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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Blog

In re Adoption of LBM and ADM: A Child and His Counsel

Posted by on Apr 9, 2017 in Civil, Family Law | 0 comments

A child’s legal interests are not the same as his best interests, and in proceedings for the Termination of Parental Rights, the child has a statutory right to counsel for the former, even if he already has a guardian ad litem for the latter. The holding in this case, which arises out of a Child and Youth Services (“CYS”) petition in Franklin County (home of John Brown’s Hideout), was a 5-2 decision upholding a child’s right to an attorney in Termination of Parental Rights proceedings to advocate for the child’s “preferred outcome” in the...

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Powell v. UCBR: Suspended Attorney May Not Practice Before Executive Agencies

Posted by on Apr 3, 2017 in Administrative Law, Attorney Discipline, Civil | 0 comments

The pecking order of preferred advocates, the non-lawyer is preferable to the suspended lawyer. In Powell v. UCBR, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that, while a non-attorney may practice before the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, an attorney under disciplinary suspension may not. Powell hired an attorney to represent him before the UCBR who, as it turned out, had been suspended from the practice of law and forbidden from appearing “in any hearing or proceeding,” including one before a referee in an executive agency setting....

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Bill Cosby Jury Pool Round-up

Posted by on Mar 15, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Today’s roundup is entirely composed of reaction to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s choice of Allegheny County for the new venire in the Bill Cosby case. Phil DiLucente of Pittsburgh’s WPXI News discusses the “great cross section of society” available in Allegheny County. Pittsburgh’s Tribune-Review and Post-Gazzette provide summaries of the maneuvering over the jury pool so far, along with some local reaction. Finally, though posted a few weeks ago, we offer The Legal Intelligencer’s pre-decision discussion of where to find an...

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Bill Cosby gets Allegheny Jury

Posted by on Mar 14, 2017 in Criminal | 0 comments

The “Twelve Angry Men” who will be called upon to decide Bill Cosby’s fate in his pending rape trial will hail from Allegheny County, the Supreme Court decided yesterday. Under Pa.R.Crim.P. 584, the decision to change “venire” (that is, the county pool from which the jury will be selected) rests with the trial court hearing the case. This case is unusual in that the change of venire was consented to by both sides in order to facilitate moving forward quickly to trial. Upon certification to SCOPA of an order to...

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Ford v. American States Ins. Co – UIM Waiver is Close Enough

Posted by on Feb 23, 2017 in Civil, Insurance, MVFRL | 0 comments

Sometimes, a few words can be very expensive; sometimes, they don’t matter. 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 1731 of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”) prescribes a form to be used verbatim by insurance companies when offering an insured the right to waive Underinsured Motorist coverage (“UIM coverage”) on their car insurance policy. For those unfamiliar, UIM coverage is what your insurance company pays out when your injuries exceed the policy limits of the responsible driver, and while insurance companies are required to offer UIM...

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Com v. Smyrnes: Capital Appeal

Posted by on Feb 22, 2017 in Criminal, Direct Capital Review | 0 comments

The facts in this case are a repeat of those in Com v. Knight, and they are horrific enough not to bear repeating. Smyrnes appears to have been the ringleader of the conspirators described in the previous appeal. As a matter of both practice and public interest, this case hardly warrants a review, as the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reviewed and affirmed all matters of the trial. Indeed, most of the points of review were deemed to have been waived by the Defendant, whose failure to object, and indeed, his endorsement of the trial court’s...

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City of Philadelphia v. Lerner—Ignoring the Government’s Requests for Information Only Works if You’re With the Government

Posted by on Nov 23, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Remember Lois Lerner? Remember her pleading the Fifth, and refusing to answer questions about alleged IRS wrongdoing?  In City of Phila. v. Lerner, we learn that this doesn’t work out the same way when you’re not employed by the government. In 2004, the City of Brotherly Love (home of the Tax-Free Shopping Spree) received an anonymous tip that one of its residents—Nathan Lerner—wasn’t shouldering his share of the city’s tax burdens and was concealing the existence of businesses (and thus, their taxable profits) from the City. But games of...

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Com v. Martinez: Plea Deals are Contracts

Posted by on Sep 29, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The right to trial by jury is so valuable that giving it up binds the prosecution to whatever was promised the defendant–even in the face of a subsequent statutory change. This case is a consolidation of three cases that came out of York County (home of the “first” capital of the United States). The case turns out to be a simple re-affirmation of the right to the benefit of your bargain, even if you are a criminal, and that bargain is with a prosecutor. Three defendants accused of crimes agreed to plea deals that required them to...

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Com. v. Kindler: Escaping SCOPA Jurisdiction…For Now

Posted by on Sep 28, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

This case is short and simple, but the backstory is fascinating. Arrested for burglary in 1982, Joseph Kindler managed to escape from jail, although he was recaptured quickly. Shortly thereafter, while out on bail, he murdered the key witness against him in the burglary. Convicted of the murder in 1983, he was never sentenced because he managed to escape from the maximum security prison he was in by sawing through the bars. Two years later, he was arrested for a new burglary in Quebec, Canada (home of North America’s only Holy Door). He...

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Rule 1.17 Amended: You may sell a practice area without selling your whole practice

Posted by on Sep 24, 2016 in Rule-Making Powers | 0 comments

On Friday, the Court released an amendment to Rule of Professional Conduct 1.17 (Relating to Sale of Law Practice), allowing for the purchase of a practice area, rather than of an entire practice.  Previously, the rule only spoke to an attorney selling his whole practice and ceasing any active practice of law.  The amendment provides that an attorney may–to use the Supreme Court’s example–sell his estate planning practice, but retain his probate work. The Rule also clarifies that an attorney who comes back to practice later is not...

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