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What the Heck Is a Prothonotary?

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

A Prothonotary is an elected official responsible for maintaining and managing the civil records of the Court of Common Pleas. This includes filing and preserving documents related to civil cases, such as lawsuits, divorces, and other legal proceedings. The Prothonotary also issues writs and subpoenas, and plays a crucial role in facilitating the legal process.

Young African-American Woman in a white turtleneck shirt,  shrugging, palms out, as if to say, "The heck if I know!"
What most people know about the Prothonotary. But now you know the story.

The word "prothonotary" has been used in English since 1447 to mean the "top clerk of a court." The term originated in medieval Europe, referring to the Chief Clerk of the Byzantine Empire's public records office. The "protonotarios" was the leader of the record-keeping group in the court. This title combined the Greek words "protos" meaning "first" and Latin "notarius" meaning "notary" or "scribe." In Medieval Latin the "h" was added. Over time, the term evolved and was adopted into various legal systems, including those in the United States, with the Prothonotary serving as a key figure in the administration of justice at the county level.

In Chester County, PA, there is a distinction between the Clerk of the Courts and the Prothonotary. The Clerk of Courts is specifically responsible for the records and filings of the criminal court. In contrast, the Prothonotary has administrative control and responsibility for keeping and maintaining non-criminal court records and filings. All civil litigation is filed with the Prothonotary.

For 2023 we have an excellent candidate for this elected position in attorney Michael Taylor. His background in the law will enable him to deliver a high level of service so Chester County residents and businesses can resolve their issues in a timely manner.

Image courtesy of wayhomestudioa on Freepik

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