declarations of Intention of Naturalization (1794-1911)

20.14 Petitions for Naturalization (1794-1903)

20.15 Partition Deeds (1740-1869, 1874-1947)

20.16 Sheriff's Deeds (1736-1905)

20.17 Minutes (July 1789 - March 1874; missing: March 1792-May 1799; January 1804-September 1808; January 1809-May 1810; July 1810-December 1812; March 1819-February 1821)

20.18 Court Officers' Time Book (1908-1910)

20.19 Proceedings in Equity (1837-1874)

20.20 Minutes, Civil Cases, Municipal Court (1921-1926; missing: August-November 1924)

20.21 Papers in Civil Litigations, Municipal Court (1915)

20.22 Medical Register (1881-1936)

20.23 Dental Register (1897-1946)

20.24 Osteopathic Register (1909-1951)

20.25 Midwife Register (1920-1934)

20.26 Veterinary Register (1889-1907)

20.27 Stallion Register (1909-1911)

20.28 List of Closed Banks and Liquidated Building and Loan Associations (1929-1940)

20.29 Rules of Practice and Procedure for the Board of Viewers (1911)

20.30 Insolvency Petitions and Bonds (1790-1868; missing: 1791-1795, 1805-1806, 1844, 1847, 1849, 1860)

20.30a Insolvent Docket (Dec. 1828-Aug. 1842, Sept. 1854 -Oct. 1874)

20.30b Insolvent Bonds (September 1827-December 1833 )

20.31 Naturalization Register (1795-1851)

20.32 Probation Department, Correspondence (1967-1974)

20.33 Aldermen's Bonds (April 1851 - June 1859)

20.34 Charter or Corporation Docket (June 1853-April 1864 and March 1869 -March 1874)

20.35 Extracts of the Minutes of the County Board (May 2, 1836 - January 23, 1852)

20.36 Debit, Single Bills (September 1836 - June 1872; missing: March Term 1844, March Term 1848, March Term 1866 - December Term 1869)

20.37 Opinions of Judge Thomas D. Finletter (March Term, 1929 - December Term 1930)

20.38 Common Pleas and Municipal Court. Annual Reports (1972, 1975-1977)

20.38a Common Pleas Court. Annual Report (1978-1981)

20.38b Municipal Court. Annual Report (1978-1981, 1983-1986, 1988-1991)

20.39 Progress Reports (October 1957)

20.40 Miscellaneous Papers (1832-1915)

20.41 Judge Francis Shunk Brown, Jr., Scrapbook (1928-1954)

20.42 Certiorari Docket (June 1857 - December 1874)

20.43 Certiorari Bonds (December 1852 - September 1913)

20.44 Feigned Issue Docket (December 1854 - December 1874 )

20.45 Assignees and Trustees Docket (1814-1875)

20.46 Assignee Bonds (Dockets) (February 1842 - September 1905; missing: March 1848-May 1854; March 1864-May 1866.)

20.47 Trustee Bonds (June 3, 1868 - March 10, 1871)

20.48 Appealed Bond Book (24 April 1882 - 13 February 1897 and 1 November 1889 - 6 May 1897)

20.49 Partnership Docket (11 November 1851 - 23 December 1874 )

20.50 Notary Register (1875 - 1937)

20.51 Feme Sole Traders (2 May 1872 - 24 December 1874 )

20.52 Testimony Perpetuated (June 1824 - December 1873)

20.53 Auditor's Reports (1850 - 1917)

20.54 Trial List (September 1863 - March 1867)

20.55 Current Motion List (15 December 1866 - 9 May 1868)

20.56 Equity and Miscellaneous Argument List (March 1857 - June 1868)

20.57 Petition Docket (December 1856 - December 1874)

20.58 Trustees' Accounts (1856-1943)

20.59 Family Court Division. Annual Report (1968-1974)

20.60 Court of Common Pleas/Public Information Office. Files (1969-1980)

20.61 Philadelphia Court Administration/Management And Evaluation Unit. Statistical Reports (1969-1972, 1974-1978)

20.62 Railroad Docket (1870-1874)

20.63 Builders' Contracts (1895-1907)

20.64 Register of Signatures, Notaries, Magistrates, etc. (1885-1938)

20.65 City Bills (1880-1922; missing July 1884-June 1887.)

20.66 (Law) Students' Register (9 January 1854 - 29 December 1873)

20.67 Board of Managers, Glen Mills Schools. Annual Reports (1949-1953, 1955, 1962)

Current Records
Unavailable


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Last updated on November 8, 2000