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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Blog

Villani v. Seibert: Dragonetti Statute Does Not Violate Separation of Powers; But We’re Leaving the Door Open

Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Attorney Discipline, Constitutional Provisions, Rule-Making Powers | 0 comments

  Civil lawyers know—and may even fear—the threat of a Dragonetti action. The draconian name accurately depicts one of the few times in law that a lawyer can subsequently be called into court for his actions as an advocate. The Act is named for Joseph Dragonetti, a then-retired reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, who unsuccessfully brought suit after he was frivolously named in a lawsuit against a bank which he had done some marketing for. Dragonetti was unable to recover because of the common law rule—dating back to the 13th...

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Pittman v. Pa. Bd. of Probation and Parole: Board Abused its Discretion by Failing to Use Discretion

Posted by on Apr 29, 2017 in Constitutional Provisions, Criminal, Probation and Parole | 0 comments

The Parole Violation statute requires the Board of Probation and Parole to use its discretion when considering whether to credit “time at liberty on parole” to a convicted parole violator’s re-sentencing for the underlying crime, the Supreme Court has ruled in Pittman v. Pa. Bd. of Probation and Parole. Furthermore, the Board must explain its decision in order to provide an opportunity for effective appellant review. Kevin Pittman was sentenced in 2010 for a Possession With Intent to Distribute, and was paroled a year later. While on parole,...

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Com v. Yandamuri: Direct Capital Appeal

Posted by on Apr 28, 2017 in Criminal, Direct Capital Review | 0 comments

Com v. Yandamuri was a direct capital appeal case pursuant to the Court’s responsibility to directly review all death penalty cases. In a botched baby-kidnapping-for-ransom attempt, Raghunandan Yandamuri, a non-citizen, knocked on the door of the home of friends, forced entry and threatened the grandmother with a four-inch knife. The grandmother struggled when Yandamuri grabbed the baby, and he stabbed Grandmother in the throat several times, killing her. He then stuffed a cloth in the baby’s mouth, bound the baby’s head with a towel (to keep...

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City of Allentown v. Int’l Ass’n of Fire Fighters Local 302: Minimum staffing is not managerial prerogative

Posted by on Apr 27, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

In order to facilitate efficient and final labor agreements for public entities, Pennsylvania’s Act 111 provides for binding arbitration where an impasse in negotiations is reached. Such arbitration award can only deal with matters rationally related to the terms and conditions of employment, however, and specifically exempted from the realm of matters related to employment are those matters which are “managerial prerogative.” The trouble begins where a matter that is fairly within the parameters of the terms and conditions of employment is...

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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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