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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Blog

Com v. Maconeghy, Jr.: Medical testimony based on nothing but another witness’s testimony is not all right, all right, all right

Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 in Criminal, Expert Testimony, Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence | 0 comments

In a criminal prosecution about sexual assault of a child, a medical doctor opined, “The history [the child] provided to me pretty clearly indicated that she was sexually abused.” The doctor concluded with this classic statement of scientific certainty: “I really believe strongly that was my medical conclusion that this child was victimized.” Can a doctor testify to a medical opinion based entirely on the “history” provided by the alleged victim? Our Supreme Court rules that the doctor cannot offer such testimony because such testimony...

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Com. v. Spotz: This is getting old

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in Criminal | 0 comments

The Post-Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”) allows a criminal defendant to file a petition within one year of final judgment seeking review of his conviction. This protection ensures that every criminal defendant will have at least two chances to prove that a mistake sent them to prison—or worse, to death row. The Supreme Court of Pennsylania maintains mandatory and exclusive jurisdiction of all death penalty appeals, whether on direct or collateral action. This includes PCRA appeals—even where the PCRA board found that the petition was totally...

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City of Arnold v. Wage Policy Comm. Of Arnold Police Department: Hey Arnold! We’re going to Arbitration

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

A police widow in Arnold, Pennsylvania (home to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood Musical Director, Johnny Costa), received 50% of her husband’s pension for several years before a helpful state auditor caught the “mistake.” The city sent her notice of the change, and informed her that her pension would be cut down to 25%, and that the city would graciously enforce a loan repayment plan on the widow in the amount of $10 a month out of her new, lower pension. The police union filed a grievance, and litigated the matter before an arbitrator, who...

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Nextel v. Commonwealth: Uniformity Clause Bars Flat Cap for Taxes, but Statute is Severable

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in Civil, Constitutional Provisions, Tax Law | 0 comments

When paying corporate income tax in Pennsylvania, a corporation is permitted to carry over a net loss from the previous year to reduce the current tax year’s taxable income. However, the amount of deduction the corporation may receive—the amount of “net loss” it may carry over from the prior year—is capped at the greater of 12.5% of its current tax year income, or a flat cap of $3 million. Nextel’s 2007 deduction from its 2006 net losses was capped at 12.5% of its 2007 income because this was greater than the $3 million flat fee cap. Nextel...

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In re DCD: Best Interests of a Juvenile Delinquent Beat out Concerns over Community Welfare

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in Criminal, Juvenile | 0 comments

DCD, a ten-year-old child with a low IQ, was adjudicated delinquent after sexually assaulting his younger sister. Several sexual assaults followed as DCD was moved from facility to facility and given treatments that ultimately did not help him progress. After several assaults, there were few facilities that were open to him, due to his record, his young age, the lack of contracts with the county, and his specific needs. One facility was eligible to take him, but would not because of their agreement with the local township not to take...

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Coughlin v. Massaquoi: No per se Requirement for Corroborating Evidence before BAC is admissible in a civil case

Posted by on Sep 29, 2017 in Admissibility, Civil, Rules of Evidence | 0 comments

When is blood alcohol content (BAC) admissible in a civil case to prove negligence (including contributory negligence)? In the context of a car accident, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has previously held that “the word drinking . . . carries the inevitable connotation of considerable drinking,” Harvey v. Doliner, 399 Pa. 356 (1960), and that courts must be careful to weigh the prejudice resulting from such connotations against the relevance of the evidence under Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 403. The Superior Court has taken this ruling...

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Lomas v. Kravitz: Motion for Recusal should be made immediately, if not sooner

Posted by on Sep 29, 2017 in Civil, Recusal | 0 comments

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in Lomas v. Kravitz that a motion for recusal must be made as soon as the facts on which the motion is based come to light, or be forever barred. James Kravitz breached a contract with Roy Lomas in Montgomery County (home of the largest mall in the United States) and had judgment of more than $200,000 entered against him. Lomas was represented during this time by a lawyer who is now Judge Branca of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. For the next 25 years, Kravitz played cat and mouse with Lomas,...

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Rancosky v. Washington Nat’l Ins. Co: Terletsky standard prevails for bad faith claims

Posted by on Sep 29, 2017 in Civil, Insurance | 0 comments

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted the Superior Court’s Terletsky v. Prudential Property & Cas. Ins. Co. standard for determining bad faith, ruling that no evidence of ill-will is required, nor is there a heightened leval of malice necessary for a finding of punitive damages under the 42 Pa.C.S. § 8371. LeAnn Rancosky purchased a cancer treatment insurance policy from Washington National Insurance Company (which presumably has no connection to the baseball team that shares its name). A provision of the policy provided that, if...

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Com v. Aikens: Trial Court’s Instruction Gives Insight into Jury’s Findings

Posted by on Aug 23, 2017 in Sentencing | 0 comments

18 Pa.C.S. § 6318 criminalizes “Unlawful Contact with a Minor.” One might think of this statute as an inchoate for the entire child-sexual-victimizing portion of the criminal code. If a defendant contacts a child for the purpose of sexual victimization, that contact is sufficient to support a conviction under this statute. The statute is graded as a 3rd degree felony—unless the crime which the defendant contacted the victim to lure her into is graded worse, in which case that grading controls. So when Markeith Aikens was convicted of...

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ODC v. Quigley: Misuse of IOLTA funds warrants disbarment

Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Attorney Discipline | 0 comments

Quigley was an attorney with a “generally good reputation as a good trial attorney.” However, Mr. Quigley began to have money problems. Other difficulties arose, including when an ad in the phonebook was printed with the wrong phone number, and business dried up. He misused IOLTA funds from five clients over three years, and the Court rules that he is disbarred. Majority by Mundy: Misuse of client funds warrants disbarment Justice Mundy, writing for the majority, concludes, “The misuse of client funds in five separate matters, over three...

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