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Zimmerman's Research Guide



This entry is organized by the branches of government.

I. General 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.

II. 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. Jenkins posts information on obtaining Committee Reports here.

III. 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. The Independent 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 the Pennsylvania Bulletin, etc.

IV. 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's Atlantic 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 Legaldockets.com. 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 in Chrostwaite'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 and Pennsylvania 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.

V. 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 Research guide from the Widener Law Library.

See Also
Attorney General Opinions
Docket Sheets
Legal Ethics
Legal Treatises
State Cases
State Constitutions
State Court Rules
State Government Agencies
State Laws, generally
State Regulations and Administrative Codes
State Statutes and Codes

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2015 Andrew Zimmerman