A A Email Print Share

Summaries of Caselaw - 1998-2000

Methodological Provisions:

Commonwealth v. Kilgore, 719 A.2d 754 (Pa. Super. 1998): Counsel ineffective for failing to raise search issue under the State Constitution. [This case may signal a new attitude toward the failure to raise state constitutional issues when federal constitutional issues are raised.]

Kleese v. Pennsylvania State Board of Funeral Directors, 738 A.2d 523 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999): Reference by party to "freedom of commercial speech" sufficient, even in the absence of citation to either the federal or Pennsylvania constitutions, to raise constitutional issue.

In re T.J., 739 A.2d 478 (Pa. 1999): County mental health office has standing to contest decision not to extend mental patient's involuntary commitment despite mootness because the matter "raises an issue of an important public interest, and is an issue which is capable of repetition and yet apt to evade review"; administrative agency has standing to litigate matters that "'touch [] upon its concerns' "(citing Commonwealth, Pennsylvania Game Comm'n v. Commonwealth, Dept. of Environmental Resourses, 555 A.2d 812, 815 (Pa. 1989)).

Article I. Declaration of Rights

    Section 1: Inherent Rights of Mankind

In the Matter of K.D., R.D., 744 A.2d 760 (Pa. Super. 1999): mandatory psychological evaluation reversed as violative of mother's privacy rights pursuant to child dependency proceeding.

    Section 6: Trial by Jury

Commonwealth v. Downey, 732 A.2d 593 (Pa. 1999): denial of motion to poll jury made after verdict is recorded but before the jury disperses; held reversible error even without a showing of prejudice by the defendant.

Wertz v. Chapman Township, 741 A.2d 1272 (Pa. 1999): civil jury trial provision under Article I, Section 6, does not require a jury trial in a damage action for sexual discrimination under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The standard for applying Article I, Section 6 is, in part, whether a jury trial would have been available under such a claim when the Pennsylvania Constitution was adopted. The majority acknowledged that this test is narrower than that applied under the 7th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    Section 7: Free Expression

Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Correctional Officers v. Rendell, 736 A.2d 573 (Pa. 1999): city ordinance specifying particular union as collective bargaining agent does not violate Pennsylvania Constitutional rights of speech, association or equal protection.

    Section 8: Search and Seizure

Commonwealth v. Darush, 740 A.2d 722 (Pa. Super. 1999): Article I, Section 8 is violated when a defendant's home telephone conversation with an undercover agent is recorded without a warrant.

Commonwealth v. Cleckley, 738 A.2d 427 (Pa. 1999): Pennsylvania Constitution does not require knowing and intelligent, as opposed to voluntary, consent to otherwise unconstitutional search; therefore, the Commonwealth need not show that the subject knew there was a right to refuse consent to the search.

Commonwealth v. Cook, 735 A.2d 673 (Pa. 1999): the Court applied Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), to uphold the admission of abandoned property into evidence, since reasonable suspicion had justified the original police approach. [The court had previously rejected California v. Hodari D., 499 U.S. 621 (1991)--Commonwealth v. Matos, 672 A.2d 769 (1996)--and thus, required police justification even though the defendant ran away when approached by the police. There was, however, no majority opinion in Cook. Justices Saylor and Castille seemed ready to overrule Matos. Chief Justice Flaherty did not state his position.]

Commonwealth v. Crouse, 729 A.2d 588 (Pa. Super. 1999): the court followed Maryland v. Buie, 494 U.S. 325 (1990) as the proper standard under the State Constitution and permitted a "protective sweep" of a private home pursuant to a valid arrest warrant. [The court conducted a four-factor Edmunds analysis.]

In Re F.B., 726 A.2d 361 (Pa. 1999): the Court upheld a general search of high school students as pre-condition to entry to the school and sets forth framework for evaluating such searches under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

    Section 9: Confrontation, Self-incrimination and Due Process

Commonwealth v. Arroyo, 723 A.2d 162 (Pa. 1999): Pennsylvania constitutional right to counsel is coterminous with the federal Sixth amendment, with respect to when the right attaches.

Commonwealth v. Williams, 733 A.2d 593 (Pa. 1999): provisions of Pennsylvania's Megan's Law for registration of certain sexual offenders held to violate federal procedural due process. [The Court expressly avoided determining the parallel reach of Article I, Section 9; see 608, n. 17.]

    Section 10: Double Jeopardy and Just Compensation

Commonwealth v. Martorano, 741 A.2d 1221 (Pa. 1999): the Court applied the State constitutional double jeopardy standard of Commonwealth v. Smith, 615 A.2d 321 (Pa. 1999), ("conduct of the prosecutor is intentionally undertaken to prejudice the defendant to the point of the denial of a fair trial" 615 A.2d at 325), which is broader than the federal standard, to prohibit retrial in context of prosecutorial bad faith throughout the trial.

