The Clerk of Court of Quarter Sessions and Oyer and Terminer has existed in Pennsylvania since the first organization of English government in colonial America. A change in the State Constitution consolidated all the various courts into the Court of Common Pleas, with the clerk thence known as the Clerk of Court.
Many of the records that are now obsolete were at one time preserved by the clerk. Some of the more interesting of these were Bolter and Baker Brandmarks (1724); Peddler's Bonds (1830); and Stallion Certificates (1877). Many of the duties performed by other county officials were once the responsibility of the early clerk including judgments, recording of deeds, and naturalization records. Over time, the clerk of court has evolved into an office primarily responsible for criminal and juvenile records.
The earliest docket books for Dauphin County are carefully preserved. These records are transcribed in elegant cursor unique to the times. They include the formation of Dauphin County in 1785 and the first recorded crime stealing a horse. Most of the remaining historical records are maintained on micro-film.
Including several home rule counties where court officials are appointed, there is an elected clerk of court or like official in each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. Clerks' of Court are elected to terms of four years. The Clerk of Court of Quarter Sessions and Oyer and Terminer has existed in Pennsylvania since the first organization of English government in colonial America. A change in the State Constitution consolidated all the various courts into the Court of Common Pleas, with the clerk thence known as the Clerk of Court.
History - Court of Common Pleas
Pennsylvania's courts began as a collection of courts, some inherited from the reign of the Duke of York and others established by William Penn. They were mostly local, under the control of the Governor, and all run by non-lawyers. Although an appellate court was established in 1684, final appeals had to be taken to England. Sanctioned by the crown, a state Supreme Court and three county courts were created in 1727.
In 1776, the Pennsylvania Constitution established the Court of Sessions and the Court of Common Pleas in each county. A new constitution in 1790 grouped counties into judicial districts and placed president judges at the head of each district. In addition to the Courts of Common Pleas, the courts evolved to include the Courts of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery, and the Quarter Sessions of the Peace and Orphans Courts. The Constitution of 1968 reorganized the judiciary into the Unified Judicial System essentially bring together the state courts, the Court of Common Pleas, and the magisterial district courts.
Pennsylvania has 67 counties and 60 judicial districts. Each district is composed of a number of judges set by the legislature loosely based on population. The Court of Common Pleas in Dauphin County is the Twelfth Judicial District and consists of eight judges elected to terms of ten years.