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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Blog

Com v. Yong: Collective Knowledge Doctrine Affirmed

Posted by on Feb 23, 2018 in Criminal, Fourth Amendment, Seizure, Suppression | 0 comments

When two police officers independently have the information necessary to constitute probable cause, but they have not communicated these facts to each other, is the arrest of the defendant constitutional? The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania says yes, in a 4-2 ruling in Commonwealth v. Yong. Mr. Yong’s suspected drug dealing in Philadelphia (home of the World Champions) was the subject of surveillance by the Philadelphia Police in 2011. During that time, he was observed by Officers McCook and Morales conducting marijuana transactions. The record...

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Com v. DiMatteo: PCRA petitioner entitled to new sentence where SCOTUS change occurred before his sentence was final

Posted by on Feb 22, 2018 in Criminal, PCRA, Sentencing | 0 comments

Commonwealth v. DiMatteo resolves an obscure overlap in sentencing rules in Pennsylvania, confirming that a Defendant is entitled to resentencing where he was not sentenced on his open plea before a SCOTUS decision established that the ultimate sentence he would receive was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania rules unanimously that a PCRA petitioner is entitled to resentencing because Alleyne v. United States was decided by SCOTUS before Dimatteo was sentenced. This holding resolves an ambiguity that arose where the Court had...

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Shearer v. Hafer: Interlocutory Appeal unavailable for civil pretrial dispute over right to counsel at psychological examination

Posted by on Feb 14, 2018 in Appellate Procedure, Civil Procedure | 0 comments

In Shearer v. Hafer, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania rules 6-1 that an interlocutory appeal was not appropriate in a pretrial discovery dispute over whether a plaintiff has the right to counsel at a psychological examination because the right involved was not important, and would not be lost on appeal. The case arises out of a personal injury action. The Defendants asked for a psychological exam pursuant to Pa.R.C.P. 4010, and Mrs. Shearer insisted on having her attorney present. Mr. Hafer and his codefendant had a doctor who alleged that...

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League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth: The “Free and Equal Elections” Clause Prohibits Gerrymandering

Posted by on Feb 14, 2018 in Civil, Constitutional Provisions, Elections | 0 comments

Ever since the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an expedited order in League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth, ordering the Commonwealth Court to proceed with discovery and findings of fact, many have speculated as to whether the Court would really rush out in front of the Supreme Court of the United States on the issue of gerrymandering and issue a decision attempting to proscribe the practice. In January, the Court not only did so, but in a 5-2 decision, required the legislature and governor to come to terms on a new congressional map...

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Com v. VanDivner: Three Part Miller Test Establishes Sanity for Death Penalty

Posted by on Feb 13, 2018 in Criminal, Murder, PCRA | 0 comments

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled 6-0 in Commonwealth v. VanDivner that a defendant whose intellectual impairments interfere with his ability to cognitively adapt is mentally incompetent as regards the death penalty in Pennsylvania. Under SCOTUS precedent Atkins v. Virginia, such an individual may not be put to death. This case also serves as a reminder that a death penalty case which comes to the Court under its exclusive appellate jurisdiction over death penalty cases is remanded upon the Court’s ruling that the death penalty is...

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County of Allegheny v. WCAB: Attorneys’ Fees Awarded cannot be refunded after successful appeal

Posted by on Feb 13, 2018 in Workers Compensation | 0 comments

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled in County of Allegheny v. Workers Compensation Appeal Board that an award of attorneys’ fees against an employer for an “unreasonable contest” cannot be disgorged, even after a successful appeal by the employer. The Workers Compensation statute provides for attorneys’ fees to be awarded to an employee unless the employer can show that the contest of liability had “a reasonable basis.” In this case, the Workers Compensation Appeal Board assessed $14,750 in attorneys’ fees against...

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ODC v. Pozonsky: Judge Who Stole Drugs for Recreational Is Disbarred

Posted by on Feb 13, 2018 in Attorney Discipline | 0 comments

It will qualify as the least surprising holding of the year: in Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Pozonsky, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled 7-0 that a former Court of Common Pleas judge who routinely stole drugs from an evidence room in the courthouse must be disbarred from the practice of law. Paul Pozonsky was an MDJ and Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Washington County (home of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum) for 27 years. During his time as a CCP judge, he presided over a number of drug trials and implemented the Treatment...

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Com v. Wholaver: PCRA death penalty appeal yields nothing of interest

Posted by on Jan 31, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The unanimous Court rejected the arguments of a PCRA petitioner in Com v. Wholaver. As regular followers of the Court are aware, all death penalty cases result in a direct appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, even on collateral review. These cases often yield little of interest to the practitioner, and this case is such an example. Wholaver challenged his conviction for murder on eleven different grounds, including inadequate assistance of counsel, a Brady violation, prosecutorial misconduct, striking a juror for cause, hearsay, and...

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League of Women Voters v. Com: Congressional Map Violates PA Constitution

Posted by on Jan 22, 2018 in Constitutional Provisions | 0 comments

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decided today in a 4-3 per curiam decision that the congressional map drawn by the General Assembly is too partisan, and must be stricken because it violates the Pennsylvania Constitution. “[T]he Court finds as a matter of law that the Congressional Redistricting Act of 2011 clearly, plainly and palpably violates the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and, on that sole basis, we hereby strike it as unconstitutional.” The Court then enjoined the map’s use for the upcoming...

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Gerrymandering Oral Argument Roundup 1-18-18

Posted by on Jan 18, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Our roundup is all about Gerrymandering today. The Allentown Morning Call covers the oral argument and provides quotes from political operatives on both sides. The Philly Inquirer gives a balanced look at the lawsuits possible outcomes. Reuters tacitly predicts a win for the League of Women Voters challenging the map, and HuffPost agrees. PennLive notes that it doesn’t matter whether the onlooker likes the congressional map or not; the suit turns on whether the constitution is implicated. As far away as Bryan, Texas (home of “The...

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