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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Blog

Com v. Crispell: PCRA Petitions may be amended to add new claims, even if the new claims fall outside of the “one year” rule

Posted by on Sep 25, 2018 in Criminal, PCRA | 0 comments

In an otherwise mundane PCRA affirmance, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled unanimously that a PCRA petitioner may move to amend his petition to add an additional claim, even if that claim could not be independently brought as a second petition where a second petition would be time barred. PCRA petitions must normally be filed within one year of final adjudication. Crispell filed his petition timely, but then obtained information tending to implicate a Brady violation after his filing. While more than a year had passed, at that time,...

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Com v. Wilmer: Community Caretaking exception to warrant requirement lasts until officer is done rendering assistance

Posted by on Sep 25, 2018 in Criminal, Fourth Amendment, Search | 0 comments

A party at a sorority house led to a drunk college kid on the roof of the house, stumbling about, looking as though he were about to fall off the roof. While the “community caretaking” exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment justified the police officer’s initial entry into the home in an attempt to keep the young man from falling off the roof, it did not justify the officer’s subsequent re-entry into the house to search the rooms of the home for drugs. The Troopers’ concerns were apparently not unfounded, as the young...

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Danganan v. Guardian Protective Services: UTPCPL violation need not be in Pennsylvania

Posted by on Mar 2, 2018 in Civil, Statutory Interpretation, UTPCPL | 0 comments

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Danganan v. Guardian Protective Services that a violation of the Unfair Trade Practices Consumer Protection Law need not have occurred in Pennsylvania to be cognizable under the statute. This case was certified to SCOPA from the Third Circuit, meaning that the Third Circuit asked SCOPA to settle an unsettled question of Pennsylvania law so that the Federal Court could adjudicate the dispute. This case represents a relatively rare look into a unique aspect of our federalist judicial system....

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Com v. Fulton: Warrantless Cell Phone searches violate both Constitutions

Posted by on Feb 26, 2018 in Appellate, Criminal, Fourth Amendment, Harmless Error, Search | 0 comments

In a relatively-unsurprising re-affirmation of recent SCOTUS caselaw, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled 6-0 in Commonwealth v. Fulton that a warrantless search of a cell phone is unconstitutional and must be suppressed. SCOPA also ruled that the search violates Article I, section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which places this ruling out of the reach of any changes in Federal search jurisprudence in the future. The Philadelphia Police (who once arrested one of the world’s first serial killers), after arresting I. Dean Fulton on...

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Federal Block to Gerrymandering Roundup 2-26-18

Posted by on Feb 26, 2018 in Round-ups | 0 comments

The fight over SCOPA’s gerrymandering decision continues. SCOTUS denied cert from the first decision, but now the issuance of the map is being challenged. Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog fame discusses the status of the challenge in the middle district. In response to the calls for impeachment of SCOPA justices, Constitution Daily offers this helpful piece on the efforts to impeach state judges throughout history. The Mercury (of Montgomery County) offers its views on the GOP’s long-term worries about the Court. As always, feel free...

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

Posted by on Feb 26, 2018 in Civil, Constitutional Provisions, Elections | 0 comments

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

EDIT: The map has been released as promised by the Court, along with a brief opinion on February 19, re-outlining the views of the Court. We have included it here for ease of reference. 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...

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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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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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