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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Blog

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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D.P. v. G.J.P.: Mere separation of parents is insufficient grounds to give grandparents standing to force custody dispute

Posted by on Sep 10, 2016 in Civil, Constitutional Provisions, Family Law | 0 comments

The fourteenth amendment’s due process clause requires “that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents,” (quoting Prince v. Mass, 321 U.S. 158, 166 (1944)), and giving third parties–including grandparents–standing to initiate a custody battle before the courts invokes strict scrutiny. 23 Pa.C.S. § 5322 previously purported to give such standing to grandparents and great-grandparents when the parents had been separated for six months or more, presumably on the basis that such separation made the parents...

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Friday round-up – 9/9/16

Posted by on Sep 9, 2016 in Round-ups | 0 comments

This week’s Court news is mostly about Sprague v. Cortes. CBS-Philly efficiently summarizes the deadlock, while Angela Couloumbis at Philly.com gives a more in-depth discussion of the present status of the case, and of the Plaintiffs’ efforts to keep the challenge alive. Meanwhile, an editorial in The Inquirer criticizes Justice Baer’s opinion in the case, and urges the Commonwealth Court to rule in favor of re-writing the question. On the other side of the issue, State Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery) offers this thoughtful...

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Cortes v. Sprague: Ambiguous Ballot Question Splits the Court

Posted by on Sep 2, 2016 in Civil, Constitutional Provisions, Elections | 0 comments

Pennsylvania’s courts have been the site of an unusual amount of unfolding drama this year, from the sordid tale of Bill Cosby’s fall from grace to the strange fight over taped depositions that turned into a question of SCOPA quorums in Dougherty v. Heller. But Friday’s ruling that an ambiguous ballot question does not violate the Pennsylvania Constitution has been one of the most bitterly lamented of the year. For the past two years, the General Assembly has been moving through the slow and methodical process of voting and re-voting for a...

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In re Adoption of MRD and TMD: Twin Exceptions fail to authorize adoption of Twins

Posted by on Aug 29, 2016 in Civil, Family Law | 0 comments

A Father leaves a Mother shortly before she learns she’s pregnant. With almost no exception, the Father has no contact with his Twin Children for the next eight years until he gets married and suddenly files for custody. The Mother, who has raised the Twins with their maternal Grandfather, wants to terminate the Father’s rights to the Twins to avoid a custody battle, and so Grandfather agrees to “Adopt” the children with her. But the Adoption Statute isn’t designed to help avoid a Custody fight; it’s designed to allow a child to “bond” the...

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