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Summaries of Caselaw - 2004

Methodological Provisions:

Jones v. City of Philadelphia, 2004 WL 3523514 (Pa. Com. Pl. 2004): Judge Lisa Rau upheld a cause of action action for damages against the city based on Article 1, section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. If upheld on appeal, the case would provide a cause of action for various constitutional violations.

June v. Spano, 2005 WL 2847311 (E.D. Pa. 2005): Judge Sanchez held that the Jones case did not so settle the law of availability of a private cause of action for damages for violation of Article I, Section 8 as to justify the exercise of supplementary jurisdiction over the claim in a federal civil rights action.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Lehman, 837 A.2d 686 (Pa. 2004): Superior Court panel, having found that a search violated Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, stated that there was no need to discuss whether the search also violated the fourth amendment.

Hall v. Board of Probation and Parole, 851 A.2d 859 (Pa. 2004): Justice Newman, joined by Justices Eakin and Castille, announced the judgment of the Court that application of the 1996 amendments to the Parole Act to persons sentenced prior to their adoption does not violate the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution. Article I, Section 10. The fourth vote was supplied by Justice Baer, who concurred in the result. The methodological issue in the case concerns the precedential weight of Mickens-Thomas v. Vaughn, 321 F.3d 374 (3d Cir. 2003), in which the Third Circuit came to the opposite conclusion. All of the justices on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court appeared to agree that "a decision of an inferior federal court on a matter of federal law is entitled to persuasive weight but is not binding on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court."

Article I. Declaration of Rights

    Section 1: Due Process

Warren County Human Services v. State Civil Service Commission, 844 A.2d 70 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004): largely on authority of Nixon, infra, a three-judge panel of Commonwealth Court struck down a section of Child Protective Services Law prohibiting the hiring of applicants previously convicted of certain crimes.

    Section 3: Religious Freedom

Commonwealth v. McClintic, 851 A.2d 214 (Pa. Super. 2004): relying upon Commonwealth v. Griffin, 804 A.2d 1 (Pa. Super. 2002), the panel held that there is no Pennsylvania constitutional right to a jury trial to determine whether a defendant is a recidivist.

Advanced Telephone Systems, Inc. v. Com-Net Professional Mobile, 846 A.2d 1264 (Pa. Super., 2004): no right to jury determination of claim seeking to pierce corporate veil because no such common law action existed at time of adoption of Pennsylvania Constitution; analysis under the Seventh Amendment to the federal Constitution is expressly rejected.

    Section 7: Free Expression

Norton v. Glenn, 860 A.2d 48 (Pa. 2004): per Chief Justice Cappy, the Court held that there is no "neutral reportage" privilege encompassed by Article I, Section 7, Nor is such a privilege recognized under federal first amendment law.

Rising Sun Entertainment v. Commonwealth, 829 A.2d 1214 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2003): the Commonwealth Court distinguished Pap's A.M. and held that prohibition on topless dancing in establishment licensed to sell alcohol does not violate Article I, Section 7, of the Pennsylvania Constitution. [The court reaffirmed this holding in a later case, Rising Sun Entertainment v. Pa. Liquor Control Borad, 860 A.2d 1193 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004).]

    Section 8: Search and Seizure

Commonwealth v. Ruey, 854 A.2d 560 (Pa. Super. 2004): closely divided en banc Superior Court allows admission of illegally seized evidence pursuant to the "independent source" rule. Both majority and dissenting opinions thoroughly canvass Pennsylvania law on the meaning of the independent source exception to the exclusionary rule.

Commonwealth v. Rogers, 849 A.2d 1185 (Pa. 2004): opinion by Chief Justice Cappy seems to permit canine drug sniffs of the exterior of an automobile based on reasonable suspicion and of the interior of a car based on probable cause.

Section 9: Confrontation, Self-incrimination and Due Process

Commonwealth v. Perez, 845 A.2d 779 (Pa. 2004): per Eakin, J., the Court abandoned the bright-line rule calling for "suppression of a pre-arraignment confession because it was obtained more than six hours after arrest". The Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, Pa.R.Crim.P. 516(a), require that "a person who has been arrested shall be afforded a preliminary arraignment by the proper issuing authority without unreasonable delay". The Court explains that although this is not a constitutional mandate, it protects the constitutional rights of the defendant. After a lengthy analysis of the history of the bright-line rule, the Court determines that although the statement was made more than six hours after arrest, it was admissible.

Section 11--See Weaver infra, Article I, Section 28 (equal rights amendment).

Ieropoli v. AC&S Corporation, 842 A.2d 919 (Pa. 2004): a closely divided Supreme Court held that the statute limiting successor asbestos-related liabilities of corporations that arose out of mergers or consolidations is unconstitutional as applied, under the Remedies Clause, Article I, section 11.

Section 14--Commonwealth v. Cruz, 851 A.2d 870 (Pa. 2004): PCRA relitigation bar against relitigation relaxed, and relief granted in search case, in view of uniquely disparate judicial treatment of co-defendants in light of constitutional restriction on suspension of the writ of habeas corpus; PCRA statutory limits cannot be absolute.

Section 17--Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority v. Commonwealth, 860 A.2d 1173, 2004 WL 2481189 (Pa. Cmwlth. November 5, 2004): The court states that Article I, section 17 is currently interpreted under the federal standard of Article I, section 10 of the federal constitution. The court upheld a statutory waste disposal fee against an impairment of contract challenge pursuant to federal precedent.

