Public Access Policy for Court Records

The Supreme Court has adopted a new public access policy for records of appellate and trial courts in Pennsylvania. Public Access Policy of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania: Case Records of the Appellate and Trial Courts; No. 477 Judicial Administration Doc., 47 Pa.B. 291 (1/21/2017).

Included in the new policy is a table of limits to public access for different kinds of cases, with the following limits for matters within the Orphans’ Court:

Subject AreaRecord Description AccessibilityAuthority
Orphans’ Court Proceedings related to appointment of
guardianship for incapacitated persons.
Shall be closed to the public upon request of the alleged incapacitated person or his counsel. After the individual’s death his/her estate may access the record of the guardianship proceedings.20 Pa.C.S. § 5511(a); In re Estate of duPont, 2 A.3d 516 (Pa. 2010).
Orphans’ Court Records required for foreign adoption decrees.No Public Access unless a court order is granted upon good cause.23 Pa.C.S. § 2908(F); Pa.O.C.R. 15.7.
Orphans’ Court Adoption records.No Public Access unless otherwise ordered.23 Pa.C.S. § 2915; see also 23 Pa.C.S. § 2906; Pa.O.C.R. 15.7.
Orphans’ Court (Family Court in Philadelphia County or Juvenile Court Section of Family Division in
Allegheny County Pa.R.J.A. 2157)
Applications of a minor for
judicial approval of decision
to have an abortion, under
the Abortion Control Act, as
well as proceedings and the name of the minor.
No Public Access; sealed dockets, and documents shall be maintained in a closed file marked ‘‘confidential’’ and identified by case number only.18 Pa.C.S. § 3206(f); Pa.O.C.R. 16.2 and 16.6. Note also Pa.R.J.A. No. 2157 and Pa.R.A.P. 3801.
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