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Lancaster County Court System and the Commonwealth of PennsylvaniaWithin the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania there are four levels of Judiciary: Supreme Court, Superior Court / Commonwealth Court, Court of Common Pleas, and Minor Judiciary. In Lancaster County two of these levels comprise the court system, Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas, Second Judicial District, and the Lancaster County Minor Judiciary or Magisterial District Courts.
The Courts of the Minor Judiciary are the courts of initial jurisdiction. It is at this level where many court proceedings are instituted. A case may be referred or appealed from the Magisterial District Court to the Court of Common Pleas. Any appeals from the Court of Common Pleas are filed with the Superior Court or the Commonwealth Court, and in a few restricted instances, a case may be appealed directly to the state Supreme Court, which is the highest Court in Pennsylvania.
Because of their positions within Pennsylvania's unified judiciary, the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas and the Lancaster County Magisterial District Courts maintain wide-ranging contact with Lancaster County's citizens and thus facilitate the accessibility of judicial services.
Lancaster County judges and court officials have often set the example for other court systems with innovative programs to improve the administration of justice. In 1960, the court created a separate Office of Domestic Relations. With cooperation of local businesses in 1965, the court implemented a work release program at the Lancaster County Prison to promote rehabilitation of the offender.
Setting the Standard
In 1980, a Special Offenders Service project was launched within the probation and parole department. The special offenders project has gained national recognition for its work in supervising mentally ill and retarded persons who have been convicted of crimes. In the 1990's Lancaster County is still striving to set the standard for other jurisdictions.
The Intermediate Punishment Program provides an alternative to incarceration or traditional probation/parole services for the non-violent offender. Some forms of the Intermediate Punishment Program include house arrest and intensive supervision. In 1997, the Domestic Relations department became one of two pilot sites in the Commonwealth for implementation of the state-wide Pennsylvania Child Support Enforcement System (PACSES).
Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas Judges
David L. Ashworth, President Judge
David R. Workman
Dennis E. Reinaker
Jeffery D. Wright
Margaret C. Miller
Christopher A. Hackman
Jeffrey J. Reich
Leonard G. Brown, III
Merrill M. Spahn Jr.
Thomas B. Sponaugle
Jeffrey A. Conrad
Craig W. Stedman