Statutory Law

Laws of Pennsylvania

Every state publishes chronological laws passed by its state legislature. In Pennsylvania, legislation has been published since the colonial period. Eighteenth century publications by Andrew Bradford, Reynier Jensen, Benjamin Franklin, Miller, Francis Bailey, and Alexander Dallas. In early nineteenth century, John Bioren published a chronological set in 1804 and then again in 1810. The 1810 set, compiled under the editorship of Charles Smith, is known as Smith's Laws, that contained the laws from 1700 to 1809. Another two volumes brought the set down to 1816. John Reed continued the set down to 1829 and so it is sometimes referred to as Smith-Reed's Laws of Pennsylvania. Other 19th century authors of statutory law were John Dunlap.

Since the Revolution, the Laws of the Pennsylvania have been published in annual volumes down to 1878, odd-year volumes from 1879 to 1965, and thereafter annual volumes. Today, the volumes are published usually in single volumes for odd-numbered years and two volumes for even-numbered years. The legislative session meets for a two-year period and bills will die if not published by the end of the second session.
Slip laws are published and then brought together into bound volumes.
The legislature now has the laws since 1981 available at its web site,

Purdon's Pennsylvania Legislative Service

Purdon's Pennsylvania Legislative Service is an unofficial compilation of current statutory law published by West Group. It is an alternative set to the official Laws of Pennsylvania. The paperback issues are published irregularly during the year from three to seven issues depending on the number of laws published either in an odd or even year. (In some states like New York, they are published every month.) The pamphlets are generally kept in law libraries until the laws are published in the annual pocket parts of Purdon's Statutes, and/or bound volumes (since 1997) or official Laws of Pennsylvania are published.

The pamphlets contain the chronological laws, new court rules, list of new and repealed statutes, and a general subject index at the end of each issue that cumulates previous issues.

Laws published under the older Purdon's Statutes titles (P.S.) have footnote references providing cross references from the individual sections over to the title and section in Purdon's Statutes. For consolidated titles, the appropriate title and section is provided.

Smith's Laws

In 1810, Judge Charles Smith edited a chronological set of laws of Pennsylvania from 1700 to 1809 published by John Bioren. The original set was four volumes with an fifth volume general index added later and then two more volumes. Later Judge John Reed continued to publish volumes down to 1829. The complete set consists of ten volumes and is sometimes referred to as Smith's-Reed's Laws of Pennsylvania.

This set is important because it is cited in Purdon's Statutes for any pre-1829 laws as Sm. L. It also contains important editorial footnotes that provide important sources for legal history. For instance, volume 2 has over 200 pages on the history of land law in Pennsylvania or 90 pages on the history of criminal law in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (Official)

Pennsylvania is the last state to attempt to consolidate its statutes. Up to 1970 the chronological laws were recompiled into a topical arrangement by a private commercial law publisher, West Group, in the set known as Purdon's Statutes (Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated)..

In 1970, the legislature enacted legislation calling for the codification of the statutory law of Pennsylvania. Under codification two processes take place: first, the legislature pass laws that repeal laws that are obsolete. Second, similar topics are brought together. This is done by repealing the older statutes and either enacting them as new legislation or repealing them and enacting text of new laws. For instance, titles 1 (adoption), 11 (children), 23 (divorce) and 48 (marriage) were repealed and brought together under a new title 23 now called Domestic Relations. Text of some of the titles was reprinted under the new title, while some text is totally new. Another example is statutes of limitations which are spread out under each title of Purdon's Statutes. Consolidation repeals all of these titles/sections and reenacts new statutes organized by year and then subdivided by topic under Title 42 Pa.C.S. 5500-5530. Thus the one year, two year, four year, etc. have types of limitations under each year.

The new compilation revises many of the titles and there is an increase from 77 titles under Purdon's Statutes to 79 titles under the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes.

The process for recompiling the statutory law is very slow and is performed by small committees of legislators and experts in the particular field. The legislature has only codified about 25% of the titles in the last 30 years. Completed title revisions include titles 3, 13, 15, 18, 20, 23, 34, 42, 45, 51, 54, 62, 66, and 75. Other titles are only partially revised. These may be published in the bound volumes or only in the pocket parts.

The new laws are published as the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (Pa.C.S.). This is an official, unannotated set of the recompiled titles in eight looseleaf binders. There are 79 titles under the new arrangement. It is updated annually with revised supplementary pamphlets.

In Purdon's Statutes, West Group has incorporated both the older titles and new consolidated titles into one set. New consolidated titles are sometimes published as new volumes in Purdon's which is now called Purdon's Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated. Older titles have PENNA on the spine; new titles have Pa.C.S.A. For some titles that have not been completely consolidated, like title 68, the bound volume (Title 68-70) is divided into title 68 P.S. and 68 Pa.C.S.A. The former contains the Landlord-Tenant Act of 1951; the latter contains the Uniform Condominium Law. For other partial revisions, one must consult the pocket parts. Title 22, for instance, has 22 P.S. updates in the pocket parts as well as 22 Pa.C.S.A. as an appendix to Title 22.

Conversion Tables: Because of the rewriting of the statutory law, conversion tables are needed to take the researcher from the older citations to the newer citations. These tables are found at the front of each title as needed. The Disposition Tables provide citations in double columns from the older titles and section on the left hand side of the column over to the new titles and sections on the right hand side. Derivation Tables provide references from the newer citations back to the older citations. These tables appear only in the first volume of a multi-volume set, e.g., Title 42 101-1700, contains the tables but not the later volumes of Title 42. Remember also to check the pocket part for that volume for later revisions to the tables.

There is a Master Disposition Table pamphlet published along with the general indexes each year.

Purdon's Statutes (full title: Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated).

Purdon's Statutes is an unofficial, annotated compilation of the Pennsylvania constitution, statutes, and state court rules compiled by a private commercial publisher, West Group. The current edition is the 14th edition, begun in 1930, kept up to date by revised volumes, annual pocket parts, and recompiled volumes.

The set is divided into five parts:
1. Constitution of Pennsylvania (Constitution of 1968 with amendments, earlier editions cited in the historical notes);
2. Chronological laws since 1700 published in a subject classification of 77 titles;
3. State court rules of civil procedure, criminal procedure, appellate procedure, evidence, and district magistrate rules, rules of professional responsibility, rules of model conduct, found after Title 42 Pa.C.S.;
4. Tables volumes that give cross references from the chronological laws to Purdon's Statutes citations (3 vols.);
5. General index (2 vols. A-L, M-Z). A popular names table comes after the M-Z references.

As an annotated set, the constitution, statutes, and court rules have references to court cases, topics of the West Digest System, Corpus Juris Secundum and Pennsylvania Law Encyclopedia, form books, law review articles, and treatises.

Indexes can be found after each title and the general index at the end of the set.

Some of the titles have articles explaining major changes that have occurred in that title at the time that the article was written. See William H. Clark, Jr. "Introduction to the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes," Titles 1-3 Pa.C.S.A. (1995).