    Section 14: Habeus Corpus

Commonwealth v. Chester, 733 A.2d 1242 (Pa. 1999): in the course of affirming the denial of P.C.R.A. relief in a death penalty case, the court applied PCRA to claims of penalty phase error on the ground, in part, that the prohibition against suspension of the writ of habeas corpus would prevent the legislature from foreclosing any claims that would have been cognizable on traditional habeas corpus review.

    Section 17: Ex Post Facto Laws

Commonwealth v. Ardestani, 736 A.2d 552 (Pa. 1999): Commonwealth v. Brion (1994) held to apply retroactively to cases pending on direct appeal at the time of the decision; this opinion provides a full discussion of retroactivity principles under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Commonwealth v. Gaffney, 733 A.2d 616 (Pa. 1999): registration requirements of Pennsylvania's Megan's Law do not constitute "punishment" and therefore do not violate either Pennsylvania or federal ex post facto protections.

Article III. Legislation

    Section 12: Special Sessions

Commonwealth v. Sanders, 743 A.2d 970 (Pa. Super 12/22/99): 1995 PCRA reforms upheld, as not outside the subject designated in the Governor's call to the 1995 special session of the General Assembly.

    Section 14: Public School System

Marrero v. Commonwealth, 739 A.2d 110 (Pa. 1999): per Chief Justice Flaherty, with three Justices concurring in the result, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal by the Commonwealth Court of a challenge brought under Article III, Section 14, to the Pennsylvania public education funding system. The Court agreed that such a challenge raises a nonjusticiable political question. [The same day, the Court, in a per curiam order, affirmed the Commonwealth Court's dismissal of another school funding case.]

    Section 26: Extra Compensation Prohibited

Denbow v. Borough of Leetsdale, 729 A.2d 1113 (Pa. 1999): in a matter of first impression, the Court held that Article III, Section 26 (prohibiting "extra compensation" to public employees) applies to municipalities, rather than just to the General Assembly, and prevents the Borough from granting the pay increases at issue in the case.

Article V. The Judiciary

    Section 10: Judicial Administration

Commonwealth v. Ex Rel. Unified Judicial System, 733 A.2d 1258 (Pa. 1999): the Court held the "deliberative process privilege" barred the subpeona of a former Chief Justice in a civil suit for breach of contract arising out of construction and lease of courthouse.

L.J.S. v. State Ethics Commission, 744 A.2d 798 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999): the court en banc held that the State Ethics Commission lacks authority to investigate a chief adult probation officer of the Court of Common Pleas because of the State Supreme Court's exclusive authority to supervise the Judicial Branch.

Shaulis v. Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission, 739 A.2d 1091 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999): application of State Ethics Act to bar attorney from representation before governmental body for one year after retirement from that body violated the State Supreme Court's exclusive authority to regulate the practice of law. [The court distinguished P.J.S. v. Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission, 723 A.2d 174 (Pa. 1999)].

    Section 13: Elections of Judges

In re Cicchetti, 743 A.2d 431 (Pa. 2000): in the future, court-appointed employees may not participate in judicial retention elections campaigns.

Article VIII. Taxation and Finance

    Section 1: Uniformity

City of Allentown v. MSG Associates, 747 A.2d 1275 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2000): the court upheld different tax rate on services than sales against uniformity challenge under Article VIII, Section 1. The Court expressly overruled Commonwealth v. Mercadante, 676 A.2d 1307 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1996).

    Section 2: Exemptions

Betsy King LPGA Classic v. Richmond, 739 A.2d 612 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999): tournament and related charitable corporation are not institutions of purely public charity exempt from local amusement tax because, although these entities provide funds to federally tax exempt organizations, "the overwhelming majority of revenue generated" go to golf tournament purse.

Wilson Area School District v. Easton Hospital, 747 A.2d 877 (Pa. 2000): the Court upheld the tax exempt status of the hospital as "entirely free from a private profit motive" because all distributions of surplus revenue were made either with expectation of repayment or in order to increase the efficiency of hospital operations.

    Section 8: Commonwealth Credit Not to be Pledged

Giordano v. Ridge, 737 A.2d 350 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1999): the court upheld the Capital Facilities Enabling Act against challenge that credit of Commonwealth was unconstitutionally pledged; the taxpayer's petition for review failed to state a cause of action.

Article XI. Amendments

    Section 1: Proposal and Adoption

Bergdoll v. Kane, 731 A.2d 1261 (Pa. June 15, 1999): Constitutional amendment to Article I, Section 9, which was approved by the voters on November 7, 1995, held unconstitutional as constituting in effect two amendments that should have been voted on separately. [The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the opinion of the Commonwealth Court at 694 A.2d 1155 (Pa. Commwlth. 1997).]

Pennsylvania Prison Society v. Commonwealth, 727 A.2d 632 (Pa. Commwlth. 1999): Constitutional amendment to the Board of Pardons provision, Article IV, Section 9, which was approved by the voters on November 4, 1997, held unconstitutional as constituting in effect several amendments that should have been voted on separately.