Article II. The Legislature

Section 6: Disqualification to Hold Other Office

Com. ex rel. Pappert v. Coy. 860 A.2d 1201 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004): per Smith-Ribner, J., the court granted declaratory judgment that the appointment of Representative Goy to the Gaming COntrol Board as null and void ab initio. The court concludes that the phrase "the time for which he was elected" in most naturally and reasonably interpreted to mean the prescribed term of a Representative. For that reason, Representative Goy could not be appointed to the Gaming Control Board during the 2 year period following his November 2002 election, even though he resigned as Representative on September 20, 2004.

Article III. Legislation

Section 1--English v. Commonwealth, 845 A.2d 999 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004): upholds Allegheny County Regional District Asset District (RAD) tax against various constitutional challenges.

Section 20--D.C., K.J., and K.C. v. The School District of Philadelphia, 2004 WL 362313 (Pa.Com.Pl. January 30, 2004): Judge Jones upheld the transition statute that regulates return to class of students in public schools after proceedings in Juvenile Court. (There is a wide-ranging discussion of the principles of general laws as related to federal equal protection.)

Section 32--Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 855 A.2d 923, 2004 WL 1698635 (Pa. Cmwlth., July 30, 2004): Panel of Commonwealth Court finds that statute requiring Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, but no other public employer, to form collective bargaining relationship with its first-level supervisors is unconstitutional"special law".

See D.C., K.J., and K.C. v. The School District of Philadelphia, supra, Article III, section 20.

Article IV. The Executive

    Section 15. Approval of Bills, Vetoes

Jubelirer v. Pennsylvania Department of State, 859 A.2d 874 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2004) (aff'd,  871 A.2d 789 (2005)): per Friedman, J., the Commonwealth Court upheld the Governor's veto of HB 1222 -- concerning local government immunity in farm regulation -- holding that the Governor may veto a bill by filing the veto with the Secretary of the Commonwealth whenever the General Assembly is adjourned, even if adjournment is temporary.

Article V. The Judiciary

    Separation of powers:

Section 1--Probst v. Commonwealth, 849 A.2d 1135 (Pa. 2004): court, per Chief Justice Cappy, affirms holding that judicial duties imposed by Act 63, including certification of "no installation of an ignition system", violate the separation of powers--on authority of Commonwealth v. Mockaitis, 834 A.2d 488 (2003). The court sustained the act against equal protection challenge.

Schaaf v. Kaufmann, 850 A.2d 655 (Pa. Super. 2004): the panel upheld Superior Court Internal Operating Procedure section 65.37(A), which prohibits reliance upon, or citation to, any unpublished memorandum opinion, as not violative of Article V, section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Section 10--Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Marcone, 855 A.2d 654 (Pa. 2004): per Cappy, C.J, court upheld sanctions on suspended attorney for maintaining a law office in Pennsylvania, though the attorney had been reinstated to practice before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Article VII. Elections

Section 6--Shambach v. Bickhart, 845 A.2d 793 (Pa. 2004): closely divided and fragmented Pennsylvania Supreme Court counts absentee ballots to decide Snyder County Commissioner race despite election statute seemingly to the contrary (statutory case decided against a State constitutional background).

Article VIII. Taxation and Finance

Section 1--Devlin v. City of Philadelphia, 580 A.2d 564 (Pa. 2004): Court, per Justice Nigro, held that Philadelphia's designation of Life Partnership as a marital status is not preempted by the State Marriage Law nor otherwise beyond the City's authority under its home rule charter; city could lawfully extend employee benefits to employees' same-sex life partners; but city could not prohibit discrimination based on life partner status where person who neither lives nor works in the city are eligible to register as life partners; and city's realty transfer tax exemption for life partners violates Uniformity Clause of Article VIII, section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Section 2(a)--Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh, PA, v. Fayette County Board of Assessment, 844 A.2d 86 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004): By 2-1 vote, a three-Judge panel of Commonwealth Court allowed a real estate tax exemption to a house and grounds used as a religious retreat, as an "[a]ctual place[] of regularly stated religious worship".

Section 2(a)(v)--St. Aloysius R.C. Church v. Fayette County Board of Assessment Appeals, 849 A.2d 293 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004): Commonwealth Court panel held that the Church is not entitled to a tax exemption for the upper level of its parish house as an institution of purely public charity. The Court noted in passing that the Church would also not be entitled to an exemption under section 2(a)(i), as an actual place of "regularly stated religious worship".

Section 8--Beattie v. Allegheny County, 847 A.2d 185 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004): equity action in Court of Common Pleas alleging that aspects of the Allegheny County property tax assessment system violate tax uniformity, dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The court held that administrative challenges could address systemic inadequacies in assessments.

Article IX. Local Government

Section 2--See Devlin v. City of Philadelphia, 580 A.2d 564, supra, Article VIII, section 1.

City of Pittsburgh v. County of Allegheny, 580 A.2d 374 (Pa. 2004): The Court, without opinion, affirmed the order of Commonwealth Court that a proposed amendment to the Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter concerning fire safety standards could not appear on the General Election ballot. Justice Newman, joined by Justices Saylor and Baer, dissented.

City of Philadelphia v. Schweiker, 579 A.2d 591 (Pa. 2004): Legislature retains power to limit municipality's home rule charter authority to appoint members of parking authority.