Summaries of Caselaw - 2001
Article I. Declaration of Rights
Section 8: Search and Seizure
Commonwealth v. Rekasie, 778 A.2d 624 (Pa. 2001): in a 4-3 decision, the Court held that a defendant does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a telephone conversation from his home with a confidential police informant and, therefore, the Commonwealth was not required to obtain a determination of probable cause before tape recording the conversation. The decision does not appear to change the underlying analysis of Article I, Section 8 cases, nor portend a closer following of federal precedent in search cases.
Commonwealth v. Shaw, 564 Pa. 617, 770 A.2d 295, 2001 WL 376484, (Pa. 4/16/2001): in a peculiarly limited holding, per Justice Zappala, the majority held that the warrantless procurement of a hospital patient's blood alcohol level violated Article I, Section 8 when the BAC was taken by medical personal for medical reasons only, as opposed to the request of the police or the requirement of the drunk driving statute.
Commonwealth v. Proetto, 771 A.2d 823 (Pa. Super. 2001): under both the Pennsylvania and federal constitutions, there is no expectation of privacy in an e-mail received by someone else, nor is there an expectation of privacy in chat room conversations.
Commonwealth v. Yastrop, 768 A.2d 313 (Pa. 2001): a bare majority upheld DUI roadblocks with objective standards, substantially following Michigan Dep't. of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), but applying State law to the standards.
Section 13: Cruel Punishments and Forfeiture
Commonwealth v. Means, 773 A.2d 143, 2001 WL 708446 (Pa. 2001): after a full Edmunds analysis, the Court held that the introduction of victim impact testimony does not result in cruel and unusual punishment.
Section 21: Right to Bear Arms
Tsokas v. Board of Lic. and Inspect. Rev., 777 A.2d 1197, 2001 WL 568095 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001): upheld revocation of appellant's gun permit under the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act of 1995 as a person "likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety" and noting in passing that the right to bear arms in Article I, Section 21 "may be restricted in the exercise of the police power... ."
Article II. The Legislature
Section 7: Ineligibility of Office
Bolus v. Fisher, 785 A.2d 174, (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001): relying upon Commonwealth ex rel. Baldwin v. Richard, 751 A.2d 647 (Pa. 2000), the panel held that all felonies are "infamous crimes" under Article II, Section 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Section 15: Speech and Debate Clause
Hamilton v. Hennessey, 783 A.2d 852, 2001 WL 980944 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001): the court held that subpoenas issued to members of the House Caucus, requiring disclosure of the method and cost utilized in determining the number of mailings permitted for each candidate, were relevant, but overbroad; the court held that the Speech and Debate Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution did not bar inquiry into whether the newsletters constituted campaign literature.
Article III. Legislation
Section 14: Public School System
Hazleton Area School District v. Zoning Hearing Board, 778 A.2d 1205, 2001 WL 950053 (Pa. 2001): the court held that under Article III, Section 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which provides that "the General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public schools", school district power cannot be exercised at the expense of the health, safety and general welfare of the community; the school district's statutory authority to rent its recreational fields for baseball games and practices has to be exercised consistently with local zoning regulations.
Section 32: Special Legislation
Wings Field Preservation Associates v. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, 2001 WL 33288583 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001): the court struck down municipality approval requirement for Montgomery County only in airport funding as violation of Article III, Section 32 special laws provisions, equal protection and delegation.
Harrisburg School District v. Hickok, 781 A.2d 221, 2001 WL 701604 (Pa. 2001): the Commonwealth Court dismissed several preliminary objections to School Board challenge to rewritten "Reed Amendment", which provided for a unique form of State intervention if the Harrisburg School District demonstrates low test scores. The School Board challenges that were in effect upheld, at least at the preliminary stage, were based on Article III, Section 32 (Special Legislation), federal equal protection and Article IX, Section 3 (Home Rule).
Article IV: The Executive
Section 9: Pardoning Power
Pennsylvania Prison Society v. Commonwealth, 776 A.2d 971 (Pa. 2001): the Court upheld a constitutional amendment to Article IV, Section 9 against a claim that the amendment violated the separate vote requirement under Article IX, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.