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Supreme Court Admissions 1871 to 1969


Today, the Supreme Court admits attorneys to practice in any court within the Unified Judicial System. However, prior the creation of the UJS in 1969, attorneys needed to be admitted to the individual courts in which they wanted to practice.

The Court sitting in 1961 in its courtroom in Independence Hall swearing-in attorneys to practice in the Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania's First Female Attorneys

Mrs. Kilgore was denied admission to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Nos. 1, 2, and 3; however, she was admitted to practice in the Orphans Court, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas No. 4, and the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. On May 7, 1885, the legislature passed an act for all attorneys admitted to any court to practice in every court upon motion and with a certificate of good standing from the President Judge. This legislation allowed her to be admitted to practice before the Supreme Court, and after re-application to be admitted to those Courts to which she had previously be denied admission.

Ida Kast later applied for admission to Supreme Court and was admitted in 1900.

Source: Cumberland County History, Summer 1997, Volume Fourteen Number One.

In 1834, the legislature created a Board of Examiners charged with testing the fitness of people to practice law in the Commonwealth.

On March 15, 1894, Ida Kast, upon motion of William Penn Lloyd, became the first woman admitted to practice law in the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas with that court writing:

"We have had grave doubts as to whether in the laws of this Commonwealth and the rules of this Court provision is made for the admission of women to the practice of law. But as the Supreme Court of our State has admitted a Lady to its Bar we are not disposed to refuse the prayer of the applicant."

That Lady? Carrie Burnham Kilgore. Attorney Kilgore was an educator in  Philadelphia before graduating from the University of  Pennsylvania's Law Department


Carrie Burnham Kilgore.

Credit: University Archives, University of Pennsylvania


Carrie Burnham Kilgore’s law school class posing for a photograph on the steps of College Hall at the University of Pennsylvania. Burnham (top row center) was the first woman admitted to Penn’s law school and graduated in 1883 with a Bachelor of Laws being recognized by her classmates as a peer.


Credit: University Archives, University of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's First Female Justice

Alpern took her place on the bench in September 1961, but lost a narrow election to keep her seat that same year. In 1988, Governor Robert Casey, Sr., appointed Juanita Kidd Stout to serve as the first African-American women to serve on any high court in the Country. However, it wasn't until 1996, when Sandra Schultz Newman, began her service as the first woman elected to the Supreme Court. In 2022, Debra Todd became the first woman to serve as Chief Justice in the Court's history. 

Many legal luminaries have been admitted to practice before the Court and are contained in these books including, Chief Justices Cappy and Flaherty, Justices Dean and Manderino, as well as federal judges and even Governor Casey, himself.

Learn more about the people that have helped shape the judiciary.

Anne X. Alpern was admitted to the Supreme Court in 1927, the same year she graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.


Alpern later worked as Pittsburgh's City Solicitor eventually being elected to serve as judge on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. In 1959, Governor David Lawrence appointed Alpern to serve as the first female Attorney General in the Country.

In 1961, Governor Lawrence appointed Alpern to fill a vacancy on the Court making history again as the first woman to serve in the Court's history.

Supreme Court Briefs From 1878


In order to make their decisions, judges rely on the arguments of attorneys on opposite sides of a legal issue. After being admitted to practice, attorneys file briefs, or paper books, which contained a history of the case and issues and making arguments for the affirmance or overturning of a lower court's decision.

This book contains reproductions of briefs filed with the court in 1878, including a brief authored by future Justice Silas M. Clark (1883-1891).

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